Tuesday, 16 February 2016

The Lethbridge Colliery Band

From the early days music and other cultural activities were an important part of residents’ lives. Nowhere was this more important than in the mining community.

One early musical group was the Lethbridge Colliery Band, a brass band which was formed in 1899. The band was twenty members strong comprised of miners, railway personnel and company employees. They were self-taught musicians who left an indelible mark as what was termed the “the most famous of town bands” in the history of Lethbridge. Their uniforms were smoke-grey tunics with tails, a white belt, a red collar, red strip down the trousers and a peaked cap said to be Confederate uniforms from the States. While most members owned their own instruments, other instruments were purchased from the departing Northwest Mounted Police Band.

The Lethbridge Colliery Band played concerts at the mine site and was directed by Albert Malacord and Ferdanand Wasterlain, musicians who came from Belgium and settled in Lethbridge to open music stores and to teach music. To support this band organization, a committee was organized to administer to the business of booking concerts and to keep a record inventory of the instruments. Their first concert was held in the spring of 1889 in an open-air concert in Galt Park (today’s Galt Gardens). Concerts at this location and the Opera House became the norm for the band and they played at all functions for the North West Coal & Navigation Company later the Alberta Railway & Irrigation Company and for the community.

These musical miners endured hard, dusty and sometimes dangerous work in the mines but that work was punctuated by leisure activities reading, sports and music. The outlet of music was up lifting and satisfying.

A mining history exhibit, Documenting Disaster: Hillcrest curated by the Provincial Archives of Alberta, opens in the Lower Level of the Galt Museum & Archives on February 13th. Admission fees apply. Free to annual pass holders.

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