A week later, passing through Montgomery, Alabama, I noticed this spectacular futuristic bandstand against the glorious backdrop of the river. Note the three speakers suspended from the roof.
How glorious it must be for audiences to sit on the grass slope that forms the auditorium.
I have long been fascinated by bandstands. I was once invited to play in a little jazz band at a wedding reception and this is where we performed, while the guests enjoyed their drinks and canapés on the lawn below. It was fun. Our hosts called it a 'tree house', though on the day it became a slightly unusual bandstand.
I am interested in unusual bandstands - and in the history of these amenities generally; even more so since here in England so many jazz band concerts are given in such bandstands these days.
In 2013 I spotted this bandstand in a Bangkok Park:
Unfortunately no concert was in progress, though there was a film crew making a movie nearby.
It was a visit to a brass band concert in the grounds of Nottingham Castle that first set me thinking about bandstands.
During the Nineteenth Century, when the brass band movement flourished without any competition from radio, television or cinema, people could enjoy wonderful free entertainment in the parks. And they did so in massive numbers. Many of those early bandstands were manufactured in the iron foundries of Scotland.
In the U.K., bandstands appeared in pretty well every town and - as in this picture - at seaside resorts.
Here is a typical English bandstand of the time. It is in the beautiful Pavilion Gardens at Buxton, Derbyshire. To this day, it is still used for brass band concerts during the summer.
The bandstands were usually round and open-sided. They were sometimes elaborately decorated, especially along the roof-line, and they often had ornate wrought-iron railings. The structure was ideal for both acoustics and weather protection on a fine day, but I am sure wind and rain must have spoiled many a concert, for audience and bandsmen alike.
But in the Twenty-First Century there have been conspicuous changes. The audiences are smaller. There are ladies in the bands. The bandstands are used by jazz bands, rock groups and other musical combinations as well as the long-established brass bands. But alas, dozens of the Victorian bandstands fell into disuse and have been removed.
I have sometimes played jazz in the carousel bandstand at New Park in Melton Mowbray. Here's how it looks:
This bandstand was built in 1908, at the same time as this former grazing land became a park.
Good news is that occasionally a new bandstand has appeared, such as the one built in Jedburgh (Scotland) in 2006 and the Deal Memorial Bandstand of 1993, erected in honour of eleven bandsmen murdered by terrorists.
In 2010 this bright new bandstand was opened in Roberts Park, Saltaire (near Bradford in England):
And Hans Rosenkamp has sent me information about his local situation in Deventer, in the centre of the Netherlands. There has been a park in the town for over 300 years. A bandstand was first erected almost 200 years ago. But this bandstand was demolished in the 1950s. Flood damage affected the nature and size of the park at the end of the Twentieth Century. But recently there has been a major restoration programme and by 2012 a new bandstand was erected. The good news, Hans says, is that there are now 20 concerts in the bandstand every summer:
And here's the audience relaxing during the interval in Wisbech Park when I was in a jazz band on the bandstand in the 1990s.
Thanks to their solidity, many of the old bandstands still exist. That’s good news, because I can’t imagine many local authorities these days paying to have such magnificent gems of architecture erected.
The concert that set me thinking about bandstands was this one:
This particular bandstand is Edwardian rather than Victorian but it has already stood for over 100 years. Thousands of performances must have been given there. The pleasures enjoyed by the audiences and the musicians over those years have been immeasurable.
This Nottingham example is rather unusual. As you can see, unlike most bandstands, it resembles a conservatory, with plenty of windows. There are about 400 panes of glass. These windows are specially useful during chilly, windy or wet weather, when the musicians can keep dry and warm.
This Arboretum bandstand also has a room beneath: it provides warm-up facilities for the musicians as well as a washroom.
In London I took this photograph of the famous old bandstand in Hyde Park.
Amazingly, this bandstand was moved to this site in 1886 from Kensington Gardens, where it had been used since 1869. Back in the 1890s, band concerts were given here three times a week. These days it is still used for occasional concerts.
I was pleased to come across this lovely example in Lytham St. Anne's.
In 2011, I was in Auckland, New Zealand, and came upon this lovely bandstand in the extensive park known as The Domain.
It is still in regular use for concerts. I am sorry I didn't get to hear one. It must be glorious to sit here in the sun, listening to music.
|That's me, giving you a wave.|
Here is Auckland’s other bandstand. It is in the little Albert Park, right in the centre of Auckland, not far from the harbour.
Rather like the equipment of travelling circuses, the portable bandstand could be erected for a single performance and rapidly dismantled afterwards. That is why such bandstands became known as 'one-night stands'; and that is the origin of the expression.
It's interesting how such expressions change their usage over the decades. People today speak of a 'one-night stand' without any idea that the original 'stand' was a bandstand.
Even in more recent times, bands sometimes appear on the backs of carts. Here's one in Wisbech, England, in the 1980s.
Wally Bamberger of Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, knowing that I am a cornet player, rightly guessed I would be interested in his local bandstand in King Square. He sent me some pictures. Just look at the apex!
Here is the complete bandstand.
I wondered why the musicians' playing area was so elevated. Wally has explained that a 'pool and fountain pre-existed the construction of the bandstand, the upper level being so merely to clear the fountain, eventually proving to be a fortunate and most enjoyable aesthetic feature.
By the way, the building trying to hide behind the bandstand is the Imperial Theatre. It dates from the onset of vaudeville and probably hosted some fine early standard jazz performances. It has a whispering stage.
The Bandstand was revitalized in 2013 with the removal of a century's worth of wear and tear. The roof has been returned to its original copper lustre and the cornet, a Boosey and Hawkes, being replaced by a replica, the original now being honourably immortalized in our local museum.'
A couple of years later, an instrument was added, but it was a flugelhorn. This was stolen and replaced by another flugelhorn. In 1978, the bandstand was renovated and the flugelhorn was replaced by the Boosey and Hawkes cornet. The latest cornet is another Boosey and Hawkes, but it was purchased on EBay!
And in England Sam Wood has sent me these comments:
Interesting to read about Bandstands. The name McFarlane comes to mind as the Scottish manufacturer.
By coincidence, this afternoon I walked past this bandstand with sash windows. Built in 1900, it's in Weston Park, Sheffield which also contains the Weston Park Museum and the Mappin Art Gallery. In the background is Sheffield University's Arts Tower. Through the trees to the right the red smudge is part of the original University Building.
|Sketch by my friend Mrs. Harris of|
in Loughborough Park, England.