And the Band Played On…

The Many Lives of the Bridgewater Band

The Bridgewater Band has had many bandmasters, members, and names since it was formed in 1868, and is still an important part of the musical life of the community.

According to the October 1918 issue of Busy East, the "Bridgewater Band" was organized in 1868 and was led by bandmaster Charles Jeffries. A photograph dated c. 1865 of a band in front of Robert West's store, its members with mutton chop whiskers, seems to corroborate this date. By 1892, the Bridgewater Band was a provincial institution, playing at many important local and provincial events. Historian Frank Freeman (1885-1982) joined the Bridgewater Band in 1905. According to him, the band had several bandmasters in its early years, including William Amos Hebb (1850-1919), bandmaster around 1895, who is probably the best-known. Hebb delighted in leading the musicians and made an important musical contribution to the County. In addition to leading the Bridgewater Band, he also had his own family band and organized a band in Mahone Bay. William Freeman (1873-1927) took over from Hebb sometime in 1895 and remained bandmaster until 1919.

For many years, the Band practiced in Bridgewater's Temperance Hall. As early as 1883, the hall was located at the corner of Phoenix and Pleasant Streets and was used by the band until 1927. The Hall provided a storage room for instruments as well as a rehearsal room with benches for listeners along the wall. Frank Freeman recalled that for over 50 years, hundreds of boys received music instruction in that room. The Hall was demolished in 1930.

According to Frank Freeman, prior to the outbreak of the First World War, each County sent a regiment to Aldershot for training, and each had a band. Until 1908, the Bridgewater Band was attached to the Kings County 68th Regiment. They were issued the military uniforms of the day, which included a red coat with arm lapels, blue pants with red stripe, a snake clasped belt, and a long narrow cap called the Glengarry. Freeman recalled that during a band trip to Aldershot, Mervyn Manning cut a piece out of Andrew Richardson's nose while driving stakes with an axe for the Regiment's dining and practice tents!

In 1915, the Bridgewater Bulletin reported that "the Bridgewater Band has disbanded but will probably be reorganized." The Busy East complained in 1918 that Town Council did not give the band an annual grant, but by December the same year, were happy to announce that Council had sent a cheque for $100 to the Band in recognition of its service. In May of 1919, again the Bulletin called for funds for the Band. 

Frank Freeman became bandmaster in 1925 and remained its leader until 1927. The Band travelled across the countryside playing at every garden party and strawberry festival. During Frank's years, when they performed outside of Bridgewater, they were only paid enough for gas and only if it rained. Freeman notes that by 1931, the Band hired a retired Navy bandmaster, who was a wonderful clarinet player. But because they were unable to pay their bandmaster, Andrew Richardson (1885-1951) took over, and served as the band's leader from about 1932 until 1951.

In the 1937 Bridgewater Constitution and Bylaws, the band is called the "Bridgewater Citizen Band." As early as 1935, the Band was often the highlight of Fire Department Garden Parties. In August 1945, to mark the end of the Second World War, the Bridgewater Band held a concert near the Post Office followed by a parade around the streets, which included hundreds of citizens. In 1949, the Band won a trophy at the Halifax Bicentennial Parade for best civilian band on parade. Despite their success, in 1952, the Bridgewater Citizens Band folded due to lack of funds. This did not last long, as later that year, the band was reorganized as the Bridgewater Fire Department Band, which remains its name to this day. In August 1958, the Band had the honour of being the only one chosen in Nova Scotia to play in Halifax for Princess Margaret during her visit. 

Bridgewater's band continues to be an important part of the community and has had many notable performances. In 2009, the Town of Bridgewater gave the band $21,000 towards new uniforms and instruments. In 2010, the Band hosted the West Yorkshire Fire Rescue Band from England and then travelled to the United Kingdom to perform the following year. In 2013, the Bridgewater Fire Department Band played at the Lieutenant Governor's Garden Party in Halifax in 2013.



The former location of Temperance Hall