Edsel Bonnell, director of the Gower Community Band, prepares for a recent rehearsal of the group at Gower Street United Church in St. John’s.
The Gower Community Band performs during its inaugural GCB Downtown Pops Concerts Program on Nov. 25, a Christmas themed event at the Gower Street United Church in St. John’s.
The Stella’s Circle Inclusion Choir were part of the inaugural GCB Downtown Pops Concerts Program on Nov. 25, singing a host of Christmas songs for the crowd who attended the event at the Gower Street United Church in St. John’s.
It is amazing how music brings emotion to all facets of society.
Look at the faces of those listening to a concert, a singer, the radio; it all produces a variety of emotions, each one meaning something different to the listener.
But it also draws out the sentiments and passion of the musicians, such as those in the Gower Community Band (GCB) who have been performing for more than four decades.
Gathered in the band room of the Gower Street United Church, more than two-thirds of band members were on hand for a 7:30 p.m. practice for performances they will do for a host of seniors and residents of St. John’s this Christmas season.
In fact, the band started its performances early by putting off a Christmas concert at the Gower Street United Church on Nov. 25 which featured the Stella’s Circle Inclusion Choir and was hosted by Karl Wells as part of the GCB Downtown Pops Concerts Program.
“The idea was launched about a year ago as a means of helping the people in this neighbourhood by giving them something nice to do at a time when there is so much on the go,’’ Edsel Bonnell, director of the GCB said.
“We see a lot down here and instead of dwelling on the negative things, we want to do something positive for the area and help others at the same time,’’ he said.
Bonnell said there are eight or nine groups located in the downtown that work hard to help others in need, organizations such as the Gathering Place, Stella’s Circle, the food banks, all organizations the GCB supports through its functions across the region.
The executive committee of the GCB has been working on an initiative to use the sanctuary of Gower Church as a venue for periodic Sunday afternoon band concerts for the St. John’s downtown community.
The concerts would be structured in the Pops genre as a reflection of traditional variety concerts both outdoor and indoor. They would feature great community bands and include marches, light classical, Broadway and movie musicals, instrumental and vocal solos, sacred and gospel, jazz, rock, folk, current hits and golden oldies as well as the ever-popular novelties.
“It is our belief that such concerts would be a welcome addition to the Gower neighborhood providing entertainment and fun in a community ambience for folk within walking distance of the church (Long’s Hill, Queen’s Road, New Gower Street, Gower Street Duckworth Street and associated side streets) as well as music-lovers from the Gower Church Congregation and the general public of the St. John’s metropolitan area,” Bonnell said.
“The concerts would be free to all, which would be of special benefit to low-income families, homeless folk, and children from the downtown area who may have no money for concert tickets but (who) would be able to hear good music skillfully performed,’’ he added.
Bonnell donations are welcomed and some sponsorship would be sought. Any profit over expenses would be forwarded to downtown service initiatives at Gower or other churches or other worthy causes such as The Gathering Place, Iris Kirby House, Stella’s Circle, Choices for Youth, etc.
The band intends to make all such downtown organizations aware of this initiative and hopefully supportive of it, and hopes they’ll make their own clients aware of the events by displaying posters, and perhaps to encourage their clients to attend an uplifting event as part of a true community outreach program.
“We have been able to find sponsors for the costs involved, and we intend to do so for all the seasonal Pops Concerts to come,’’ Bonnell said.
And as much as the community enjoys what the GCB does, the members of the GCB enjoy it just as much.
“We play Christmas events at seniors homes and look forward to that each year,” Ron Collins, the GCB’s associate director said.
“I am not sure Christmas Eve would be the same without it. The joy it brings people stays with us. These people joined the band because they love music. While they are playing, they have fun first and if you have fun, it shows,” he added.
Collins said band members who move away always find a way to stay in touch. He said if they come home for a visit or a holiday, they reach out and most often find themselves involved in a performance.
“Our first Sunday concert, a free concert, was intended to be played for a downtown audience. It was meant to be inclusive for people who live downtown ... and for people who don’t live anywhere,’’ Collins said.
“This commitment is nothing new for this group as these initiatives have always been part of the Gower band throughout the years. This is a group of people with big hearts made up of individuals who are behind the community. We are family oriented in what we do. It has that feel and always has.”
The next concert in the series is planned for February and will likely occur around Valentine’s Day. More details will be released in the new year.
Here is the Nov. 25 concert video.