Band festivals. Festive gatherings, usually for competition, of civic, military, and youth bands. Canada's first band festival probably was the one held in 1877 in Berlin (Kitchener), Ont. In June of the following year a Montreal competition attracted 19 entrants, including bands from distant Stratford and Waterloo, Ont. The Waterloo Musical Society held a 16-band tournament in 1885, and other Ontario cities held festivals in later years. However, it was not until 1921 that an organized annual band competition on a national level was begun.
At that time, as part of the first Music Day at the CNE, military bands played set pieces for adjudicators and were awarded prizes. This competition, which included the participation of many community bands, remained an integral part of the annual Toronto exhibition's music program until 1981.
In later years brass or silver bands were admitted to the competition. The first annual Waterloo Band Festival was held in 1932 in Waterloo, Ont, under the auspices of the Waterloo Musical Society, with Captain Charles O'Neill as chief adjudicator. At this festival, which continued, except during the war years, until 1958, competition was extremely keen, with half-marks sometimes separating the first and second-place bands. In the 1990s numerous other band festivals flourished in Canada. In 1991 the CBDA (later CBA), remained active in many centres across Canada, particularly in Alberta where some financial assistance came from the provincial government. The Ontario chapter which had sponsored an annual non-competition festival for elementary and high school bands 1972-5, instituted a Sound of Music Festival open to any band, amateur or professional, in 1988. The Moose Jaw annual International Band Festival, begun in 1949, continued in 1991 to feature competitions (including some for pipe bands), instrumental solos, band drill, and concert performances. In 1970 the City of Moncton, NB, sponsored its first band festival, a two-day competition for Maritime bands, and the festival continued in 1990, with bands from Quebec, Ontario, and Maine participating, and featuring such categories as school bands, community and concert bands, and cadet bands. There is also a non-competitive section which includes fife and drum bands and marching bands.
Beginning in 1972, International Music Festivals Canada has developed the concept of raising concert band performance to an international standard. Winners reaching the standard are recognized by receiving a performance rating. In 1991 about 50 student bands from across Canada participated.
In Quebec in 1986 Jonquière en Harmonie was organized by Harmonie Saguenay de Jonquière and its regional band association. The 62nd annual Harmonie du Québec, attended by 5000 musicians, was held in Sherbrooke in 1991, at which time a 'Participation', (non-competitive) category was introduced. The Abbotsford-Matsqui International Band Festival celebrated its 33rd annual festival in 1991 featuring 70 bands in solo, ensemble and group competition.
See also Bands; Competition festivals; MusicFest Canada