Singleton, like many other older towns of NSW, having been settled in the period of 1820-21, possesses old established associations. Possibly the two oldest still functioning would be the Northern Agricultural Association and the Singleton Town Band, the NAA being established in 1868 and the Singleton Town Band in 1878. Records indicate that a Spring Show was held on 24th August 1865 whilst newspaper extracts of the time report “The Singleton Amateur Band was in attendance of the performance of the Amateur Theatrical Society in July 1945 and in the course of the evening played many lively tunes.”
The late Thomas Ferrington after a period of research published a record of Singleton Bands in the columns of the “Singleton Argus” in a series known as “Band Reminiscences 1845 to 1938.” The Singleton Town Band however, was founded in 1878 and would rank with some of the oldest in this state, if not the Commonwealth, still functioning.
It is interesting to note that prior to the establishment of the Singleton Town Band, Singleton in its very earliest days was band-minded and the love of good music and a song was always evident, It is fitting that some reference should be made to the earliest Bands. Whilst some mention has been made of the Singleton Amateur Band of 1845 there does not appear to be any record of the Bandmaster or the players. However further records show that in 1856 a Band was formed, a then expert cornet player Mr James Fanning being the leader. The Band consisted of a combination of 9 players and functioned for 4 years.
In 1863 a Mr Muelman, who had been a member of a visiting German Band prior to 1865 remained in Australia and formed a Band in Singleton consisting of 15 performers. Mr Muelman himself was an outstanding cornetist. In 1865 the First Volunteer Company Band was formed under Mr Muelman, the members being requested to sign on for 5 years service without pay but on the expiration of service they were to receive a land grant of 50 acres. The late John Wilson, a member, is reported to have sold his grant for £120. The first attempt to form the Town Band was made in 1872, the prominent members being Messrs Benjamin and John Singleton; Hugh and James Munro; H.J. Bourke; John Wilson; H.S. Robinson andJohn Adams but the combination only functioned for a very short period.
The present Singleton Town Band was formed after a meeting of towns people called by Mr H.W. Robinson on 11th September 1878. Records show that on 13th November there was a membership of 16 players under Mr John Singleton as Bandmaster. Mr Singleton was the grandson of the founder of the town. He apparently was a born musician being a fine exponent of the cornet, clarinet, violin and piano and at this time was reported as being one of the most brilliant cornet players in the colony. In 1883 Mr George Taylor was appointed as Bandmaster after Mr Singleton departed to further his career as a professional musician. Mr Taylor fulfilled his duties as Bandmaster until 1892. In 1887 Singleton Town Band was attached to the Company of the 4th Infantry Regiment until 1892. The uniform of the Regiment was worn by the members.
The attachment to the unit ended in 1892 on the retirement of Mr Taylor when Mr George H. Coffin accepted the position of Bandmaster. In the year 1894 the Band is reported to have had a combination of 24 players. It was during this period that the Cobar Copper Company founded coke ovens at Rix’s Creek 3 miles from Singleton and a small township flourished together with its own Band, its first Bandmaster being Mr John E. Lancaster who became bandmaster of Singleton Town Band in 1896. There was a great rivalry between the two bands and on numerous occasions it was reported that both bands played in Singleton at the one time at various points throughout the town, much to the appreciation of the residents. Mr Lancaster carried out the duties of Bandmaster until 1905. Mr Frederick Fitness, Bandmaster of the Maitland Federal Band, then accepted the position of conductor and carried on until 1908 when he was appointed Professional Conductor andMr W.J. Traise was appointed Bandmaster and filled the position with Mr Fitness still as Professional Conductor. Mr Fitness carried on in the position as Professional Conductor until 1918 except for the year 1915 when Mr Harry Braye occupied the Bandmasters position. Mr Stewart carried on until 1919. During Mr Fitness’s term as Bandmaster and Professional Conductor a very fine combination was welded and the Band competed at many contests, winning numerous prizes. Mr William Stewart who as a young man was a very prominent athlete joined the Band during Mr George Taylor’s leadership.
The youngest conductor to take over the position of Bandmaster was Mr James Ferrington age 19 years and succeeded Mr Stewart. Mr Ferrington was a pupil of the famous E.P. Kerry who conducted Singleton Town Band on the sudden and tragic passing of Mr Ferrington in 1925. Mr Charles Andrews succeeded the late James Ferrington. Mr Andrews conducted the Band until 1935.
It was during 1935 that the Singleton Town Band had the good fortune to secure a major prize in the NSW Lottery when new instruments and uniforms were purchased, and the balance of the prize money was applied to purchase a block of land and building materials for an up-to-date band hall to serve for entertainment and a haven for the Singleton Town Band. Mr Edgar Huntley succeeded Mr Andrews in 1936 as honorary Bandmaster. It was during Mr Huntley’s term that the band hall was completed by volunteer labour and officially opened by the president of the band, Mr Harry Bourke, on 24th June 1937 having taken a year to complete. Mr Charles Harvin followed Mr Huntley as honorary bandmaster in 1937 and was succeeded by Mr James Berry in 1938. Mr Percy Hopwood followed Mr Berry for a short time.
In 1938 also Mr Alex Tisdell one of Mr Charles Andrews‘ pupils, accepted the position of bandmaster and still remains the longest serving bandmaster, after 30 years service this must surely be a record in any band. Mr Tisdell has been a great advocate for young players and has given a great amount time in free tuition. At the moment the strength of the band is some twenty- eight players. Singleton Town Band, like many of the townspeople, suffered severe loss in the floods of 1955. The band hall was damaged and instruments and uniforms were lost. However, despite the setback the hall was later enlarged and thanks to the entertainment committee of the band and its many supporters many amenities, instruments and uniforms have been acquired over these later years. The bands assets would certainly exceed $10,000.
Singleton Town Band – Bandmasters
1878-1882 John Singleton (Grandson of Ben Singleton)
1883-1891 George Taylor
1892-1895 George Coffin
1896-1904 John E Lancaster
1905-1907 Frederick Fitness
1908-1911 William Traise
1912-1914 William Stewart
1915-1918 Harry Bray
1919 William Stewart
1920-1924 James Ferrington
1925-1935 Charles Andrews
1936 Edgar Huntley
1937 Charles Harlin
1938 Percy Hopwood
1938-1979 Alex Tisdell
1980-1991 David Walker
1992 Steve Knagge
1993-1998 David Walker
1999-2002 Teena Cragg
2002-2014 Peter Knight
2015-2017 Matthew Edwards
2018-Present Lance Verdon