Ottawa Citizen

Band played on, Part 2

The Ot­tawa Tech band’s Euro­pean tour in 1962 was ex­tra spe­cial for some, such as Rick Nolan,


For most of the stu­dents in the 1962 Ot­tawa Tech­ni­cal High School band, the an­nual bus ride to the Toronto Mu­sic Fes­ti­val was an ex­otic trip. A flight to Europe — un­heard of.

The lo­gis­tics were enor­mous, from ar­rang­ing flights, itin­er­ary and ac­com­mo­da­tion, to the mun­dane such as the kit each stu­dent was re­quired to bring (blue flan­nel blazer: $27.50 at E.R. Fisher; two neck­ties at 60 cents apiece; two black bow ties, 70 cents each; py­ja­mas, $3.45 a pair). Record sales, con­certs, do­na­tions and other fundrais­ers brought in just over $34,000, slightly more than was ul­ti­mately needed to cover the cost of the trip. Apart from the ex­penses in­volved with their kits, stu­dents were also each asked to con­trib­ute $150 for meals and spend­ing money.

As well, since they were ex­pected to pa­rade in Europe, the band had to learn how to march while per­form­ing, and were trained by Gov­er­nor Gen­eral Foot Guard drum ma­jor Jim Milne. Band mem­ber Steve Fahie, whose bas­soon “didn’t march well,” was cho­sen to be the drum ma­jor.

“We went across the street to the park­ing lot on Al­bert Street and prac­tised,” he re­calls. “Some­body fi­nally lent us a proper mace, but we couldn’t use it while prac­tis­ing, so an­other per­son made one out of wood.”

To test its march­ing met­tle, the band took part in a com­pe­ti­tion be­tween march­ing bands, held in Cornwall. Although not of­fi­cially en­tered, the band came in sec­ond.

Their itin­er­ary in Europe was ex­haust­ing, and it was a rare day off they en­joyed be­tween per­for­mances and sight­see­ing trips. In Eng­land they stayed at Grange Farm north of Lon­don, where the young men slept in bunks, 10 to a cabin. From there they would head out each day: four hours of con­certs at the Birm­ing­ham Coun­try Fayre on Satur­day, June 22, their first full day in Eng­land; four more hours the next day in the Rose Garden in Southall. Mon­day and Tues­day off, then back at it: Play­ing with the Grenadier Guards band at the BBC stu­dios on Wed­nes­day; a two-hour con­cert at the Mar­gate Car­ni­val on Thurs­day; a po­lice horse show at Im­ber Court Fri­day morn­ing, and a visit to, and per­for­mance for, the Stead­fast Sea Cadet Corps at Kingston-on-Thames in the af­ter­noon. An­other car­ni­val pro­ces­sion per­for­mance Satur­day. Tea at Wal­worth on Sun­day, fol­lowed by a one-hour con­cert there.

“It was fun but a lot of work,” re­calls clar­inetist Rick Nolan. “You wouldn’t put a pro­fes­sional group through that itin­er­ary.”

On Do­min­ion Day, the band per­formed a noon-hour con­cert out­side St. Paul’s Cathe­dral, and the day af­ter toured the Houses of Par­lia­ment, West­min­ster Abbey and the Tower of Lon­don.

“Cer­tainly it was an ex­cit­ing time,” says Frank Mor­phy, who only last year re­tired as prin­ci­pal oboist with the Toronto Sym­phony Orches­tra, and who, while in Eng­land and Hol­land in the sum­mer of ’63, picked up the trum­pet when­ever the band set out on a march.

“One of the things was the ca­ma­raderie among us all. There are guys we never hung out with at school, but once you got out on the tour, we were all to­gether, no mat­ter what.”

Well, maybe not no mat­ter what. Nolan re­calls the day fel­low clar­inetist Richard Mox­ley told him of meet­ing some girls at the pub who had in­vited him back the next night.

“I think it was the end of their school year,” says Nolan. “They were go­ing camp­ing some­where on the coast, and we had a day or two off, so we took the train out to this place.”

Nolan took a lik­ing to one girl in par­tic­u­lar — Sandy. “We saw each other twice af­ter that and cor­re­sponded maybe twice a year. Then in 1967 I made her my cen­ten­nial project. She came for a cou­ple of weeks and liked it so much she em­i­grated a year later.

“We got mar­ried the year af­ter that, in 1969.”

Mox­ley also mar­ried one of the girls from the pub.

For the most part, the won­der­ful re­cep­tion the band re­ceived in Eng­land con­tin­ued in Hol­land, where mem­o­ries of Canada’s lib­er­a­tion re­mained fresh. There, mem­bers of the group dis­cov­ered en­tirely new ex­pe­ri­ences, try­ing, for ex­am­ple, but­ter­milk, yo­gurt and con­doms for the first time.

A per­for­mance they gave in Hil­ver­sum was broad­cast na­tion­wide on state ra­dio — a con­cert they later re­leased in Canada as a fol­lowup al­bum — while Dutch news­pa­pers of­fered glow­ing ac­counts. “In­druk­wekkend op­tre­den van High School Band” read one head­line: “Im­pres­sive per­for­mance from High School Band.”

Their trav­els were not with­out in­ci­dent, how­ever. Af­ter miss­ing the 9 p.m. curfew at a youth hos­tel near Gorkum af­ter a per­for­mance one night, the en­tire band was re­fused en­try, al­lowed in only to re­trieve their be­long­ings. They even­tu­ally found shel­ter at an un­fin­ished Hil­ton Ho­tel in Rot­ter­dam, where they stayed two nights.

“Then we loaded up the bus and were 50 or 60 kilo­me­tres out of town when the cops pulled us over,” re­calls Nolan. “‘OK,’ they said, ‘Give us back all the stuff.’ ”

It turned out that most of the boys had stolen some sort of sou­venir from the ho­tel. Af­ter go­ing through their lug­gage, the po­lice sent them on their way.

“I’ve still got a hanger from the Rot­ter­dam Hil­ton,” Nolan ad­mits, while trom­bon­ist Gary La­belle jokes: “They su­per­vised us a lit­tle closer in Amsterdam.”

The band re­turned to Canada on the night of Aug. 8, touch­ing down in Mon­treal 49 days af­ter leav­ing for Europe. They ar­rived in Ot­tawa by bus at about 8:30 p.m., to an­other heroes’ wel­come.

“What I re­mem­ber most about the trip was that you be­came a man, really,” says La­belle. “You grew up. You went from be­ing a kid to be­ing a man, be­cause you had to take care of your­self for the most part.

“It didn’t just hap­pen on the tour, but with the band in gen­eral. And the tour kind of ex­posed those of us who’d never trav­elled be­fore to dif­fer­ent cul­tures, and that wakes you up to what the world is all about.

“It’s not the same as go­ing to war, but you do come home a dif­fer­ent per­son.”

It was, he says, the mu­sic that set them apart, and the mu­sic that bound them to­gether. And it didn’t mat­ter whether, as with Frank Mor­phy, Rick Lo­catelli, Richard Ford and Phil Bar­rette, they con­tin­ued to play their oboes, tim­pani and trom­bones, or if, like Al­bert Mor­gan, the mu­sic stopped with the screech of the DC-8’s tires on the Mon­treal air­port run­way; each played his part.

“When I play trom­bone and it comes to my part on, say, Dvo­rak’s Sym­phony, and you get to the bass parts, you get that tin­gling feel­ing,” says La­belle. “You play it and you get that sat­is­fac­tion, and there might be 30, 40 or 50 other parts that all fit to­gether.

“Not ev­ery­body can be a hockey star or a foot­ball star, but most peo­ple, if they put some ef­fort into it, can be a mu­si­cian. It doesn’t take a lot to learn to play those in­stru­ments. What takes a lot is the com­rade­ship and be­ing part of that group. A lot of th­ese guys were not great play­ers when it comes right down to it, but they learned to be re­spon­si­ble, and their lit­tle part of the group contribute­d to the over­all qual­ity of the mu­sic; their lit­tle part contribute­d to an over­ture.”

 ??  ??
 ??  ?? The con­cert tour was es­pe­cially mem­o­rable for Rick Nolan: he met his fu­ture wife while in Eng­land.
The con­cert tour was es­pe­cially mem­o­rable for Rick Nolan: he met his fu­ture wife while in Eng­land.
 ??  ?? A sou­venir from the Ot­tawa Tech­ni­cal High School band’s 1963 tour of Eng­land and Hol­land.
A sou­venir from the Ot­tawa Tech­ni­cal High School band’s 1963 tour of Eng­land and Hol­land.
 ??  ?? Richard Ford holds the Ot­tawa Tech­ni­cal High School band mas­cot, Techy.
Richard Ford holds the Ot­tawa Tech­ni­cal High School band mas­cot, Techy.

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