Paris Citizens' Band
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This article has been contributed by the Paris Museum and Historical Society. It was written in 1979 by Walter Williams, Jr.
List of Bandmasters
Marchant - 1875-76
Dickenson Brown Emerson - 1876-93
Coleman - 1893-95 (unconfirmed)
William Williams - 1895-?
Walter Williams Sr. - 1927-59
Walter Williams Jr. - 1959-73
Jack Van Der Hoeven - 1973
Ernie Crawford - 1973-?
Introduction and early history
In tracing the history of the Paris Citizens' Band the origin is not accurately known. The first mention of a Paris Band is in the minutes of a meeting of the Claris Mechanics Society in 1858 in the opera house of the town hall. The program called for the P.V.R. Co. Brass Band to play during a refreshment period between speeches. Although no verification can be found it is hypothesized that the initials stand for the Paris Volunteer Reserve Company Brass Band.
The first confirmed mention of a Paris Band is found in 1875 in the Brant Review. It was in this year that the Paris Musical Society was formed. This organization consisted of a brass band, instrumental and quartettes; and a chorus. Concerts were given regularly in the opera house.
As shown in the list of the Bandmasters, the first conductor was Mr. Marchant. In 1876 Dickenson Brown Emerson took over until 1893. Mr. Emerson was born in Cumberland in 1852 and came to Paris in 1876, his musical talent becoming apparent immediately. Under his leadership the band became the best known musical organization in Western Ontario. It was at its height of fame in 1884-85 when it took prizes in tournaments at Hamilton, Alymer, Stratford, Brantford and Waterloo, competing against both Canadian and top ranked Yankee bands.
It was recorded that 'under Emerson the Paris Band was changed from an intemperate to a temperate band and that on these tournaments, not one returned the worse for wear.'
Following is a list of the members in 1882:
On Saturday Dec. 23, 1893, Mr. Emerson met with an accident in alighting from a train at the Grand River street crossing, fracturing his skull, the effects of which forced him to retire.
It seems that the state of temperance did not last. A former band member of 27 years, Alex Wilson recounts that on one regimental trip to Welland and Niagara Palls the band returned by train in very cold weather. Three members got drunk, created quite a commotion and were threatened by the train conductor that they would be put off at the next stop. Mr. Alex Wilson prevented the threat from being carried through by assuring the conductor that he would take care of them and see that they got home safely.
At the regular Tuesday night practise following the band job, rehearsal was interrupted by three men. After talking with Mr. Wilson, the secretary - treasurer and Mr. Coleman the bandmaster, the band members were informed that due to the three drunks the band was a disgrace to the regiment and as a result the army would be forced to take the band's uniforms. The problem was taken before the Town Council and they agreed to provide money to purchase the uniforms.
Founding of Paris Citizens' Band
The Paris Musical Society was disbanded in 1901 and its brass band became the Paris Citizens' Band which was active until the First World War when most of the members joined up. During the war the ladies took over and in 1917 and 1918 a band under a Mr. Ainsworth, made up mostly of women and boys, was active. After the war both the men's and women's bands gradually ceased operations and finally disbanded.
A major change occurred for the band in 1927 with the appointment of Walter Williams as bandmaster for he and his son lead the band for 46 years. Walter was born in Pontypridd, South Wales and grew up in an atmosphere of music. His father Zacharias Williams was bandmaster of one of Pontypridd's five bands. One of Walter's brothers succeeded his father and another was bandmaster at St. Ive's, Cornwall.
Walter started in the band on alto horn and then switched to coronet. He was soon doing solo work and was assistant bandmaster at the time he left Wales. Walter was married to Matilda Nicholas and had one son, Walter Jr. He was employed in Pontypridd1s chief industry, the coal mines, until the strike of 1926 when he decided to cone to Canada. Walter settled in Timmins and his wife and son came later. Timmin's cold weather did not agree with Walter and he was quick to answer an advertisement for a bandmaster in Paris in February, 1927. A job in Sanderson and Harold was also offered with the position.
When Mr. Williams arrived there were only twelve members in the band, but it soon started to grow. At this time the band was an army one and was called the '10th Brant Dragoon's Band'. About 1938 the regiments began disbanding and the 10th Dragoons joined with the 2nd Dragoons from Hamilton. This brought the band into contact with Colonel R.T. Hall who demanded that the band travel to Hamilton every week. The Paris members rebelled and their uniforms were taken away as a result. The Paris Citizens' Band was formed with no connection to the regiment and new uniforms were purchased.
The band was very active in this period and in the summer gave concerts every Thursday night in King's Ward Park or Walker's Green (present site of Sen. Citizen's Apts.) The peak for the band occurred in 1940 when they came within half a point of winning the Ontario class 'B' championship at the C.F.E. It was at this contest that Walter Williams Jr. won a gold medal for his euphonium solo and was approached about joining the airforce band. Just as the band reached this peak, many members joined up for the second World War, However, there was no disbanding after the war and the band became even stronger. To keep the band going in this period Mr. Williams organized a couple of bugle bands for the Dufferin - Haldimand Rifles and the Air Cadets.
Mr. Williams was presented with a record player and money to buy records by the town council when he reached his 25th year of re-service to community music.
He continued to lead until 1959 when, on medical advice, he stepped down. He had worked as an assessor for the Town of Paris and for Sanderson - Harold Ltd. and was suffering from silicosis. Walter Williams Jr. became the bandmaster and led the band until 1973, The town further honoured the family's service to the community by naming the new bandshell in Lion's Park after them. In 1961 the Ayr bandmaster quit and the two bands merged. This merger introduced women to the band for the first time. In 1969 the band went to Scotland, playing several concerts in the vicinity of Ayr, Scotland. During this time Walter's son Owen played cornet with the band, following the family tradition.
The band is presently (1979 — this information is outdated) working under the leadership of Ernie Crawford with funding coming from jobs and town grants as it has done in past years.
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- Paris Museum and Historical Society
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- Public domain: Copyright has expired according to Canadian law. No restrictions on use.
Paris Museum and Historical Society
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Paris Museum and Historical Society
51 William Street, Paris, ON