Thursday, 30 May 2013

Artistic control

It may be that my perspective was shaped by being a teenager in the 1960s, but the idea of a band of four musicians carries with it images of free-spirits collaborating in the creation of their shared vision. The harsh truth is that throughout much of the history of popular music, the players were regarded as hired help rather than creative artists. The further I dig into the story of the Brisbane Band, the more it appears that this was still true in Moreton Bay in the 1850s.

The fact that the names of all four men were listed in the first newspaper announcements by the Band appears to be an anomaly. Within a few weeks, that practice was discontinued and both advertisements and reviews refer to the group as Andrew Seal's Band with no documented evidence of who else might have been playing.

A classified advertisement in The Moreton Bay Courier of Saturday 26 November 1859 advised that Mr Andrew Seal

... has succeeded in forming a Band of five musicians, far superior to that formerly conducted by him.

Clearly if there was magic in the original line-up, then it dissipated very quickly. As competition for the entertainment shilling came from groups such as the Choral Society formed within the School of Arts, Andrew appears to have adopted a hard-headed commercial approach. On 2 January 1860, the Band was the supporting attraction for Professor Kohler's MAGICAL ENTERTAINMENT "in the unoccupied building in Grey Street belonging to Mr. Peterson".

Perhaps there had been a backlash against the new line-up or perhaps Andreas Siegel (commonly known as Andrew Seal) was simply a master of marketing, but in The Moreton Bay Courier of Saturday 30 June 1860 the following appeared:

Public Notice.
ON account of a general wish of the inhabitants of Brisbane, I have been successful in collecting nearly all the members of my former Band, and in addition several new members, I have been requested to enter into an engagement to play twice a-week in the Government Gardens, ...

However there should be no confusion over who was in charge. The notice was signed "I remain your humble servant, ANDREW SEAL, Conductor of the Brisbane Band".

It would be wonderful to know the significance of the reference to "nearly all the members" of the 1857 Band. Which one(s) of the original four had earned the displeasure of the "Conductor" or moved on to other employment?

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