Canadian Grenadier Guards Band

Canadian Grenadier Guards Band. Regimental band founded 26 Apr 1913 in Montreal by J.-J. Gagnier, who became its conductor. At that time it consisted of about 40 players, half of whom were professionals, including six members of the Gagnier family. Formed at the request of F.S. Meighen, His Majesty's Canadian Grenadier Guards Band was intended to accompany parades and other regimental activities. However, as early as 1919 its reputation as a concert band began to grow. It gave four concerts 1919-20 at the Orpheum Theatre and five Sunday concerts annually 1920-3 at His Majesty's Theatre. It played works by Beethoven, Wagner, Meyerbeer, Saint-Saëns, Berlioz, and Massenet and the Marche héroïque by Alexis Contant - an unusual repertoire for a regimental band of that era. The band also presented, at Meighen's expense, Canadian and foreign solo artists such as Joseph Saucier, Blanche Gonthier, Émile Gour, Edmund Burke, Hipolito Lazaro, Robert Couzinou, Louis Graveure, and Jean Riddez. The music critic Philip King wrote, 'It is safe to assert that no concert organization in North America, even among the symphony orchestras, is doing more in the matter of program-making, within the limits of its power, than the band of H.M. Canadian Grenadier Guards' (Montreal Daily Star, 31 Jan 1921).

In 1921 and 1929 the band performed at the CNE. Acclaimed from the Atlantic to the Pacific, it toured the Maritime provinces in 1928. Some of its numerous radio broadcasts 1931-2 and 1940-1 on CFCF and CKAC were relayed nationally, and several of those made in 1931 were heard in the USA as well, on the CBS and NBC networks. The band was heard on CBC radio about 1945 in a series of Sunday concerts. At the beginning of World War II it remained in Montreal as a part of the second battalion. (The first battalion, mobilized in 1940, formed its own musical group conducted by Sgt H.E. Finlayson.) Gagnier was director of the band until 1947, by which time he bore the rank of captain. His last appearance with his musicians was at the Montreal Forum at a meeting of the United Nations Organization. A new ensemble was created in 1952 under the direction of Lieut Norman Mouland. Regimental Sgt-Maj Joe Miceli succeeded Mouland in 1959. In 1974 the Dept of National Defence decided to form a single ensemble, the Montreal Garrison Band.

Under Gagnier the grenadiers made seven 78s for HMV (the list is given in Roll Back the Years), one 78 (not commercially available) for Victor (PR 659-60), and in 1964 with Miceli the LP On Parade for RCA (LPM 2599). Claude Champagne composed the Ballade des lutins for the grenadiers in 1914; like Hervé Baillargeon and Francis Boucher, Champagne for a time was a member of the band.