Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Early "Saxaphone Quartette" in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

It has been quite interesting doing my research on early saxophone playing in British Columbia. The earliest record about early local saxophone quartet efforts (that I was able to track down) is from March 8th, 1885, found in the Victoria Colonist under the heading "What Some People Say":

I'm quite curious why this sort of an announcement would have been printed; perhaps there was an anticipation that an ensemble of saxophones had the potential to be long-lasting? Or was it the novelty aspect, the mere fact that this was going to be the "very first" saxophone quartet ever in this city to be formed, that sparked the paper's interest?

The next time the ensemble is mentioned in Victoria newspapers is almost 9 months later.  A benefit concert was going to be held on December 26th at the then brand new Victoria Theatre, in support of a "breadwinner" who, while at work at the building, "broke his leg".

The event was also formally announced in the Victoria Colonist (25 November 1885):

Several (paid?) advertisements announce (amongst others) the upcoming first appearance of the "Saxaphone Quartette". Note the date change to the week before Christmas, December 16, 1885:

Reviews appeared in both of Victoria's newspapers:

Here is the Victoria Colonist concert review, December 17, 1885:

Victoria Times review, December 17, 1885:
[...] The Saxaphone Quartette by Messrs. Herbert Kent, A. Weiss, E. [Teall], and Prof. Pferdner received a merited enchore. [...] Another saxaphone quartette was given acceptably [...]
There is quite some information available about the performers. These were Emile Pferdner (well known vocal conductor), Herbert Kent (well known local singer and vocal conductor, also played flute in many of the earliest bands in Victoria), Mr. Teall (clarinet and saxophone player, in Victoria between 1885-87), and E. Weiss (no more details).

It's great to get so much detail about the event, although one is left with many questions too, especially:
- how did this group obtain these saxophones, and why?
- what saxophone quartet works were on the program?

Interestingly enough the two reviews were also the last thing we heard about this group. Did they have difficulty playing the (new?) instruments? Perhaps there wasn't the essential chemistry between the four players to make the ensemble "work"?

Who will know?

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