Story of a special band

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The Canberra City Band.

The Canberra City Band.

THEY’VE been blowing their own trumpets for 87 years, and now the members of the Canberra City Band have their own official history.

The bright, profusely illustrated book, “Mr. Chifley’s Baby”, was launched last night by the ACT Arts Minister, Joy Burch, at the Canberra Museum and Gallery.

Several former and present bandmasters, including Keith Helgesen, Colin Fischer and Geoff Grey, were at the event.

A collaborative effort by authors, John Sharpe and the late William Hoffmann, who have both had more than three decades of close association with the band.

The book records how the young Hoffmann was specifically chosen by the then-Prime Minister, Ben Chifley to reform the band in 1947, to provide high-quality entertainment at official functions and community events in Canberra. It was an endeavour in which Chifley continued to take a personal interest.

Speaking at the launch, co-author Sharpe revealed how, while researching the history of the band, he came across the manuscript of an unpublished book by Hoffmann outlining the musical development in Canberra up until 1990. Although the unpublished manuscript covered the whole spectrum of music in Canberra, it was the two chapters relating specifically to the early history of the Canberra City Band which most interested Sharpe.

He approached Hoffmann with the idea of incorporating sections of Hoffmann’s unpublished work in the complete band history he was preparing, and Hoffmann readily agreed, providing extra details in an interview he recorded with Sharpe just before his 90th birthday and perusing the first draft manuscript shortly before his death in 2011.

The result is an entertaining, meticulously researched account of an organisation that, in its own unique way, has provided immeasurable pleasure to countless public occasions.


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Ian Meikle
Ian Meikle is the owner and editor of "CityNews".

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