The Royal Canadian Air Force Bands



Following the Second World war F/L Clifford Hunt organized the RCAF Training Command Band in 1946. It performed its first public concert under Hunt’s direction for the staff and patients at the Christie Street Hospital in Toronto on November 11th, 1946. Early recognition of this band came when they were engaged to play ten concerts in the Bandshell at the CNE in 1947. Throughout their history the band had a close association with the American and Canadian Bandmasters Association and on many occasions was featured at their conventions. By 1957, under F/L Hunt, the band had grown to fifty-five pieces. The previous year they had concluded an historical overseas tour with a concert in Nottingham Castle as well as three concerts in London over the BBC Radio. In 1959, the band was featured at the Eastern States Exhibition in Springfield Massachusetts marking the first time a Canadian military band had appeared at this event. The band again made a triumphal tour of Europe in 1961 with performances in England, France and Luxembourg playing before an estimated one hundred and eighty thousand people. In 1960, F/L Hunt was promoted to Squadron Leader and appointed Supervisor of Music for the RCAF. He was replaced by F/L Wilf Boyce and in 1961 by P/O Ted Robbins.

A highlight of 1963 was a special performance in Philadelphia where they were a special attraction in a “Salute to Canada” week. On April 28th, 1963, the band under P/O Robbins appeared in concert at Massey Hall in Toronto. Finally, RCAF funding forced the band to be disbanded in April 1965. The establishment of the RCAF was cut to two bands, the Central RCAF Band in Ottawa and the RCAF Training Command Band in Winnipeg.

The RCAF Training Command Band was one of the three original bands within the Air Force. The foundation for this band was laid during the war in Winnipeg. It was reformed in 1947 under the baton of Bandmaster WO1 Carl Friberg. In 1947, the band was transferred to Edmonton and remained there until 1964 under the three separate names: The Northwest Air Command Band, The Tactical Air Group Band and finally The Training Command Band. In 1964 the band was transferred to Winnipeg. During the years they were led by Carl Friberg, they traveled extensively and became well known in almost every community in Western Canada. The band became a popular hit in many areas where other bands had not ventured such as Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Fort Churchill. Some of the engagement highlights for this band included the Banff Winter Carnival and the Calgary Stampede. They also played a number of impromptu concerts for children especially in places like Peace River. In 1951, Carl Friberg was commissioned and posted to the Central Band in Ottawa. He was replaced by wartime clarinetist and newly appointed Bandmaster P/O Leo Corcoran. In 1955, the band made a very extensive tour of Europe. Carl Friberg returned in late 1955 and for the next six years lead the band in a most innovative fashion. He introduced several soloists to Eastern Canadian audiences including trumpet virtuoso Raphael Mendez and world renowned saxophone artist Siguird Raascher. The instrumentation of the Training Command Band in 1958 was two Flutes, two Oboes, two Bassoons, seventeen Bb Clarinets, one Alto Clarinet and one Bass Clarinet, two Alto and two Tenor Saxes, three Cornets, two Trumpets, four Horns, five Trombones, two Euphoniums, two Tubas, two String Bass and three Percussion.

Upon unification of the Canadian Forces in 1968, the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery  Band was incorporated into the Training Command Band and under F/L J Howard Woods numbered sixty musicians. Capt. C. Furey replaced F/L Woods in 1969.

The Central Band of the RCAF was officially formed in 1940 and maintained throughout the war. It continued to operate after the war despite the fact that other military bands had been disbanded. It was originally under the baton of Martin Boundy. S/L Edward Kirkwood who held the position replaced him until he was appointed Supervisor of Music for the RCAF in 1951. The band’s popularity and their contribution as the VIP arrival band almost came to an untimely end in 1947. The RCAF was experiencing difficulty recruiting musicians and in addition there appeared to be petty jealousy which surfaced because the band was providing music for all arrival guards which had been exclusively done before the war by the Governor General’s Foot Guards. In December 1947, it was announced in the Press that retention of the band was under review. The Minister Brooke Claxton however, dispelled the rumors by announcing that the band would remain in Ottawa for at least another year or well onto 1948. Luckily for the band the matter was not raised again. In late 1951, S/L Kirkwood combined the position of Supervisor of Music and Director of the Central Band. The band appeared at the British Empire Games in Vancouver in 1954 and performed a splendid series of concerts in a goodwill tour to Europe also in 1954. On their return to Canada they appeared as the main musical attraction at the Central Canadian Exhibition in Ottawa. This was their eighth consecutive year in concert for this venue. The Central Band was turned over to F/L Leo Corcoran who led the band in an overseas tour which saw it playing fifty concerts for not only Canadian service people but also at the Headquarters of the US Airforce Overseas. They became a favorite of eastern Canadians and they appeared annually at the Annapolis Valley Apple Festival. In February 1961 the band appeared in gala concert in the Queen Elizabeth Auditorium in Halifax in a star-studded program with a fifty-five-piece band. In 1963, Assistant Conductor and trumpet soloist Kenneth Moore who had joined the Airforce in 1948 replaced Leo Corcoran. He later went on to become the leader of the RCMP Band. In 1965, the RCAF Central Band appeared in concert at the CNE and during the same year completed a twenty-eight-concert tour of Western Europe. The band also appeared in a long series of engagements in Washington at the invitation of the US State Department. In April 1968, the band also appeared at the Mid East Instrumental Music Conference in Pittsburgh. This series of concerts were the last hurrah for the RCAF Central Band for in 1968 it was renamed the National Band of the Canadian Forces and came under the direction of Lt. Cdr. William Gordon former Director of the Stadacona Band.

4 Responses to “The Royal Canadian Air Force Bands”

  1. Charles Yassky says:

    To the Commander of the National Band of the Canadian Forces:

    Dear Sir,

    I am inquiring into the possibnlity of obtaining a copy of the score to the official band arrangement of “O, Canada”. I will be the Music Director for the 2012 Maccabi Games, an international olympic-based athletic event to be held this year in New York State. The Canadian National Anthem is to be played by our band, along with the Star Spangled Banner at the opening ceremonies for a crowd of 5,ooo in attendance.

    Is this arrangement obtainable? Or if not, do you know of a commercially availbe arrangement that you feel best represents the beauty of this anthem?

    I do appreciate your time and consideration.

    Most Sincerely,

    Charles Yassky
    Music Director
    Ramsey Wind Symphony

  2. Cheryl Prince says:

    Dear Sir,

    I was quite pleased to find your website as it provides me a look into my father’s past that I was too young to appreciate.

    My father, Arthur Bridgewater, and his brother, Victor (Vic) served in the Central band under Mr. Hunt during the war and afterwards. I remember how close-knit the band members were – Mr. Hunt was a close family friend, as well as many others.

    Prior to my time, they were stationed in various locations throughout Canada, Downsview, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa.

    I would appreciate any further information you could provide me about the band, or links you could point me to. Any pictures would be treasures to have.

    Thank you for your time, and thank you so much for the touch of my history your website provided.

    Cheryl Prince (nee Bridgewater)
    Grand Forks, BC

  3. cliff says:

    Hi Cheryl. It’s cliff here. I was browsing through a history of the RCAF bands and came upon your request. I don’t know if your brother has any of the pictures of the band when it was stationed in Downsview.If not you could try my sister. She may have collected some of the pictures my Dad had of the band. I do remember that he had quite a collection of pictures. I was unable to obtain any of those pictures myself so it is a good possibity that Vicky has them.

    Currently in North Spirit Lake a reserve in North Western Ontario working as an RN serving the needs of the natives. I will be home on the 19th of August. This is fortuitous.

    Much Love to you


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