Last night I was invited to view and listen to a rehearsal for the Latrobe Federal Band. This year they celebrate 140 years, and I was overwhelmed firstly with the quality of the music, and secondly with the family history embedded in this band.

Lorraine McNeair - Latrobe Platypus

Latrobe Visitor Information Centre (photo by Dan Fellow)

Latrobe Federal Band

by Lorraine McNeair

The Latrobe Federal Band was formed in 1872 by Captain McNee with twelve players, and the money for the instruments and uniforms was raised by bazaars and various other money-raising functions. There are still connections in the present band which go back to that original twelve musicians. Some of the surnames mentioned being involved are Coventrys, Perkins, Clarkes and Hicks.

I talked last night to a young school girl who is the fourth generation to play with the brass band. The president (Kem Perkins) is the third generation to serve in this position and has been president continuously for forty-five years. The Latrobe Band is the oldest, continuously functioning brass band in Australia. It continued to function, with great dedication, throughout the Depression and two world wars, though dwindling to only nine musicians.

On Easter Sunday of this year the brass band will play at St. Luke’s Church Service, beginning at 10.30pm before the service begins, and again during the service. Later in the year, on the 9th and 10th November, there will be a band reunion, concert and dinner, at which Vivien Martin, a past Musical Director, will be Guest Conductor.

Xiao Xia Jiang: Musical Director

The present Musical Director is Xiao Xia Jiang, and last night I was highly impressed with her high expertise and energy. She is also a very accomplished opera singer, and I look forward to an opportunity to hear her perform. In 1979 the Latrobe Federal Band toured the United Kingdom, and was asked by the BBC to play a moving rendition of Amazing Grace in honour of Lord Louis Mountbatten who was assassinated whilst the brass band was there.

Of special mention should be that of the late Lou Coventry, who was heavily involved with the Latrobe Federal Band from 1899 when he joined as a boy. He was Bandmaster from 1919 until 1965 when he retired at 76 years of age because of ill-health. He is so revered that the band-rooms, which were developed in the late 1970’s with a grant from the local council, are named after him. What a fantastic memorial to a great man and musician. It is said that he conducted the band with one hand whilst playing an instrument with the other!

Latrobe Federal Band: Bright Future

The future looks bright too, with the best Junior Band program in the state. They have a wonderful Junior Band Room, which was developed with generous sponsorship from various organisations.

If you are near the north west coast of Tasmania at Easter (or at any time), and see that the Latrobe Federal Band is playing, be sure to go along and listen to wonderful renditions of music to delight any heart.

Lorraine McNeair is a volunteer with the Latrobe Information Centre. She is a writer, photographer and artist, and is passionate about sharing all the interesting things she knows about Tasmania.

If you like this article about Tasmania, and you’d like to read more, just subscribe to our newsletter or join us on social media via FacebookTwitterPinterest or Instagram. If you really like this article, and you want others to see it, you can choose one of the “share” options below. We’d love that!

Comments relevant to this article are always most welcome, just leave a reply below. But first… please confirm the date of this article. Have you found something current, or is this ancient information? Either way, thanks for your company and come back again soon.

Map: Latrobe Tasmania

My location
Get Directions