the Kerkrade Years

58parade at stadium

1958  The West Vancouver Boys’ Band won double gold this year in the Kerkrade International Band Festival. Here they are marching before the crowd.

The Kitsilano Boys’ Band entered the Kerkrade International Band Competition three times, in 1958, 1962 and 1966. The first time time they entered as the West Vancouver Boys’ band and won double gold in the Harmony Class as well as the Marching Class. The second and third times they won Gold & Silver. They had entered another European competition of the same calibre as the Kerkrade competition called the Oosterbeek International Band Competition in 1950 and again won double gold. It was held in a tent on a battlefield near Arnhem, Belgium. There is no mention of the Oosterbeek competition again and the Kerkrade competition started up  a few years later. Today it is called WMC Kerkrade (World Music Contest). This writer believes that the Oosterbeek competition was the forerunner of the present day Kerkrade competition.


Gordon Delamont accompanied his father on the ’58 tour so Arthur would have more time to look after Lillie. She had not been feeling well. It was Gordon’s job to get the boys in shape for the Kerkrade competition. His advice to them was, “When you go into a butcher shop and the butcher has a Mozart symphony out on his chopping block and he is reading it as he works, you don’t try to tell him how to play his own music.” What he meant was interpretation is everything. Arthur of course was an old hand at winning competitions. He had marched his boys, in the thirties, through the provincial, national and world band championships to become the Junior Band Champions of the World in 1933. He then took them to England where they beat 25 of England’s top adult bands at Bugle in 1934 and then in 1936 they beat 35 of their best adult bands at the Crystal Palace to win the Cassells Challenge Shield. Arthur discovered that one of the adjudicators was a composer Eric Leidzen so he chose one of his compositions to play, First Swedish Rhapsody. They received 288 out of a possible 300 which was unbelievable at the time. That a group of boys aged 15 to 18 could win the concert portion of the competition and also win the marching division was astonishing.


The Kerkrade competition is held every four years. The next time the boys entered was in 1962. This trip was going to be something the boys would remember a lifetime but as it turned out it was not necessarily for the reasons they first thought. This time, instead of taking the train across Canada, they boarded the Orsova in Vancouver harbor and cruised down the west coast to San Francisco, Los Angeles and Acapulco. They then entered the Panama Canal stopping at Panama City, Jamaica, Haiti and then Bermuda before heading across the Atlantic to Southampton. Their first  12 days in England they stayed in London and got to see the Ted Heath band. Then it was off for Dieppe and Paris. In Paris things started to get difficult. Three of the boys were hit by a Citroen while crossing a busy street. Two of the boys were hospitalized with serious injuries. When the rest of the band eventually found out they were going to be all right an ensuing celebration resulted in one boy slipping and hitting his head in the shower leaving him with a concussion. He collapsed the following day and was rushed to the hospital. He passed away a short time later. Nothing like this had ever happened before on any of the trips. The parents back home wanted Arthur to call off the trip but he wasn’t so sure. He had each boy come into his room and asked them all if they wanted to stay or go home. The boys of course didn’t want to go against their parents but it was his final decision and he decided to stay. He told the boys, “If any of you want to go home you may.” They all stayed!  The boy was buried in a 150 year old cemetery in Paris. To make matters worse one of the boys was arrested. Shaken by the extreme turn of events the band headed down to Nice, France. Luckily the boy was returned to the band and they all breathed a sigh of relief. If you want to know more about the intrigue you will have to buy my book, The Life & Times of the Legendary Mr. D. The band spent the best part of July back in England and around July 20 headed for Germany for a series of concerts to warm up for Kerkrade. While in Cologne six boys came down with mononucleosis and were sent to the hospital. Arthur seriously considered cancelling Kerkrade. Just before the competition however two of the boys were well enough to return to the band. One of the boys who was hit by the Citroen in Paris returned as well stating, “I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.” With a much diminished band they entered the Harmonie Division and won a silver medal and then won gold in the marching competition.

ABOVE: Top Left, A smaller Kits Band that played Kerkrade, the Orsova, below right marching competition.


1966 was the last time the band played in the Kerkrade competition. I was fortunate enough to have been one of the boys on that trip. I was also fortunate enough to have gone on two more trips with the band in ’68 and ’70. If I were asked which trip I enjoyed the most I would have to say ’68. There was no pressure on that trip to prepare for a competition. Though in ’66 I was not aware of the pressure at the time as it was my first major trip away from home. It was all very exciting and happened so fast and then it was over, but I wouldn’t have missed the experience of playing at Kerkrade for anything. The pressure for us boys in ’66 was mainly trying to live up to past versions of the Kits band who had played at Kerkrade. We knew all about them of course. We didn’t know all the back stories that I am telling you here and in my books. Those I discovered through 25 years of writing about the band and interviewing 125 old boys. There was also the pressure of not wanting to let Mr. D down. He mellowed in later years and became everyone’s favorite grandfather. Well, maybe not everyones. This was the first trip the band took to Europe by airplane so we did not have the same chance to warm up across Canada as they did in 1958 or on the Orsova in 1962. Looking back on the experience our band was quite small (39) compared to the big American bands in attendance (over 100). I do not think anyone enjoyed playing the test piece. It was a test piece and not something you would ever tap your toes to. The tension was noticeable. When it was all over we received a sliver medal but in the marching division we held our own and received a gold just like the Kits Bands of old.

ABOVE: Bottom, The stage in Kerkrade, middle right the certificate from Kerkrade.