Record players and radios were rare a century ago so residents of Vancouver used to soak up music at bandstands.
The 100-year-old Haywood Bandstand, the last of such structures in the city, continues the tradition with a Music in the Park series in the West End.
“There was an old man who lived on my block. He showed me the house where he first listened to a radio in 1923,” said Ross Curran, a saxophonist, clarinetist and flutist who has played the bandstand in
Alexandra Park on and off since 1977. “So the concerts that were happening there at the turn of the century in the first part of the 1900s were very important to the people. I feel it’s still important for people to hear music.”
A series of bandstands dotted Vancouver, says historian John Atkin, noting another stood near Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park.
“It was just part of the infrastructure of the day,” Atkin said. “When you had a park, you had a bandstand.
“The Moral Reform Association did object to certain types of music,” Atkin added. “So the park board said that on Sundays only military or religious music could be played in the bandstands.”
Haywood Bandstand in Alexandra Park, which is named after British King Edward VII’s consort Queen Alexandra, is a 1988 restoration of the original 1914 Queen Anne heritage structure. It’s designated on the city’s heritage registry.
Curran loves playing there.
“They designed those things so that the sound reflects off this very flat ceiling and projects out and acoustically it’s a very nice thing,” he said.
To celebrate the centennial, Curran performed ragtime, marches, polkas, waltzes and opera favourites from the early 1900s at the bandstand at 1755 Beach Ave., July 13.
“People who came last weekend were saying even though there was a heat wave they almost felt cold in the shade because of the breeze and it was just so relaxing to sit there and listen to the music and be cool for a change,” Curran said.
Even with the easy access to music these days, Curran sees value in the free outdoor concerts.
“The bandstand, along with some of the outdoor concerts at the jazz festival, are very nice places to introduce kids to music,” he said. “You can just come or go or [your children] can still be physical when they’re listening to the music, throw a Frisbee or a ball or just be climbing around.
“As a young kid I got very inspired by somebody playing saxophone on a stage when I was about in Grade 2,” said the 61-year-old resident of Kensington-Cedar Cottage.
The Just Jazz Trio performs July 20 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the bandstand. Visitors are encouraged to bring a picnic lunch to the free performance of original music, instrumental and vocal swing, blues, Latin, bebop and ballads.
Performances are presented courtesy of the Esmond and Edith Lando Trust Fund, the park board and the West End Community Centre Association.
For more information about upcoming concerts, search online for “Music in the Park Vancouver.”