Taking as starting point the known fact that bands and orchestras have been active in Brisbane since the early twentieth century, it was assumed that significant foundational and developmental work in instrumental ensemble must have taken place during the nineteenth century. The aim of this thesis is to examine the extent, scope, and development of band and orchestral activity in the community of Brisbane from 1850 to the close of the nineteenth century-
The historical survey begins with the year 1850 for the reason that Brisbane's earliest band and orchestral activity took place during the 1850s, though there is some evidence of demand during the 1840s. Instrumental ensemble activity is considered in the context of the general pattern of musical development in the community. Closer attention is given to factors that influenced or fostered ensemble activity and development, notably popular entertainment music, performance venues, church music, visiting professional performances, and community-based concerts. Specific attention is given to choral-orchestral societies, independent orchestras, armed services and organizational bands, privately formed bands, locality-based bands, and employment related bands.
Developments are considered chronologically by decades in chapters. Within chapters specific ensemble development and scope of activity are examined in major and minor case studies.
Significant socio-economic factors influencing ensemble development were population level, rapidity of population increase, urban expansion, capital city status, the economy, governmental attitudes, and population origins. Most precedent for band and orchestral activity was British, but there was a strong German influence and some Italian contribution. There was also some inter-colonial influence.
Three nodal points in ensemble development may be observed. These were around 1872, 1883 to 1886, and 1897 to 1900. Each of these saw significant initiation or development in band and orchestral activity. In general, ensemble activity increased as the population level rose, creating greater demand and making more players available; but population growth by migration did not supply all the instrumental skills required. Bands tended to train their own players, but serious orchestral development was impeded by lack of particular skills. Competent leadership was not always available.
Large orchestras, usually associated with choirs, followed the classical model in instrumentation, and usually included amateurs and professionals. The most serious orchestral work was choir-dominated, with choice of composers limited. No symphonic performance pattern developed till nearly the end of the century. Other serious orchestral repertoire was drawn from operatic sources. Otherwise orchestras performed many classical and contemporary dances. Much work was done by occasional concert orchestras, and an amateur orchestral movement developed late in the century.
Earlier Brisbane bands used brass and woodwinds, with drums. Later the British all-brass model was favoured, with some clarinet use retained. The city's best band, the Headquarters Band, followed the pattern of the British regimental band, using both woodwinds and brass. Serious repertoire was drawn from opera, and many marches and dances were performed.
At the close of the century Brisbane's bands and orchestras were well established and developing strongly.