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Richmond Concert Band "plays on" - 50 years and counting

The band is celebrating five decades of entertaining large crowds in Richmond with an anniversary concert

The famous phrase “and the band played on,” could very well have been written for a very special group of Richmond musicians.

Although the comparisons with the band that played as the Titanic sunk into the Atlantic barely venture beyond the fact they all had instruments, the longevity of their Richmond counterparts is equally enduring.

The Richmond Community Concert Band is celebrating its 50th birthday this spring and is marking the auspicious occasion with a by-donation, public anniversary concert on April 23.

Many Richmond News readers will already be very familiar with the 55-member concert band – as they have played at the Salmon Festival Parade for decades and performed at every single Remembrance Day ceremony for as long as the band has been in existence.

What people may not know about them is a few amusing stories that are surfacing as the band prepares for its big concert next month.

One tale being when, after the completion of the Remembrance Day ceremonies at the Cenotaph, the band marched out onto the street in single file.

However, because they were so stretched out, the front members weren’t quite in sync with the rear, with the head playing Colonel Bogey, whilst the tail played National Emblem.

Band has three members from 1974

“There are many, many more stories like that…and they get better as the years roll on,” said Gordon Smith, president of the Richmond Community Band Society, which runs the concert band.

“We don’t have any of the original members from 1973, but three of the current members are from 1974.

“I only joined in 2017. My wife, Debbie, joined before me. We both play the clarinet.”

Asked why the band has managed to survive for so long, Smith hailed the band’s long-serving conductor, Bob Mullett, who has been with them since 1979.

“I think he’s the glue that has held it together. He’s a very gifted musician. He plays the Last Post on Remembrance Day.”

The band’s first-ever rehearsal was held Sunday, Feb. 4, 1973 in the auditorium of Branch 5 of the Royal Canadian Legion, which was at Westminster Highway near No. 3 Road.

That legion is long gone, but the Richmond Community Concert Band has survived five decades, growing from only six musicians to what it is now.

“Covid hit us hard, some (members) haven’t come back,” added Smith.

“We’re trying to build it back up and we’re getting new members now. We even got a new member who plays the cello, but it’s basically a concert band.”

The South Arm Fall Fair and Aberdeen Centre at Christmas have been annual Richmond staples for the band, as well as the Tall Ships Festival when it came to town.

But the group is really looking forward to the anniversary concert, with Mullett in the midst of preparing an “exciting” program for the audience.

“It will span the decades, from the early years of the band right up to present day,” explained Smith.

“There will be a pull-out Dixie Band ensemble and a pull-out clarinet segment.

“We will have a commemorative program and we’re trying to invite all the old band members.”

There are no ticket sales for the event, which goes Sunday, April 23 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Peace Mennonite Church, 11571 Daniels Rd.

People can just show up on the day and enter by donation.