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Oompah-Pah! Canterbury Museum Celebrates Our Brass Bands

Brass bandCanterbury Museum opens its winter season exhibition Brilliant Brass this Friday. The new exhibition will surely delight music and brass band enthusiasts throughout Canterbury.

Canterbury has a long and proud history of brass banding dating back to the mid-19th Century. Well known bands were formed in suburbs or towns such as New Brighton and Woolston, Timaru and Ashburton. Private and workplace bands such as the Addington Workshop Band and the long-disbanded Toomber Boot Factory Band were also formed. Friendly rivalry developed into a healthy competitive spirit that continues today. The Woolston Brass Band (established in 1891) in particular went on to become world-renowned musical performers.

Visitors to Brilliant Brass can expect to see a range of instruments, uniforms, programmes, and banding paraphernalia including ‘Sid’s Cat’, the Woolston Brass Band mascot from 1923.

Canterbury Museum Human History Curator, Sarah Murray, says the exhibition celebrates the history of banding in Canterbury, including the more humorous side of this sometimes quirky musical genre.

“In 1892, Fred and Joshua Painter formed the Christchurch Professional Bicycle Band. One of the first of its type in the world, the band played their instruments while cycling the streets of Christchurch.” she says.

Christchurch Symphony Orchestra member Brett Painter is the great-grandson of Joshua Painter and is pleased to see that Brilliant Brass will include information about his family connections to early banding in Canterbury.

 "As a youngster I used to greatly enjoy visits to Canterbury Museum where photos and medals from the cycling exploits of my great-grandfather were displayed’, he says.

In 2009 Brett set about re-forming this iconic Christchurch group as the Be There Bicycle Band, and they now perform music from the first half of the 1900s in replica costumes and on custom-made replica bikes.

Today, brass bands continue their role as community-based musical groups made up of amateur musicians. In 2013, twelve brass bands in Canterbury continue a 150 year old tradition of providing music for the community and teaching young musicians.

Brilliant Brass is free to the public and opens at Canterbury Museum on Friday 31 May in the temporary exhibition gallery on Level 3. For more information see


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Guest 22 January 2018