Royal Hamilton Light Infantry Band

The Regimental Band of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (RHLI) is the oldest enlisted band in Canada. Formed in 1866 by Peter Grossman, it has been led by Captain Ryan W. Baker since 2016.

The Regimental Band of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (RHLI) is the oldest enlisted band in Canada. Formed in 1866 by Peter Grossman, it has been led by Captain Ryan W. Baker since 2016.

The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (RHLI) Band was established in 1866 by Peter Grossman as the 13th Battalion Band, at the request of the commander of the 13th Battalion Voluntary Militia, It was known under a succession of names as the name of the battalion changed. It was called the band of the 13th Regiment 1900–10, of the 13th Royal Regiment 1910–20, of the Royal Hamilton Regiment 1920–27, and of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry 1927–57 and 1962–8.

Grossman had been the bandmaster of Hamilton's first military band, which was founded in 1856 and attached to the Independent Artillery Company of the militia. He led the 13th Battalion Band until 1869. He was succeeded for one year by George R. Robinson, who was a graduate of the British Army’s Royal Military School of Music at Kneller Hall in London, England. The band was then led for one year by W. Blachard.

George Robinson returned in 1871 and remained bandmaster until 1916. In keeping with the latest developments in US bands, Robinson added clarinets, saxophones, french horns, flute, oboe, and bassoon to the usual complement of cornets, trombones, euphoniums, and tuba.

During its first 10 years of existence, the disciplined 40-piece band competed successfully throughout eastern Canada and the northeastern USA. It was the principal band at the 'Peace Jubilee' at Berlin (Kitchener) in 1871 (see also Music in Kitchener-Waterloo). The band also played for the governor-general and his wife during their visit to Hamilton in 1879 (see John Douglas Sutherland Campbell, Marquess of Lorne). In 1900, the band was invited to give a concert for the Maple Leaf Club of Denver, Colorado. In 1901, it wase chosen to play at a state dinner in Toronto in honour of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York (later King George V and Queen Mary). (See 1901 Royal Tour.) By 1912, five of its former members had become bandmasters with other Canadian militia bands.

Did you know?
In its early history, the band gave regular public concerts in Hamilton. Every winter for many years, the 13th Battalion Band gave weekly public concerts in the Drill Shed. In the summer it often filled as many as five or six engagements a week, including garden parties, park concerts, and moonlight excursions aboard paddle-wheel steamers on Lake Ontario.

George Robinson was the first in the militia to receive the honorary commission of bandmaster with the rank of lieutenant. He remained senior to all other bandmasters in the service until his retirement in 1917. Walter, one of Robinson's three sons, all of whom were band members, succeeded his father in 1916 and served as bandmaster until 1924. Under his direction, the band won first prize at the 1921CNEcompetition. He was succeeded by David Anderson, who served for 10 years. Walter Robinson returned to lead the band 1936–39. The RHLI performed for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) in Hamilton during their Royal visit in 1939.

Walter Robinson was succeeded as bandmaster by W. Sharman 1939–42, H.J. Holder 1942–50, H.G. Patterson 1950–57, L. Sharman 1961–66, and A.T. Dharmaratnam 1966–68.

The band was disbanded in 1957 but reconstituted in 1962 for the regimental centennial. It was again disbanded in 1972 and revived in 1992 under the direction of Major Michael A. Rehill. Since 1992, the band has performed at many tattoos, festivals and military celebrations. In 1996, the band performed for Prince Charles (HRH the Prince of Wales) at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum and led the 1996 Grey Cup parade. Keeping with tradition during royal visits, the RHLI performed for Queen Elizabeth II during her visits to Canada in 1998 and in 2002. The band also travelled to Europe in 2002, giving performances in England at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea; it was also the official Canadian Forces Band commemorating the 60th Anniversary in Dieppe, France (see Dieppe Raid). In November 2009, the RHLI Band played for HRH the Prince of Wales at Dundurn Castle. Since 2016, the band has been led by Captain Ryan W. Baker.