Feel free to send comments or feedback here . . .
Our dear friend Charlie Hendricks (Insp., Director of Music) passed away on March 16th, 2014.
Charlie, an accomplished musician, played flute (all of them from piccolo to bass flute,) and Bari sax in the Band, and was appointed Director of Music in 1986, seeing the Band through until its final dissolution in 1994. Suffering from Alzheimer’s for the last few years, it was painful to see him forget his friends, the Band , and who he was. We hope he is happily playing in that Big Band in the sky. Adios, Charlie . . .
I was the detachment commander in Vermilion, AB, when the RCMP Band came to town and put on a wonderful concert for the community around 1984/85. A female constable was front and center as a singer/soloist at the time. She was great and I thought she could have been a professional singer….in a sense I guess she was. The following day the OIC of the band stopped by the detachment and needed some assistance in getting annual assessments done. They certainly read differently than what we General Duty guys and girls were used to! Thoroughly enjoyed this web site.
Ric Hall 24394/O.1330
Thanks for all your work in getting this site up. It is so important to preserve the Force’s history! I really enjoyed listening to the recordings.
A fascinating legacy for the RCMP band. And how timely to commemorate the passing of Charlie Hendricks, one of the predominant personalities in this great organization. Thank you so much for taking the trouble to preserve this important piece of RCMP history. I will follow it with continued interest. All of the full time regimental bands of the DND have also gone the way of the dinosaur. Their demise and the loss of the RCMP band was a considerable Canadian tragedy.
Ian Parsons (Reg. #22033)
Former member of the Regimental band of the Lord Strathcona’s RC, Calgary, Alta. circa 1959.
Love You! Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and it raises the bar to one’s life if one chooses a song and lives by it. My life song is “She’s a Lady” and I’d love to hear my Mountie friends sing my song ~~~~ “and the Lady is Mountiemine”.
Home is where the RCMP family gives meaning to the words that speak to the human heart and sends us into beautiful harmony with each other.
RCMP Concert Band and their fans honor Terry Fox – Canada’s hero.
The Band ran a regular sold out series of concerts at the National Arts Center on Sundays during the winter months. It so happened that our Feb. concert a few months after he was obliged to return home, happened on Valentines Day, Feb. 14th, 1982. I purchased one of the very large birthday cards measuring about 24 inches by 12 inches. I volunteered uniformed RCMP from “A Div. to staff all three levels of the NAC to have concert goers sign the various pages as they left the concert. They all knew it would be delivered to Terry that evening at his home in Port Coquitlam, BC. 2300 signatures were obtained, many with messages to him. I took the card and inserts out to the airport and made arrangements with Air Canada to have everyone on the flight sign the card. Upon its arrival at the International airport in Vancouver, I had a local RCMP Inspector who knew the Fox family, deliver the card to Terry right at his home. It had close to 3000 signatures on it wishing Terry a Happy Valentines Day. These are the kinds of things the Concert Band did during its lifetime.
To celebrate Canada’s Centennial in 1967 the Concert Band travelled the length and breadth of Canada and became the first Band in history to tour the Canadian Arctic. Under the direction of Supt. Ted Lydall, the band departed Ottawa and headed to Fort Smith to play the first of nine concerts in five northern locations which included Yellowknife, Whitehorse, Cambridge Bay and Frobisher Bay (now Iqaluit) on Baffin Island- a distance of more than 13,000 miles and all in nine days. To watch the excited faces of little native children as they experienced the sight and sounds of instruments being played for the first time was a thrill. In many instances the band members were staged on wooden pallets with the audiences sitting on wooden benches or on the dirt floor, some mothers were nursing their babies slung in the amouties. There was always a great reception to the music played and a community party always ensued.
In 1986 the Dance Band directed by Cst. Val Laflamme took his group over to celebrate Canada week in Sydney, Australia at the request of Connie Watkin of the Canadian Consul. The Australians loved the red coated Mounties everywhere we went – the hospitals, the nursing homes and particularly in the major square below the skyscrapers of central Sydney. Thousands showed up for the noon hour concert. We had to break up into groups of two to accommodate all the requests. Ron Jasper, our accordionist and I were invited to perform at a nursing home at Manley, a suburb of Sydney. When our taxi arrived at the five story building there were residents lining each balcony with a recording of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy singing songs from Rose Marie. Needless to say, our one hour concert was hit before we started. we even received letters from residents upon our return to Ottawa.
With the passing of our illustrious leader, Insp. Charlie Hendricks earlier this month we have had time to reflect on the major contributions he made to the Concert Band in his performance on various instruments, the choral group, dance orchestras, Bison Band, his cheery disposition, love of all styles of music and to an area that few knew about – his gift with words and turning a phrase. I am in possession of a collection of his writing and they portray a fine gift for prose and poetry. It is to be hoped that some of his writings will be included on this site. On the card given out at his memorial service there are two of his creations.
When the time has come for the final bows,
will we be there as one who can truly say
yes, I tried to understand my fellow man,
to see what he saw, to hear what he heard.
I tried to understand his ways and his loves,
for though they were strange to me,
they were all the things that are life to him.
If we can say this, and be true to ourselves,
then we will leave behind much more than just a memory…..
Charles “Chas” Hendricks, 1980
MY THOUGHTS OF YESTERDAY
When the winter winds are gone
and children’s laughter fills the air,
when the meadow lark returns
to sing his song of spring,
memories of you come drifting back to
fill the shadowsof my mind
with thoughts of yesterday.
Carefree times when
we were young and
thinking only of today.
Laughing, crying: quiet words
just meant for us alone.
Touching hands and
knowing at a glance
the meaning of a smile or tear.
I think of you that way.
But then I stop and wonder why it is
these thoughts and images
of days so long ago
return and then I know
that we just can’t erase
the past and maybe
that’s the way it’s all supposed to be.
It is, I know, with me.
So I guess I’m just the same
as others who look back and smile.
Remembering their younger loves
and all they seemed to be.
Memories that stay but for a while
and then are gone, like summer rain.
My thought of yesterday.
Charles “Chas” Hendricks, April 1974
The RCMP Concert Band represented the Force and Canada at World Fairs and Expositions at various locations throughout the world. In 1939 – The World’s Fair in New York, 1967 – the great Canadian Exposition in Montreal, 1968 – the Hemisfair in San Antonio, Texas, 1970 – the world Expo in Osaka, Japan, the World University Games (Universiade) in Edmonton in 1983. In 1986 the Band appeared on four separate occasions at Expo 86 in Vancouver and traveled to the south Pacific to entertain at Expo 88 in Brisbane, Australia.
In early 1986 I received a letter from a 12 yr. old boy scout by the name of David Thomas from Port Alberni, B.C. requesting some of our RCMP shoulder flashes to add to his collection. I was made aware that this young man had spinal muscular atrophy. I phoned the local Detachment in Alberni where the Officer in charge was Insp. John Mathewson, whom I knew from my days on Arctic postings. From our conversation we arranged for the RCMP to bring David, his parents and grandmother to Vancouver so that David could conduct the Concert Band at the Central Plaza of Expo ’86 at noon on July 1st – Canada Day. There were smiles galore in the crowd of thousands, on the faces of the Director of Music, Insp. Ken Moore and all the band members but the look of satisfaction and confidence on David’s face made for one of the best Canada days ever. It was all carried live on TV throughout British Columbia. David went on to a career in electronics (computers) and works out of Vancouver.
I was one of the privileged few who got to work in Canada’s Arctic in my early days with the Force. I was stationed at an outpost called Reliance on the east arm of Great Slave Lake. At Christmas time, 1960, I was obliged to go by dog patrol to our satellite community of Snowdrift, now called Lutselk’e. The journey was 85 miles through bush and frozen lakes and was in the middle of nowhere. Little did I ever think that 20 years later I would be part of a group of 18 RCMP Band members that would visit and entertain Snowdrift residents. We had two twin Otter aircraft to fly us to various northern communities over a 10 day period. The temperature was in the minus 40’s when we arrived. The equipment was in one aircraft and the men in the other. We landed on the frozen lake in front of the settlement and immediately set up for the concert. As it was an historic event to have that many police in such a small Detachment the residents pulled out all the stops for us and decided to paint the little building we were to perform in. It was in refreshing colors of pink and turquoise. The only thing was, they had painted it the morning we were to arrive and because of the cold the paint had not dried. Every time we had to do solos or move something we stuck to the floor. I remember all the teenagers could not believe their good fortune when they heard what we played and saw how professional our musicians were. Jamie Gatti provided considerable excitement when he played his electric bass behind his back. I’m not surprised he went on to tour the world after the band folded with some of the best entertainment packages the world has seen.
THE MOTEL FROM HELL -Written by Charlie Hendricks about a tour to the province of Manitoba in the 1980’s.
The concert band had a arrived in Roblin to play two concerts. We went directly to the school to set up, play the first concert and then go to our accommodations before the evening program. The band members were at a motel just outside of town – The Motel from Hell, something out of a Hitchcock movie.
We drove out the highway a short piece and here was this one story, “L” shaped building perched on what looked like a pile of gravel. The driver of the bus wheeled up to the front of the place and out comes our ‘hostess’. Was it Mrs. Bates? Damned near! She weighed about 250 pounds, had her hair done up in curlers with a bandana tied around her head, skin tight pants and a white blouse of some sort. The most stunning of all her features was the blood-soaked bandage across the bridge of her nose.
The sight of this apparition jolted everyone awake and we piled out of the bus to get our rooms. The entrance way into the ‘lobby’ was a burial ground for dead flies. The base of long, floor-to-ceiling windows was littered with them, some still twitching and others long dead, their insides sucked dry by the posse of spiders that were living up in the corners above the windows, and ‘eyeing’ everyone as they went in. The lobby wasn’t much better so we grabbed our keys and got out of there as quickly as possible. I was one of the last to get his key and when i went outside, there were already several who had been to their rooms and weren’t too pleased with what they’d found. Everyone was waiting to see what kind of a place I had.
My room was at the corner of the ‘L’ and our ‘genial hostess’ had assured me that, as I was the Director of Music, she had given me the most spacious, comfortable room in the place. This I had to see. As I picked up my luggage and started to my room, a line of ‘spectators’ formed behind me to see what I had got. I opened the door and the only comment I could think of was “they’ve got to be kidding!”. There was a roar of laughter and hooting behind me as my ‘friends’ stuck their heads in and viewed the place.
The room was about 30 feet long and 15 feet wide. It had five clothes hooks on the wall at the far end and a bathroom in the corner. The bed was a double, with the center about 8 inches lower than the outer edges.
There was a small table beside the bed and the other two walls were lined with different colored ratty chesterfields, jammed together end to end, and the whole shiteree was lit by 12 swag lamps. That’s right – 12! The place smelled like the bottom of an ashtray and the carpet, if you could call it that, was black with crap and corruption tracked in from outside over the period of God knows how many years. Again the window sills were full of dead flies and other assorted bugs and the whole thing was really just an outhouse, posing as a room! I went over to the bed and flipped back the blanket and sheets to take a look and it seemed like they’d been slept in by a mud wrestler who hadn’t bothered to shower after his match! It really was disgusting.
Because there were no other rooms available to exchange, I was stuck with this place. Either that or sleep on the bus. The thing that really bothered me was that the floor was so filthy I couldn’t walk on it with my bare feet. There was a good risk of getting some kind of creeping crud between your toes. Of course just being in the room was a risk.
We tried to get accommodation at our next stop in Swan River but nothing was available.
Dean Tronsgard got settled in his room and decided to have a nap before we went in to town early to eat. There wasn’t a restaurant at this place and I doubt anyone would have eaten there it there had been. While he was lying on his bed he noticed an army of some sort of bugs crawling across the ceiling above his bed. Now that’s a little unnerving to say the least. You can picture these buggers dropping down on you as you’re lying there. Anyway, he scrambled out of bed and got a can or box and trapped a few of these things. We had noticed an agricultural station a short distance out the highway so Dean borrowed the band car and went out with his bugs to see if they knew what they were. It turned out they were ‘strawberry weevils’, whatever the hell they are. “They’re harmless” they told Dean. “Where’d you get them from anyway?” “On the ceiling of my motel room” Dean said, and they looked at him as if he were nuts. “Really”, Dean said, “the place is crawling with them!” They asked where it was but didn’t comment after they were told. I guess they just wanted to know so they could avoid the place.
Keith Estabrooks decided to check out his room for any unwanted crawlies and started to tear things apart. When he took the mattress off the box spring, he found an egg lodged between the two. It had been there for quite awhile as it had solidified and changed color and smelled to high heaven even tho’ it was still in one piece. Unbelievable!
It was a sure thing, no one was looking forward to having to spend the night there. Everyone slept with all their clothes on, on top of the covers.
We left early next morning, before ‘sleeping beauty’ started prowling around, and were on our way north to Swan River. We had a couple of gigs there and after the evening show were hosted at a reception by the sponsor. The town council was there and also many of the audience, as it was open to all. It was a nice ‘doo’ and people were warm and friendly. I was chatting with a couple of people when this nice lady joined our group and she introduced herself. We talked awhile and during the conversation I asked her what she did and she said she was the local MPP and the Minister of Health for the Province of Manitoba. “Really!” I said, “now isn’t that interesting. Have I got a story for you” As I related the tale of our stay in Roblin, her eyes kept getting bigger and she finally took out a pen and paper and started to write things down. She couldn’t believe what I was describing and kept saying, “You”re kidding”, or “No!”. I assured her that I was not making things up and she said that it would be looked into the next morning and from her reaction I’m sure it was.
I don’t know how long the place stayed open after that or if they burned it to the ground and buried it or what. We never passed that way again so I never did learn what happened. Apparently it was ‘the’ place to stay when it was first opened but then went to hell in a hand cart. The only reason we had been booked there was that it was owned by a ‘friend’ of someone in the group that sponsored the Band in Roblin.
As Churchill would have said: “Some friend………
(Charlie was right on with this story – I witnessed the whole thing, even to the egg between the mattress and box spring………….Garth Hampson)
THE TRIALS OF BRAM SMITH —–DIRECTOR OF MUSIC FROM 1967 TO 1975
Bram Smith came into the RCMP Band at a time when we needed him the most. The Band had gone through the ‘growing period’ of changing from a ‘part-time’ group, which was officially formed in 1938 under Commissioner S.T. Wood, and directed then by Insp. Joe Brown, to a full-time unit, with a very good establishment and some decent quarters to work in. Supt. Ted Lydall can be credited with the hard work of really forming the nucleus of a good Band and getting its status changed to that of an honest-to-goodness working unit which could concentrate full time on music. He hired excellent musicians, for the most part, got his personnel up to establishment strength and laid the groundwork for a fine Band.
Ted wanted to retire to pension after the 1967 tour, which was to be a very heavy and hectic year because of the celebrations for Canada’s Centennial year, so the search began for a person to be in place, and take over the Band when he left in the Fall of 1967. Among the applicants was Bram Smith, an Ottawa native who had worked and studied in Toronto and had spent many years as a member of the United States Marine Corps Band in Washington, DC He came with very impressive credentials, and was also a very fine trumpet player. Bram was amicable and had an outgoing personality and we all looked forward to him getting the position. Bram did get the job and he took over the Band in 1967 and Ted said his farewells and went to a very deserved retirement.
Bram immediately set out to mold the Band into, what he hoped would be, the most efficient and entertaining group of its kind that this country had ever seen. What he did, basically, was to turn all these creative people loose, and let them run with their ideas for programming, staging, and so on. He kept control over the process, of course, but was wise enough to recognize the talent that he had at his disposal and he used it.
The results were almost immediate and very remarkable. In a matter of months we had a new concert series set up at the National Library and, as people head the group in person or about the Band from others, our audiences grew dramatically, and we were soon forced to move into a larger hall for our Winter series of public concerts. We ended up playing a series of Sunday concerts in the Opera of the National Arts Centre and again had standing room only!
The Sunday concerts soon became a two day affair, to accommodate the people who wanted to attend. From here it was on to radio and television shows, guest appearances with TV greats such as Lorne Green and Jeanette Reno, tours to Mexico and many parts of the United States and expanded programming throughout Canada.
All-in-all the Band was on its way. The public loved the programming, the presentation and the ‘fun’ the musicians were having on stage and the feeling of joy and love of music and performing that radiated out from the Band on stage. Most of all I think they loved the happy, bubbly, effervescent personality of the Director of Music, one W. Bramwell Smith, Jr.!! He actually ended up getting the label of ‘Captain Colgate’ because of his smile.
Chapter two follows………..
THE TRIALS OF BRAM SMITH ……DIRECTOR OF MUSIC FROM 1967 TO 1975.
The odd thing about the new found success of the RCMP Band under Bram Smith’s leadership, a situation that should have been a ‘screaming success story’, was the fact that, to the vast majority of officers in the Force, especially in the senior ranks, Bram Smith was probably the most disliked individual they knew. This may sound strange but it was true. They simply could not accept the fact that this ‘outsider’, who had not ‘come up through the ranks’ had joined the Force and changed ‘their’ Band into some sort of ‘boogie-woogie’ outfit that played all those damned ‘popular’ song and the like. Along with that he had the nerve to smile on stage and act like a normal human being. This just wasn’t RCMP way!! No Sir!!
There was a concerted effort by this ‘cabal’ to get Bram out of the Force and every possible road block was thrown up to divert his efforts and sabotage the workings of the Band and its ‘deviation’ from the Force ‘norm’!! Small things, that alone don’t mean much, but, when taken together, add a very heavy stress level on someone who is just trying to do his job and make things better for the outfit. Regrettably, at this time, a few of the most senior officers were too blind to realize what they had, both in their Director of Music and in the Band itself, and what it was doing for the Force’s image, both at home and abroad. The ‘new look’ in the Band repertoire in addition to its entertainment value also went on to assist Detachment members as they brought their drug awareness programs to the attention of High School students across the country. Bram also brought a ‘new look’ to the compositions and arrangements played by the Band, many written by young and up and coming Canadian musicians. This material was extremely popular with our audiences particularly when Detachments were doing fund raisers for local charities.
The Commissioner of the day was Leonard Higgitt who, along with his wife Maudie, loved the Band and was ‘front and center’ at every concert he was able to attend. He traveled with his Band to Mexico and Osaka, Japan and took part in all the Band festivities and truly appreciated what the Band was doing for the Force and Canada. Unfortunately the resentment to Band leadership became untenable for Bram and he resigned his commission and left the Force in 1975.
Thus, a page in the Band’s history closed. One which, along with Ted Lydall’s service, did more to establish musicality and professionalism of the Band than that of any other.
This item on ‘THE TRIALS OF BRAM SMITH’……..DIRECTOR OF MUSIC FROM 1967 TO 1975″
was written by Inspector Charlie Hendricks, who was also a major contributor to the Band’s
successes over the years. Charlie was Director of Music when the Band was terminated by the Force in 1993. He passed away suddenly in April, 2014 and we will miss him and all that he brought to music.
Garth Hampson- a proud member of the much lamented RCMP Band
Hi Pete, very nice job on the Web Page. It takes a lot of work to maintain a page like this and I know everyone appreciates it. I really enjoyed listening to the recordings and I know a lot more tunes that we recorded are available. It may be that you do not have access to them. After the demise of the Band, I worked at HQ for 3 years and then I left the country to work in Kosovo for 3 years and then Haiti for 6 years. I kept in touch with Charlie and I know that he had made copies of many of our recordings and TV Specials because I helped him do this near the end of the Band. Perhaps you can talk to Matt or David or even Marie to see if they would lend these recordings to you or some one of us to copy for placement on the Web Page. I often talked to Charlie about making copies of all our TV shows and recordings for my own enjoyment and memories. Unfortunately due to circumstances this never materialized. This should be done. It is evident that a lot of people are following the Web Page and History of the Band. I am still in Florida but will be home around mid-May and I would like to get together with you and other former members of the Band to discuss how you can add to the Web Page.
This is a great beginning. Glad to see that the history of the band has been captured. It was an incredibly entertaining organization. I spent many a Sunday at the Arts Centre watching the band.
I’ve just posted a number of additional photographs in the Gallery . . . enjoy!
SUMMER OF 1968
Shortly after Bram Smith took over the Band we were invited to perform at the Eastern States Exposition in Springfield, Mass. In addition to the concerts we performed on the main stage, which by the way also featured “Satchmo Armstrong” and a very young 18 yr. old Dolly Parton, we were obliged to lead the parade through the Exhibition grounds to stir up the many thousands attending the fair. As is customary here in Canada, we always led any parade because of our Federal role in policing. Not in the United States as we were to find out. The parade was led by a very tiny hippopotamus who seemed to love his role of being “top dog”. Now Canadians had just come off the great Exposition in Montreal and we had become totally proficient at setting up major displays to sell product. Such was the case at the Springfield fair. The Maritime provinces of Canada had set up a major display in the large pavilion adjacent to the parade route. It held thousands and the Canadian exhibit was a highlight. On one parade day, as we approached the pavilion, our Drum Major, Gord Price, unbeknowst to the rest of us, put his right arm out to signal a right turn and with his mace parted the crowd lining the route. We obediently followed and as we went through the massive doors of the Maritime Pavilion, the Band broke into Canada’s great patriotic song – “The Maple Leaf Forever”. For many of us that was like getting a gold medal. The Maritime exhibitors were thrilled and the people all followed us in wanting to see more of this incredible part of Canada.
It was interesting that from that incident, the well known CBC TV producer from Halifax, Charlie Reynolds invited us to record two national television broadcasts, one of which was aired on Christmas Day and repeated the following year. I often wondered what happened to our little hippo!
LOUISA HOLTZ – Of happy memory.
When the Band rehearsal facilities were moved from HQ (Nicholson Building) to “N” Div. in the mid 1960’s we were fortunate to have the services of Louisa Holtz, secretary with the Musical Ride, to run our office. She was a hard working single parent with five children and lived in Manor Park around the corner from “N” Div. In addition to her work with the two Public Relations units for the Force, she also taught ballet at the leading school of dance in Ottawa.
During the war years while the Dutch Royal Family were in exile in nearby Rockcliffe Park, the Dutch princesses were taught ballet by Louisa. When Queen Juliana abdicated years later and Beatrix became Queen she undertook a State visit to Ottawa. During that visit she was invited to visit the Musical Ride stables at “N” Div. I arranged for Louisa, who had been retired for several years, to attend this event and although there were many hundreds of guests present, Queen Beatrix recognized Louisa in the crowd and spent several special moments with her talking over her time in Ottawa and the pleasure she got from her dance lessons. Needless to say, Louisa was over the moon from being remembered by the Dutch Queen.
Louisa had a very caring personality and took great pride in the work done by the Band and Musical Ride as they travelled the length and breadth of Canada and abroad.
GARTH HAMPSON- June 24th, 2014.
A ROYAL VISIT -1986
Vancouver put on an amazing Expo over a six month period in 1986 and Patrick Reade, the gentleman responsible for Expositions for the Federal Government arranged for the RCMP Band to perform on four separate occasions during that time. During the second visit which was to cover the Canada Day celebrations we were invited to perform on the upper deck of the British Columbia ferry “Queen of the North”. Captain Butterfield was the skipper. We overnighted in Nanaimo and boarded the vessel first thing in the morning along with Their Royal Highnesses, the Prince and Princess of Wales. The short trip from Nanaimo to Vancouver inner harbour was uneventful until we approached the Lions Gate Bridge where a great number of police boats and other leisure craft came alongside the ferry to welcome the Royals to Vancouver. The Prince and Princess came up from below and took their place in a glassed in cupola just in front of the Band which was set up in concert formation on the upper deck. It was a spectacular scene and the Princess looked radiant with the greatest smile ever. As we sailed under the bridge a gust of wind came up and all hell broke loose as pages of music lifted off the music stands and headed out to a watery grave in the harbour. Diana was watching all this and doubled up with laughter as we attempted to collect our precious music. Almost immediately the fire boat arrived and began the celebration with its jets of water as we approached the Canadian Pavilion and the hundreds of thousands lining the shore to welcome the Royals.
We performed with the Musical Ride at the Kodak Bowl before 9000 people with the Royals as special guests. It was on that day that Diana had a fainting spell during a visit to the United States pavilion.
Many years later, the vessel that had brought us all over from Nanaimo for the Royal Visit, “The Queen of the North” was to ram into the rocks along the B.C. coast and sank to a watery grave with the loss of two people.
GARTH HAMPSON – June 24th, 2014.
Residents who call Saskatchewan home are always proud of how friendly and welcoming they are. Being from Moose Jaw, I believed that, hook line and sinker! That is, until we started touring the Province of Newfoundland/Labrador. I invite all Canadians to make this a life time dream to go to”The Rock” and feast on their hospitality – the cod tongues, cod cheeks and plenty of fun music with lots of accordions and fiddles. We toured the province numerous times but one I recall in particular was when I was singing the Mountie version of “Aunt Martha’s sheep”. Now the idea is that this original folk song was written before the Province joined Confederation and the Mountie from the Mainland ate the most stew in which Aunt Martha’s sheep was to be found – cooked. Ah, but the Mounties got their revenge when we penned the new words and I was privileged to premiere it, in a place called Harbour Grace. Wouldn’t you know, the author finished the last line with “The Mountie from the Mainland was a man from Harbour Grace. This community had a great community spirit and prior to going on stage I was asked to go to the stage door immediately behind the stage where the local detachment member was standing there holding a rope. At the other end was a very large ewe with the most beautiful pink bow around its neck. I was handed the rope and told to take it on stage at the end of the “Aunt Martha’s Sheep” number to show the audience that all was well and that the Mounties had found the sheep in perfectly good health. I handed the rope to the Director of Music who was then greeted with a great roar of approval and laughter from the capacity audience.
Invariably, when the dance band was performing at the little communities and outports there was always the need to have some additional entertainment during the break periods. ” Screeching in” was the big show stopper and invariably we in the Band were the ones selected to stand in ice water, gulp down a shot of Newfoundland Screech and kiss the cod. Dance Band members can claim the record for the number of times they were ” screeched in”. I am quite proud of that achievement – not keen on the booze though.
Garth Hampson – Oct. 1st, 2014.
“Small World” department
As many of you know, I started in the Band as an oboist . . . which I learned to play in high school. As a kid I had the usual piano lessons and so on, as my mother was an accomplished pianist; but I really loved playing oboe, and did quite well at it, taking several Toronto Kiwanis Music Festival first place awards as a soloist, part of a woodwind quintet, and in the Concert Band. All this was learned under the tutelage of my high school music teacher, Mr. Paul Green.
I had always intended, over the years, to track him down to thank him for providing me with a 35 year career in the RCMP, but never got around to it until earlier this year. He’s still living in Mississauga, and we had a nice chat on the phone. After explaining how learning to play the oboe got me into the Band, he commented ” then you must know my best friend, Ken Moore?” I just about fell over! Ken was, of course, the Director of the Band for many years. Small world!
How wonderful to find this site. Best six years of my career working as Admin. for the Band. So sorry to hear about Charlie. He was great fun to work for. I think of you all very often. Hugs.
We were wondering if you will be performing Christmas concert at Centerpointe theatre? We have enjoyed many of your great performances there.
To Vanessa and all who have been a part of the RCMP Band either as a performer of as someone who heard us along the way. I continue to do my singing engagements and, as others from the band have experienced, we appreciate all the wonderful comments expressed in conversations along our journey about their time with us at concerts listening to our music. So many have commented on their regular attendance at the concerts we performed at Vincent Massey Park and in front of the Supreme Court every Thursday evening. I can still see Gord Price leading the Band to begin the Marching Ceremony with the playing of the Regimental March of the RCMP.
With Christmas now upon us we look to 2015 with the hope that you will all be blest with good health and happiness and that this old world of ours will see better times.
2014 saw some sort of finality to the Concert Band. Although it has been 23 years since its demise, much of the Band equipment was still lodged in the bowels of the RCMP HQ on Leikin Drive. That is no longer the case and I think all will feel happy that the balance of the equipment took its final journey in Oct. to where the Band started back in 1938, Regina Depot. Although under RCMP jurisdiction it will be used by the Regina Symphony’s Youth program. I know we all feel good about that.
We treasure so many happy memories of our times together. Cheers!
Garth Hampson – Feb 6th, 2015.
I often wonder if the former members of the Band have flashbacks to the days when they made wonderful music entertaining people all over this great country of Canada. I certainly do. Sometimes I have dreams about my training days at RCMP Depot in Regina. I have often wakened up after having a dream where I was swabbing the linoleum in the old barrack room adjacent to the Horse Hospital. Ah, how times have changed!
The role we Band members had of rehearsing material and going on tours to promote police community relations did not end when we played the National Anthem. We experienced long time friendships with people we met along the way, even to following their children in their growing up years and even into University. As I have mentioned before we played in communities large and small, good venues and not so good venues but they all had audiences that were ready to hear what the RCMP Band had to offer.
One of the very special treats we had for some years in the 1970s was our appearance at that amazing venue called Ontario Place on the Toronto waterfront. It seemed to have been designed specifically for our type of programming. We walked on stage to a capacity house each and every time. It was theatre in the round so it was necessary to play the entire house. People who attended those concerts were aficionados of our particular blend of music and were familiar with Toronto musicians we worked with who were world class entertainers in their own right. People like Bobby Harriott, Phil Nimmons, and Howard Cable, amongst others. I believe the fact that we projected a totally Canadian image with our charts and arrangements and promoted young Canadian composers who were starting out on their musical journey was the reason for their attendance. At each performance at Ontario Place sat one John Matthews, a rather eccentric but quiet individual who wore a total black leather motorcycle outfit having driven there on his Harley Davidson bike. He really could converse on all styles of music. I was always a fan of English Music Hall material and have a considerable repertoire of the likes of Gracie Fields, Harry Lauder, Flanders and Swann, and, or course, Tom Lehrer. When I mentioned Gracie Fields, John mentioned that he had corresponded on a regular basis with her up until her passing. That opened the door and for years after I would receive lengthy letters complete with Cassette Tapes (I am now dating myself) of recent issues of world class performers. The letters continued long after the Band folded in 1993 but stopped suddenly two years ago. Shortly after that, I received a phone call from Toronto Metro Police asking if I knew a John Matthews. I said I did and that he was a good friend of the RCMP. The reason for calling me was to inform me that John was found dead in his little apartment in Toronto and the only contact the police had for next-of-kin was through the letters found in his effects – my letters. This gives an insight into what music can do to people in making their lives more fully lived and complete. Little did we realize when we walked on stage at those Toronto concerts that we would end up being both friend and family to someone who had no one to contact when they passed from this life.
Garth Hampson – 8th Feb. 201
O.K. – We are on a tour through British Columbia and getting ready for an evening concert put on by the Rotary Club in Burns Lake. I happened to arrive at the concert site early and chatted up some of the Rotarians who were getting everything in order. They were selling tickets to buy a grand piano for the community to use. You paid $10.00 for a each key on this piano. When I asked the President of the Club what the proceeds of the concert were going to he sheepishly said, “There are no handicapped washroom facilities at the local beach and so they will make that possible”. Now, normally, I would tell audiences in my commentary during the concert that their monies for attending the concert were being used for this or that community project. I was always aware of saying the wrong thing at any concert but I thought “What the hell, tell it as it is”. So before the next selection was announced I told the audience to remember the RCMP Band every time they are obliged to use the ‘facilities’ at the Burns Lake beach. It must have hit home as there was great laughter at the comment. Oh yes, I should mention that, because of the ‘sold out’ concert, they raised enough monies to buy the piano.
Rotary Clubs were front and center in promoting our concerts all across Canada. They do so much to make their communities vibrant. Aside from the many concerts we performed for them over the years we were also involved in hosting the 265 Rotary students in the “Adventure in Citizenship” program held each years in Ottawa. Rotary Clubs would sponsor a young student for a week long stay where they were hosted by various Government bodies, the RCMP being one. We always put on the Musical Ride for them and a band concert. This year will mark the 50th anniversary of this great endeavor and, believe it or not, I have sung at every one of those gatherings. For my work with Rotary I was given the illustrious Paul Harris Award shortly after I retired 25 years ago.
Garth Hampson 28 Feb. 2015
Over the years CBC has knit Canada together through their various programs, one of which was “Don Messer and His Islanders. People from one end of the country to the other loved that program and it brought all Canadians together for an hour of fun each week. Two performers who became household names were Charlie Chamberlain and Marg Osborne. The troop also toured to locations throughout the country and on a tour the RCMP Band made to Alberta we were to link up with Marg Osborne when she was performing at a night club in Lloydminster. As the Band bus drove into town I noticed her name on the marqee of the local night club. I thought she would probably be rehearsing in the afternoon when we arrived so went over to meet her. What a great personality! I invited her to come over in her performance “duds” to greet the people at our evening concert. The place was sold out with well over 1000 people attending. Halfway through the concert I noticed Marg standing behind the door, all dressed up in the most beautiful gown. I told the audience that we had a special guest and there was thunderous applause as she came forward to say hello. I told her I was about to sing a number made popular by the Carpenters – “Top of the World” and maybe she would like to sing with me. She knew the song and we had a ball singing together. The audience loved it. Regrettably Marg died only a few weeks later while performing in a small community east of Ottawa.
I saw the RCMP Concert Band in Kitimat, BC, in the mid-seventies. They performed “Top of the World”, which I will never forget. I wonder if that was you singing that day. (I found this page by googling “RCMP Concert band ‘top of the world'”.)
Garth Hampson Feb. 28th, 2015.
I was always struck with the talent amongst members of the Band. Young musicians who came from every part of this great country of ours. Dean Tronsgard was one of them. This young trombonist came from Calgary and over his service contributed so much to our programming. During the 1980’s we recorded some well known marches of the world and I sent the cassette tapes on to various media outlets for people to hear. One Saturday morning while listening to “Rawhide” from Halifax I heard Max Ferguson, that great Canadian comic, comment about the excellence of some recent music he had just received from Ottawa. It was concerning the music of the RCMP Concert Band. He played the cut “Thin Red Line” which has some solo lines by the trombonist. Max was totally taken with the performance of Dean as he did the solo line in this great march.
Playing marches was one of the Band’s strengths along with all the other styles of music the band performed and it was a thrill to hear one of our performers named over the network for his playing.
From Gord Price . . .
Q: What’s the difference between a tenor sax player and a macaw?
A: One is loud, obnoxious and noisy, and the other is a bird.
Q: What kind of calendar does a trombonist use for his gigs?
Q: What’s the difference between a lawnmower and a tenor sax?
A: Lawnmowers sound better in small ensembles.
Q: What is another term for trombone?
A: A wind driven, manually operated pitch approximator.
Q: What’s the difference between a baritone sax and a vacuum cleaner?
A: The vibrato.
Q: What do all great conductors have in common?
A: They’re all dead.
Q: Did you hear about the harpist who played in tune?….neither did I.
Q: What do you throw at drowning bass player?
A: His amp.
Q: What’s the difference between a cello and a coffin?
A: A coffin has the corpse inside.
Q: What’s the difference between a girl singer and a piranha?
Q: What’s the difference between a conductor and a sack of fertilizer?
A: The sack.
Q: How many alto sax players does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Five. One to handle the bulb and four to contemplate how “Bird” would have done it.
Q: Why do violinists put a cloth between their chin and their instruments?
A: Violins don’t have spit valves.
Q: What’s the definition of a nerd?
A: Someone sho owns an “A” clarinet.
Q: What’s the definition of Perfect Pitch?
A: When the banjo doesn’t hit the side of the dumpster.
Q: Why do clarinetists leave their cases on the dashboard?
A: So they can park in the handicapped zones.
Q: How do you make a trombone sound like a french horn?
A: Stick your hand in the bell and play all the wrong notes.
Q: How do you reduce wind drag on a trombonist’s car?
A: Take the Domino’s Pizza sign off the roof.
Q: What’s the definition of optimism?
A: A bass trombone player with a beeper.
Q: How is a savings bond like a musician?
A: Eventually it may mature and make some money.
Q: What should you do if you run over a bass player?
A: Back up.
Q: What’s the difference between an oboe and an onion?
A: No one cries when you chop up an oboe.
Q: What’s the difference between a bassoon and a trampoline?
A: You take your shoes off when you jump on a trampoline.
Q: How do you make a violin sound like a viola?
A: Sit in the back and don’t play.
Q: What did the drummer get on his I.Q. test?
Love em, these are just great, and how true!!!
May 22nd, 2015.
In the Fall of 1980 the Band undertook a three week tour of the Province of Saskatchewan. One of the locations we visited was the High School in Yorkton where we met up with a young man in the music department who had no arms and was playing some very fine trombone. We were blown away with how he handled the instrument with his feet, worked the slide and had a great feel for the music. His name was Alvin Law. Following our performance, Bram Smith, Charlie Hendricks and myself had a quick chat about bringing Alvin to Ottawa to be featured at one of our National Arts Center concerts in the early Spring. We had no funds to undertake such a venture but we would find a way to pay for Alvin’s air fare and other expenses while in Ottawa. We could not miss this opportunity for the people in Ottawa to see this fine young musician headlined on our program celebrating the International Year for the Disabled. On Feb. 18th, 1981 Alvin arrived, rehearsed with us on stage at the NAC and waited for the capacity house to arrive at concert time. Alvin played drums (think about that!). Alvin received an ovation for his performance witnessing to all that handicaps can be overcome if one really believes in themselves. Another feature of that particular show was a composition that one of our fine musicians, Randy Demmon wrote as a tribute to the special year of the disabled, entitled Shirley’s Song.
It just so happened that the day of the concert was Alvin’s 18th birthday and so my dear wife Eleanor invited people over to celebrate with Alvin. A beautifully decorated cake was brought in with Alvin’s name on it and he was asked to cut the cake. Alvin was seated beside the coffee table, eyed the cake, took up the knife with the toes of his right foot and started to cut pieces of cake for everyone. (Think about that!) We finished the afternoon with having everyone sign the Guest Book and when it came to Alvin, he put the book on the table, took a pen in his right foot and perfectly wrote the following – “Thank you very much for the lovely meal and the beautiful cake. It’s nice to have special friends (my first) in Ottawa. You’ve made it a great end to a great day. Your friend always, Al Law”. Beside his signature were drawn two little feet.
We followed Alvin’s career as he took on major responsibilities for the disabled in the Province of Alberta in heading up the Provincial office.
Garth Hampson – 2 June 2015
Insp. Harry Nixon, Commanding Officer of M Div. (Yukon) was a “Hands On” authority throughout the Yukon Territory and it wasn’t a surprise to us in the Band that a request came from him for our stage band to play at the Folk Festival in Faro, Yukon. Now this is one of the biggest folk events held regularly in Canada and young people are there in droves to take in the various entertainment groups. To be included on a program with the likes of Valdy and Bim was pretty special for us and we had no trouble selling our material to the crowds that turned out. Charlie Hendricks did a great job of choosing the appropriate selections to turn on the young people.
We had flown up to Faro with the RCMP twin otter aircraft to undertake our several engagements. We finished off that tour with a performance in the tool shed near the air strip at Old Crow, the most northerly detachment in the Yukon. It was a lovely Fall day and so the large doors of the hangar/workshop were left open as people sat on wooden benches and the floor listening to our music. Near the end of the last number there was some movement amongst the younger members of the audience and they started moving outside the open door. Turns out that a herd of caribou were passing by on the rivers edge and they wanted to kill some of them for their larders. This was all fascinating to watch as the locals did their work and we closed up shop and packed away the gear onto the aircraft. We then followed the locals along the trail to the little church where the ladies had prepared an amazing feast for us, with caribou. We had a special time of conversation and fun with great interaction between the young people and the Band members. It was a special time for me because I got to meet the famous writer Edith Josie who produced the column “Here are the News” for the Whitehorse Star. She was a member of the church group that put on the feast. Oddly enough, I was to sing for her investiture into the Order Of Canada some years later at Rideau Hall.
Harry Nixon left a great legacy of service in the Yukon prior to his retirement to the west coast.
Hi, we are a marching band of The Netherlands. We have our roots from the scouts but our looks are some what familiar with the uniform of the RCMP. See http://www.jeroenboschverkennersband.nl. People, mostly tourists, speak to us in English because they think we are real Canadians. See our website for some photo’s.
Hello Band Members!
In 1986, I was 22 years old and attending Carleton University. I auditioned for Sounds & Saddles and, to my astonishment, not only did I get in, but was one of the soloists! It was so exciting and I loved every minute of it. It was one of the moments in my life I cherish. It also inspired me to continue in music. While I received a Bachelor of Journalism that same year, music has never been far from my life. I am currently taking vocal lessons at The Music Factory with Elyssa Mahoney to pursue my life-long dream of singin’ the blues!! Don’t ever give up on your dreams kids!! Thanks for the beautiful walk down memory lane.
Tracy (Pollard) Gagnon
Thanks for the memories. I remember seeing the band in North Vancouver when I was still in high school and little did I know at the time that I would be a member of the Royal Canadian Engineers Band in 1965. It’s still a memory I cherished to this day some 50 years later. I have our band picture proudly hung on the living room wall. In 1968 I was transferred to the Naden Band in Victoria. I knew a few of the RCMP Band members and wish the band was still active. It was a fantastic organization!
Keith Wilson (Sgt. retired)
Dec. 23rd, 2015 – A very merry Christmas to everyone.
It never ceases to amaze me where requests come from for me to perform – yes, even though I am an Octogenarian, I am still asked to sing. One that took place in late 2012 was to perform with the Regina Symphony at Depot Division as part of the veterans celebration. The Drill Hall became the concert venue, a far cry from those memorable days in training 60 years ago. The event was sponsored by the RCMP Heritage Center who work closely with the Symphony in local programming. Shortly after my return to Ottawa I was invited to RCMP HQ to help arrange for the disposal of the Concert Band equipment from when the Band was cut in 1993. Band fans will be happy to know that the instruments are being used by the Regina Symphony and its young musicians program.
Just me again – Sad news to pass on to one and all. Carmello Scaffidi who died last week , was eulogized this afternoon at his funeral service at Christ Church Cathedral. He and his wife Jo-anne were married there 25 years ago. Over the past week end many tributes have been paid through all the major media outlets as well as at the Senators home base where Carmello was the star trumpet player who brought his quality trumpet playing to all the games. Pictures in the local newspapers show him working the crowd, something he was adept at and took very seriously. For those of us who shared the stage with Carmello with the RCMP Band there was no doubting his musicianship, performance and the fun of performing – just what the RCMP Band needed as it represented the Force in the world. I quote from Monday’s paper –
“Carmello Scaffidi is best known as ‘the goofy guy with the trumpet’ at Ottawa Senators and 67’s games but he was much more than that.
59 year old Scaffidi died last Thurs. after an 18 month battle with brain cancer. The Sens paid tribute to him ahead of Saturday’s game. He spent four years on the road with Louisiana Purchase, mastered his trumpet skills under the tutelage of Blood Sweat and Tears and until a few years ago was touring with the likes of Tito Jackson, the Funk Brothers and the Former Ladies of the Supremes. He was lead trumpeter with the RCMP Band before it was disbanded in the 1990’s
Carmello loved music, he loved children and he wanted to bring children into music”.
Condolences go out to his wife Jo-anne and his two girls.
I’m one of Carmelo Scaffidi’s daughters. I am trying to acquire a recording of the final concert. In particular the recording of “Smoke on the Water” and the excerpt saying Carmelo wishes to tribute the song to his mother in law.
I would greatly appreciate any information anyone has!
My apologies, I meant “smoke gets in your eyes” !
My short time ( September 1973 to July 1974) was some of the best 38 years I spent in the Force. I met and was part of an incredible group of musicians who displayed their love and passion to their music every day. They taught me the joy of bringing that passion to a young child or a senior tapping their toes in the audience…. Something I tried to emulate my entire career. Thank you Pete for this website and to my colleagues in the band thank you. Always friends. Graham Pollock.
20 August, 2016
Dianne Lydall, daughter of our former Director of Music, Supt. E.J. (Ted) Lydall brought me some memorabilia of photos and documents from her father’s collection. She also brought in a three dimensional case under glass that held toy lead Mounties “On Parade”. This was something her father had made and it is all hand painted with the instruments used by the band on parade. The detail is quite amazing and even has the battle honors shown on the bass drum. I have arranged to have this all picked up for transfer to the RCMP Heritage Center at Depot Div., Regina. This will be a welcome addition to the collection already in the archives there for future generations to see and enjoy. Yes, the Force did have a musical ensemble, yes, we had a concert Band second to none. These mementos testify to that. Thanks to Dianne and the Lydall family for this kind gesture.
Nov. 1st, 2016
Today is a sad day for Canadians as we say farewell to our wonderful comedian Dave Broadfoot, or for us in the RCMP, ‘Sgt. Renfrew of the Mounties’. Many will recall the Charity Balls the Band put on at the Convention Center here in Ottawa. Our very first was to help raise funds for Robin Easy, a Nepean police officer who was critically wounded in a shootout at Bayshore Shopping Mall in 1984. The highlight of that wonderful evening was a performance of Sgt. Renfrew and his dog Cuddles. I was wondering what we should give as a gift before he left the stage. I arranged for the master tailor to create the smallest shabrack you could ever imagine for his dog Cuddles, the invisible dog on the end of a leash he came on stage with. He certainly knew how to bring laughter to a room.
Just wanted to say that I still remember my one time of hearing the RCMP band and it was wonderful. Although it was over 20 years ago, I still remember it vividly. Should anyone reading this site know these band members still, you can pass along my words, my mother and I still remember the concert and they are appreciated this many years later.
Dec. 28th, 2016
Just me again! I have been going through memorabilia collected many years ago on the RCMP band and I thought I would share some statements from a brochure of the mid 1980s It would seem appropriate as this date marks the 23rd anniversary of the demise of the Band and the loss of a Canadian icon. We hope this brings back some special thoughts of our days on the road.
From the Vancouver Sun
THE MOUNTIES SWING TO THE MODERN BEAT
The Ottawa Journal
THE BAND THAT MAKES US ALL VERY PROUD
Owen Sound Herald
FANTASTIC – JUST WONDERFUL
A delighted Owen Sound audience found out why the Canadian Band is world famous. The reason is simple, it is one of the finest Bands anywhere.
R.C.M.P. BAND SENSATIONAL
The Humber Log – Cornerbrook, Nfld.
RCMP BAND DELIGHTS AUDIENCE
We send best wishes for a great 2017 – the year Canada celebrates its Sesquicentennial. Good luck to you all.
April 29th, 2017.
Just returned from the Centennial commemoration of the Battle of Vimy Ridge in France where my son Brad and I were part of the Canadian delegation. My father fought and was wounded in that area 100 years ago. A couple of days later I was performing at Rideau Hall for the Sovereign medal presentation to recipients from across Canada. As I was leaving the Tent Room a lady from Montreal, one of the recipients, came over to me to thank me for my singing. She went on to say that she remembered me from a performance the RCMP Band gave at the old Montreal Forum when we performed there in the RCMP Centennial year of 1973. She even remembered the song I sang – Paul Anka’s “My Way”. She was right on – I must have sung the piece 100 times that year as we crisscrossed Canada. Funny the impact music has on people and it seems to last forever.
Garth I remember that summer like it was yesterday. So privileged to have been a part of something that will never happen again. Cheers my friend
Garth Hampson Nov. 8th, 2017
Noticed in the obituary listing today that our Band truck drive, who became a very good friend to all us musicians has passed away. Gerry Leduc worked for the Force for many years at N Div. and never once did we have a loss of equipment or hqving equipment delivered on time anywhere in this great country. He and Mrs. Leduc were keen supporters of what the Band did for the Force and became good friends. Gerry took time out on a Band trip to Alta. to stop off in my home town of Moose Jaw to visit my ailing mother. That’s called being a good friend. We were lucky to have good people to help us in our work of taking music to all parts of Canada.
Garth and Eleanor Hampson.
I don’t know too much about the band’s history, but I did play in the Depot cadet band during my 6 months there. I remember during one parade, we had the last serving member of the band play with us to celebrate her retirement.
I really wish that this unit was still in existence, I think I would have loved to give it a try.
That was probably Marie Veronique Bourque on flute, who was to join the Band after completing her training. The Band was shut down before she could complete her training, but she decided to pursue a carrier in the Force anyway.
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