The Weekend Telegram of Aug. 18 carried a cartoon by Wallace Ryan expressing concern about plans to destroy the Bannerman Park bandstand and replace it with a gazebo. I agree with Mr. Ryan and am writing in support of keeping and restoring the bandstand.
First of all I, want to say that I love most of the plans for the park, and the changes that have already been made are fantastic. Yet, when it comes to the issue of the bandstand, I have to voice my opinion.
There are many of us who grew up playing in Bannerman Park and still go there on a daily basis. We would rather see the Bannerman Park bandstand restored and put back to its original use as an acoustic vehicle for musical entertainment.
This bandstand is no flimsy structure without a history. It is sturdy and in good repair. It can withstand the hardest storms and hurricanes and has already done so. What it won’t withstand is the determination of the powers that be to destroy it with bulldozers for reasons I don’t quite understand.
The ceiling was muffled years ago but it still projects sound well. If the original ceiling was restored, it would be one of the best acoustic bandstands in the province.
The Bannerman Park bandstand is an acoustic treasure and part of our city’s heritage. It may not be as frilly or pretty as the proposed replacement, but just step inside and hear your own voice, the clap of your hands and the stamp of your feet. That, for some reason, brings a sense of joy and freedom. I have observed people of all ages experiencing this.
It is a captivating place to walk into on a hot day. Its thick walls keep it shaded; you can sit on those walls and feel the cold smooth surface meld with your body as it cools you off from running and playing in the hot sun. It’s a great place to meet your friends and hang out — as many generations have done.
In the ’50s and ’60s on summer evenings, young musicians and artists gathered there and music and song would break out. Local musicians would give impromptu concerts and people would sit on the grass around the bandstand and listen.
It rang out with music (the purpose for which it was built) amplified without the big boom-boom of electronics. It was real music, live and acoustic that could be heard all over the park and guess what? No wires and no electric bill!
One of those musicians was young Art Stoyles. He would sit in the centre of the bandstand on his accordion case and he would play for hours. We children would swing, go on the merry-go-rounds, “weighty bucketies” and climb the monkey bars, and his music would fill the air around us.
When the White Fleet came to town, the young Portuguese fishermen would go to the park and the bandstand would be a gathering place for them.
I’m sure there are thousands of people who have their own stories of the bandstand. I still see young people bring their instruments there to play.
Oh, but she’s just not pretty enough, so down she’ll come and up will go a fine and dandy Super-Sized-Big-Mac-Gazebo and it will be frilly and pretty. But will it challenge the artistic imagination like our grand old Bannerman Park bandstand does? Will it have a voice all its own? Will children walk in and hear the sound of their own feet and start to stamp and jump and squeal with glee? Because it’s a joyous thing when you’re two years old and discover your own sounds. Will it fill the park and the people who use it with real music? I don’t think so — but the new one will be pretty.
Terri Thomson writes from St. John’s.