With our bright red uniforms and glowing brass instruments, Sale City Band has been an icon at functions across the Gippsland region for over 149 years. Currently with about 30 musicians in the senior brass band, and a dedicated number of learners, Sale City Band is a strong contingent that enjoys regional, state and national success at various eistedfodds and competitons.
The first instrument brought into Sale by explorer Angus McMillan in the 1840s was a single brass bugle. In the early days of Sale's settlement, as the gold rush boomed in the 1850s, an expedition to Sale brought a drum band to the area. Shortly after a fife drum band was formed.
It was reported in the Gippsland Times on 19 December 1871 that the Sale Drum and Fife Band had been reorganised under the instruction of its old bandmaster, Mr. E. Carey, and was making very satisfactory progress.
It numbered 20 members, some of whom formed part of the original group. It practised three times a week, and Mr. Carey was hopeful that in a week or two he would be able "to bring out a portion to enable the public to judge of the progress made."
The band promised to become a most efficient acquisition to the township of Sale.
The members met twice a week for rehearsal at the remotest part of the town, which in itself was been most advantageous to themselves and the populace - they not being disturbed in their inititatory exercises and the inhabitants not being bored with dull unmeaning sounds.
Sale Borough Band Constituted
A public meeting was held on Tuesday, 20 June 1876, at the Council Chambers where the Sale Borough Band was formally constituted. Mr R Topping (the Mayor) was chairman and Mr H Maynard was appointed Bandmaster.
A public subscription amounting to £123 was raised for the purchase of instruments and equipment. About £100 was spent in the purchase of instruments, and the balance was handed by the original fundraising committee to the Band for current expenses.
Mr Maynard undertook the management at a remuneration of £30 per annum and a weekly fee of 1s 6d from each member for tuition.
First Public Performance
After six months of Mr. Maynard, the bandmaster, receiving charge of his pupils he kept faith with the public, by whose generous subscriptions ensured the viability of the band, gave a public performance in what promised to become a very pleasant addition to the local sources of enjoyment.
The programme of Saturday was short, but it was effectively played. It was as follows:-
- Ring, Ring the Banjo
- Minnie Clyde
- Selection from Traviata
- Sale Bandsmen's Quick Step (H. Maynard)
- Gippsland Railway Polka (H. Maynard).
- Finale. God Save the Queen</li>
As it was not generally known that the performance was to occur, not many were present to greet this first effort at the commencement, but towards the end of the programme a crowd had gathered, most of whom heard enough to make them wish for more.
It was not known what arrangements had been made for future appearances of the band, but the hope was universally expressed that the market reserve would be frequently chosen as the place for giving their "concerts," as there was a possibility of enjoying a very agreeable promenade on the greensward while the music was being played.
Mr. Maynard and the Band were heartily congratulated on their very successful first appearance.
The Sale Borough Band often held excursions on one of the ferries down to the lakes entertaining as they went. In March 1887 the band announced its third "Moonlight Excursion" on the Steamer "Omeo" leaving the Union Bridge at 7:00pm for an evening's run to Lake Wellington.
The Victoria Hall (recently Gippsland Party Hire building) was another popular venue for band recitals and concerts. From 1879 some wonderful concerts were held in this hall and always the Sale Borough Band was always part of the entertainment. Although the band was 'just' mentioned, they always played well and made a large contribution to the success of the evening.
In April 1897 the Sale Borough Band made use of the new bandstand erected on the Market square - now in the vicinity of Victoria Park.
A New Century
Sometime later, the two bands amalgamated and formed the Sale Citzens Band conducted by Mr Bill Heron.
Sale Brass Band
Mr Arthur H F Taylor of East Kew, was appointed bandmaster in May 1920. Prior to the war, Mr Taylor was a very successful Bandmaster at Castlemaine for seven years. He matriculated at the Melbourne University and then took up music as a profession passing university examinations in piano and violin.
After about 12 months Mr Taylor accepted an appointment to a metropolitan band and Mr Andy Matthews of Warragul was appointed bandmaster to the Sale Brass Band in 1921. He had been in charge of several bands in the city and was the current bandmaster of Warragul Citizens Band. The band progressed to a very high standard under his direction.
Band practices were held in a big room at the back of a second-hand dealers shop which was run by Mr Joe Shankley situated in York Street next to the Criterion Hotel. In his report to the Band Committee in March 1922 Mr Matthews declared that the band was forced to hold rehearsals in this unsuitable band room. It was a room where a large amount of furniture was stored and chairs were suspended from the rafters interfering with the acoustics. It was a dirty room and not suitable for visitors.The room was not always available to members and its entrance was very dangerous and almost impossible for a stranger to locate.
During the next few years, in fact, the standard was so high that band was preparing to go to the South Street Competitions in Ballarat. However, there were so many players who could not get leave of absence from their jobs that they were unable to compete. At this time the band used the Drill Hall for practice on two nights a week and also Sunday mornings.
Soon after this time the Light Horse were to attend a ten day camp at the old Williamstown Racecourse and wanted a band, so they recruited quite a number of the Sale Band and fitted them out with Light Horse uniforms. They attended the camp as the 13th Light Horse Band.
When Len Pendlebury joined the Band in 1929, practice was held in the M.U.I.O.O.F. Hall in Cunningham Street. The Bandmaster at the time was Mr Andy Matthews. Eric Woodland joined the Band in 1925 and was a member until his death in 1977, aged 73. Eric played the cornet and played under every Bandmaster for a period of fifty years. He was the oldest serving member.
Band on the Move
Herb Thornton was the Bandmaster 1933-34. Herb wasn't very old and had great ambitions. He wanted the Band to play above its ability. One night the Band was playing for a Carnival on the corner of Cunningham and Desailly Streets at the site of the old Post Office. The selected piece was El Travatore. Somewhere along the way players got lost and dropped out. The only player left, Don Reice, carried on at full blast to the end of the strain before Herb could stop him.
Bert Warren was the next Bandmaster (1935-36). During this time massed bands were held at the various nearby towns of Maffra, Traralgon, Morwell and Sale. Massed band performances were held in each town in turn, one Sunday every month during the summertime. These days were very enjoyable and the people of the towns would turn out in good numbers.
Sale held its massed band day at the Band Rotunda in Victoria Park, an ideal setting. The rotunda was big enough for the Sale Band, but when a few players from other bands joined in to give a hand, something like 30 or 40 players wouldn't fit so they would have to sit on seats on the ground. In those days not every one had a car, so the crowds used to be good.
After Bert Warren left, Angus Reece and Bill Herron between them carried the Band on until the outbreak of WWII. The Band went into recess during the war and many of the members joined the Armed Forces. During the war years the Royal Australian Airforce Bombing and Gunnery School at West Sale borrowed the instruments from the Sale Town Council, who were the trustees of the Band equipment.
Sale Town Band
The band reformed as the Sale Town Band with Mack Maclean appointed as Bandmaster. Some of the old members returned to the Band and with new players and several learners, the band became active again and played at various functions. The learners were at this time under the tuteledge of Peter Turner who was subsequently became Bandmaster (1976 -1979).
A RAAF Nissan Hut from the West Sale Aerodrome was purchased by the Town Council and erected on the current Foster Street site, on what is now the carpark. The tin hut was an improvement on the exisiting meeting place, but was still very basic and still with a dirt floor.
South Street Success
South Street records show that the band had entered the Ballarat contest, probably for the first time, in 1948 playing in “D” grade under the leadership of Mack Maclean. Sale was placed 6th in the test piece and 3rd in the quickstep. The section was won by the South Australian Police Band with The Sale Town Band placed 5th in a field of 10.Frank James took over as Bandmaster in 1950 and had a lot of success in many contests. October 1951 saw the Band members secure the highest honours in its history to date. After months of hard work, Frank James had his players in excellent form, and they left for South Street, Ballarat, confident of doing well. That confidence was rewarded because the band finished third in the test piece and second in 'own choice' section. The band tied with Horsham for third place in the aggregate, only five points behind the winners (Colac).
The Band did particularly well especially as when they were playing their 'Own Selection', a heavy shower of rain came down, the noise of the rain on the instruments sounding like hail on a tin roof. To make matters worse, some of the music was written with ordinary ink and when it got wet, the ink ran and left the players with a sheet of music that was very hard to read.
Following Mack Maclean and Frank James, Mr G Gouley became Bandmaster in 1953 followed by Mr J Henry and Mr E May in 1954 and then Mack Mclean returned to the position from 1955 to 1960. Unfortunately these were difficult times for the band.
During Len's stint as Bandmaster, Neil McPherson, a teacher at the Sale Technical School became a player. Neil showed great potential and was appointed Bandmaster in 1966. He had great success at many contests.
Band Flies Away
Unfortunately for the band, Neil was transferred back to Melbourne in 1975. This then gave Peter Turner the opportunity to take on the bandmaster's role.
New Band Rooms Open
The new band rooms had the luxury of gas heating on the walls, parquetry floor, a well equipped kitchen, Ladies and Gents toilets and a storeroom for music and instruments.
Sale City Band Turns Red
He Calls the Tune
Mr Davies has an extensive musical history including a lifetime of playing the trumpet and cornet.
He played in the now defunct Railway's Band, the army's Third Military District Band for six years, the RAAF Central Band for a further six years and formed the Kirabati Islands Police Band while in the RAAF.
Mr Davies has also conducted the Croyden Concert Band and the Oakleigh City Band.
Like the former Bandmaster, Mr Ray Jago who retired in September 1983, Mr Davies is a registered music teacher and has an Associate of Music Degree.
Although the group has a busy schedule, band members enjoy playing at memorable locations. At the celebration of the centenary of the opening of the Sale Canal in 1990, the band played on a barge. The band has a particular affinity with bridge openings, having played at the opening and marching across new bridges over the Latrobe River at Rosedale (1996) and Longford (2006) and the recommissioning of the historic Sale Swing Bridge (2007).
Not only did the band provide the enthralling music for this play, the members were also all involved in the action of the play. A notable highlight was that of Liz Doyle (Secretary in 2009) who performed the lead female romantic role which included the flugelhorn solo Concierto de Aranjuez.
The most notable recent successes were Victorian State Champions - "D Grade" (2009) and Australian National Champions - "D Grade" (2012).
Band Room Dedicated
At the band's annual presentation evening (December 2015) Ken Garner was surprised with the honour, and members of his family attended to share the moment.
Mr Garner, a life member, past president, past secretary, past treasurer and committee member was rewarded for his valued involvement in all aspects of the band from fundraising to building the facilities with his own hands.
He continues to attend rehearsals and play-outs, and shares his wisdom and witty stories with younger members of the music community.
Handing Over the Baton
Mr Davies enjoyed his time with the band and continues to help out. Among his highlights were just playing, rehearsing and performing music with members of the band, playing concerts in Sale at the Wellington Entertainment Centre, and aiming for good performances at competitions.
The most notable competition performances were winning the Victorian State Championships in 2009 and the 2012 Australian Championships.
First Female Musical Director
In July 2017 the band embarked on its first overseas trip with a tour to the developing Pacific island country of Kiribati. The band enjoyed great hospitality and soaked up the local culture.
Former bandmaster Hugh Davies has had a long association with Kiribati, after helping to form its first brass band in 1979. Hugh had intended to take the Sale City Band over to visit for many years, and finally got his wish, with 17 players and supporters, aged between 9 and 80, heading over.
The band mentored the country's police band and Uniting Church Youth band, performed at the President's residence for Independence Day celebrations, performed at the Australian High Commission, gave a lunchtime concert in the capital city's main square as well as performing at four primary schools.