An amateur community wind orchestra in Montreal's West Island since 1984
Kirkland Concert Band


Kirkland Concert Band celebrates 25th anniversary
The Gazette April 15 2009

The Kirkland Concert Band kicks off its 25th anniversary celebrations with a concert Saturday featuring several pieces written or arranged by Canadian composers and guest conductor Winnie Witzen, a McGill University music student.

The program will also includes jazz, swing and blues pieces, hit songs, theme music from movies, theatre and television, classical and light classical arrangements, rock, marches and Dixieland.

For the past 25 years, the band – made up of 30 volunteer musicians under the direction of Patrick Downs – has been entertaining Kirkland, West Island and Montreal area residents with free concerts in parks, libraries, as well as concerts in community centres, seniors’ homes and hospitals.

Saturday’s concert takes place at 7:30 p.m. at Christ Church Beaurepaire, 455 Church St., Beaconsfield. Tickets will be available at the door, $10 for adults, $5 for students and seniors with all proceeds split between the band and the church.


Concert series swings into act
Kirkland Concert Band looking for new venues in light of financial woes
HOLLIE WATSON The Chronicle June 28 2006

Beginning tonight the Kirkland Concert Band will launch its popular annual performance series beneath a canopy of stars at Canvin Park. The outdoor concerts have long been a fixture of the season, with sultry summer nights in West Island parks serving as the backdrop for the spirited shows.

Band director Patrick Downs has put together a buoyant and eclectic program for the 2006 series, showcasing the corps of musicians’ considerable talents and drawing on a vast and engaging repertoire. Their sound is a successful marriage of woodwinds, brass, and percussion.

“We’ll be doing some excerpts from Gilbert and Sullivan, as well as a medley of tunes in a salute to New York City. There will be some Dixieland and ragtime, as well as a march. People will recognize most of the music, which ranges from classic to contemporary,” said the Pointe Claire resident, who plays bass trombone. He was also the first conductor when the band was founded in 1984.

A consummate professional, Downs has performed with the Montreal, Winnipeg, and Kitchener-Waterloo symphony orchestras, as well as with I Medici and the West Island’s Cantabile chorus.

The Kirkland Concert Band in fact traces its roots back to Rosemere in the 1970s before it underwent its transformation, recalled clarinet player Steve Winikoff of Beaconsfield, who was still in his teens when he signed on with the original band.

“A lot of the people joining were from the West Island, and for that reason we decided to move out of Rosemere,” he said, adding today about half of the 30-odd members are area residents.

A partnership was struck with Kirkland, which promised free rehearsal space and some financial assistance in exchange for three concerts a year, explained Winikoff, who plays with the 306 Maple Leaf Wing Concert Band, as well as with a few Kirkland confreres in Becket Players’ Way Off Broadway extravaganzas.

The band’s recent local performances include the Church of St. Columba-by-the-Lake concert series; they’re also booked at two seniors’ residences in August. They occasionally appear at out-of-town venues, such as “a music festival in Ottawa and a concert in Plattsburgh,” said Downs, who balances his avocation with a long-time career as a real estate agent with Royal LePage.

While the level of members’ commitment and enthusiasm hasn’t waned over the years, there have been changes afoot. The municipal merger/de-merger debacle had an impact on funding of local arts and culture, and the Kirkland Concert Band was no exception, Downs mused. Financial support has evaporated and there are fewer outdoor concerts than in past years, and he hopes this doesn’t signal a trend. “We’re currently looking for corporate sponsorship to help defray costs, and for venues to play in the fall,” he said.

The four family-oriented concerts will be held beginning tonight in Kirkland, followed by a show at Fritz Farm in Baie d’Urfé on July 6. A third performance will be at Kirkland’s Harris Park on the July 19. All begin at 7:30pm.

The final concert, which will be held on August 16 at Heritage Park in Kirkland, starts at 7pm. Music lovers are invited to bring a lawn chair and a picnic basket — and don’t forget the mosquito repellent.


Banding together to make some great music in Kirkland
Mike Cohen from The West Island Suburban June 23, 1999

What makes a group of people volunteer to give up their Wednesday evenings and occasional weekends throughout the year, in order to make music and entertain the public? That is the first question asked to folks who access the Kirkland Concert Band's (KCB) web site.

The band has close to 40 members, all of whom volunteer their time. Any money earned goes to the organization, not the musicians. Formed in 1984 by a small group of amateur musicians seeking an outlet for their abilities, the KCB operates under the musical direction of Patrick Downs.

KCB spokesperson and band member Barbara Bart tells us that a busy summer is still on tap for the group. Last Saturday, the group performed at Eglise Ste. Geneviève. On July 1 (Canada Day), Senneville Park (7:30 p.m.) will be the site followed by Sunday, July 4 (2 p.m.), a Campbell Concert at Le Vieux Port.

Among the KCB's current members are Doreen Arnold, Mickey Pearson, Louise Marie Pothier, Sam Proulx, Sophie Beauregard, Chris Ellingsen, Sheila Ettinger, Jacques Girardin, Jon Quail, Jim Ware, Steven Winikoff, Susan Keess, Buck Arnold, Cynthia Corsilli, Johanne Cousineau, Jean-Guy Jacques, Herb Pidcock, Lenny Baltin, Katie Kalman, Jason McCracken, Kevin Ross, Brad Rogers, Keith Fyckes, Rivka Abramowicz, Heather Watt, Nils Ek, Michel Gauthier, Bruce Lochhead, Paul Salador, and John Biddle.


Concerts' popularity gives tuba players, pipers second wind
Barry Lazarfrom The Montreal Gazette July 23, 1995

Tuba players don't get much respect. They are the utility players of the band: the tough, weathered troupers. The silvered brass might be tarnished, the instruments dented and splattered from playing too often in the rain, but tuba players play on. The notes are few, the beat is regular. They play on.

Steve Jonas and Ian Shaw are tuba players. They form half the tuba legation of the Kirkland Concert Band. The band has between 30 and 40 players. The band players volunteer their time. Any money the band earns goes to the organization, not the musicians.

Steve sells equipment to the pulp and paper industry. He started the band with a few others playing for fun in Rosemere. That was 15 years ago. It's been transformed once or twice. The current incarnation, as the Kirkland Concert Band, is about 12 years old.

Ian is in his teens. He's been playing for a few years and his instrument comes from the Hudson High School band. Both say they took up the tuba because the bands they started with needed tuba players. Ian says he'd like to play the French horn, but he's stayed with the tuba. That's the kind of people tuba players are -- dependable, steadfast, working where they're needed. There have always been concert bands in Montreal, at least ever since there were military regiments to put a band together.

In 1923, a wealthy bachelor lawyer, Charles S. Campbell, died. He left money for a series of free summer concerts. The Campbell Concerts have been a part of Montreal summers every year since. Over the years, the regiments disbanded but the concerts continued and newer bands played on.

The 306 Wing Pipes and Drums is one of the few military bands left. Recently, the government took away its intruments. The members understand about cost-cutting, but you can't keep a good pipe band down and they found money for new instruments elsewhere.

Last Wednesday night, as the Kirkland Concert Band came together for its weekly outdoor practice, Pipe Major Kirk Johnstone and a few others from his group had their first chance to try out the new pipes.

When I arrived, the bands were tuning up, about 50 metres away from each other. The pipe band's four pipers and two drummers were more than a match for the Kirkland Concert Band's 33 musicians. The cacophony was impressive. I remembered that bagpipes are famed as instruments of war. For sheer terror, I'll forsake the army bugle for the drone and skirl of a good set of pipes. (Skirl, I discovered later, is Scottish for scream.)

Brenda, who comes from Britain, plays the saxophone with the concert band. She said the bands were going to play "old Scottish tunes". Steve asked her if there were any new Scottish tunes. "No", she said, "not that are played by guys in skirts".

They tried Highland Laddie and fumbled over Barren Rocks. This was only a practice session, but it was stirring to hear both bands play Scotland the Brave and listen as the pipes slowly moved out ahead of the beat.

Then it started to come together. They played a difficult arrangement of Danny Boy and a little magic happened during the refrain "O Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling". The sun was just setting and glinting off the brass instruments. Pipe Major Johnstone and his men started to look regal. The pipes played as part of the larger band.

There is an upstaging quality to the pipes. Maybe it is because pipers memorize their music and stand at the front when they play. The pipers face the audience. The band looks at the backs of the pipers. This forces everyone else, including the conductor, to go where the pipers go, marching through the score. That's where good tuba players come in handy. You want to have some heavy artillery ready that can match the pipes bar for bar if you have to.

I asked Pipe Major Johnstone what he thought of their first practice session together. He said it was a real treat. "Pipers usually play in unison", he said. "When we play with a concert band we get to play in harmony."

The Kirkland Concert Band continued their practice for another hour. They played a medley from the Lion King. It didn't have any bagpipe parts. Later, a few members talked about the practice with the pipers. "I worked with them before", one musician said. "The practice was terrible but they were great when it came time to perform."


An invitation to get on the bandwagon
No auditions necessary, Kirkland Concert Band director says: 'Nobody is that bad'
Anne Sutherland The Montreal Gazette December 1994

Kirkland - The Kirkland Concert Band is looking for new members to swell its ranks in brass and woodwinds - and no auditions are necessary.

Accepting instrument-toting enthusiasts without benefit of a try-out might seem a risky proposition, but Sheila Ettinger, director of the band, thinks it's a fine idea.

"We don't want to discourage anyone", Ettinger said. "We basically get people who learned how to play an instrument in high school and once they get started, it all comes back.

"You have to be able to read music - although we did have one person who joined as a complete beginner and learned with the band, but that takes exceptional dedication."

The Kirkland Concert Band started out as the North Shore Concert band 12 years ago in Rosemere. The shift to Kirkland came some years later, and the 30-member band now rehearses weekly at the Kirkland Recreation Centre and performs publicly eight times a year.

"The town of Kirkland supports us, allowing us to purchase sheet music and hire a conductor", Ettinger said. "They also allow us to use their space as a rehearsal location."

Members of the band range in age from "just out of high school, right up to retirees", and have varying degrees of proficiency.

What all members share is enthusiasm.

"We always play on the Kirkland float at the St. Patrick's Day parade. It's one of the highlights of our concert schedule."

By definition, a concert brand is brass, woodwinds and percussion, but don't apply if you fancy crashing the cymbals.

"We only need one percussionist and that position is full", Ettinger said, but if you play oboe, clarinet, flute or trumpet, the band could use your talent, no matter how rusty.

"As long as you're dedicated, you'll get better. Nobody is that bad."