Burra Cheer Up Ladies Band - South Australia

Burra Cheer Up Ladies Band - South Australia

When the men went to the war, the ranks of Burra's Coronation brass marching band were left empty - the trumpets, drums and trombones were silent. 

The Coronation Band, the local brass band, was left with insufficient players when the call to arms came.  The lack of the band was noticed particularly when welcoming home soldiers at the station, so the Cheer-Up Society decided to form the Burra Cheer-Up Ladies' Band.  Their initial aim was to learn at least two tunes to play at the railway station.

After being assured by the well meaning ladies that they were not joking about their desire to form a band, Mr James Bentley became both their instructor and conductor.   A meeting was called for all interested girls and a first practice was held.  According to the society's June 1917, Second Annual Report:

"We will not dwell on the musical nature of that first evening, only to add that the girls were never more determined to do their best...  We held two or three practices, and tried our best to blow some musical sounds through the [Coronation Band] instruments, but ... the majority of the instruments, refused to do what was required of them, and we had to retire beaten."

Fortunately new instruments were purchased courtesy of subscriptions being solicited and much hard work from "Miss Annie Pearce and Mr Thomas McWaters".  With new instruments in hand, the band went on with their practices and on February 19, 1916 at the Exhibition Camp Concert Party, made their first public appearance.

The band soon became proficient and exceedingly popular and the ladies could even perform as a mounted unit if occasion demanded.  Their proficiency being demonstrated by the fact that they were asked to lead a war-time march through Adelaide in 1917.

Perhaps the highlight for the band was when they were asked to the city of Adelaide to take part in the celebrations of July 1920, which were attended by the Prince of Wales, to whom Miss Trix Pearce was presented, at the Prince's request.  Here is an excerpt taken from the Burra Record of July 21, 1920 which detailed the arrival of the Prince.

"...when preliminary preparations were being made to welcome His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, to South Australia, the secretary of the Burra Ladies' Cheer-Up Band (Miss Trix Pearce) was asked whether the services of the band could be available ... it was not even anticipated that the girls would be given great prominence, but at the official welcome, which took place in front of the Adelaide Town Hall ... a platform prettily decorated with wattle foliage had been erected for their benefit.  their orders were to play alternately with the Glenelg Band, and on the arrival of the Prince, to play "God Bless the Prince of Wales". 

The programme was carried out but unfortunately for the girls, just as the Prince was stepping form his car ... (photographers and other onlookers) ... rushed the stand and  ... the whole structure fell with a crash just as the last note of "God Bless the Prince of Wales" was reached.  The incident caused a sensation, but the crowd were a deal more concerned than the girls who, although one or two were struck with falling timber, quickly pulled themselves together, quickly enough in fact to witness the civic welcome.  Having been asked to play again at the same place (that afternoon) the proprietor of the Criterion Hotel placed his balcony at their disposal..."

The following day marked their most important engagement, when they played at the War Workers' Welcome Demonstration at the Exhibition Building.  It was at this event that when the music ended, the Prince sent for the organiser and secretary of the band, Miss Trix Pearce to step forward and be presented.  Apparently the Prince asked her a number of questions about the band's history and after warmly shaking hands. asked her to congratulate the girls on the splendid work they had accomplished.

The band's final performance was at the Violet Day Service held on July 11th, 1920.

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