By David G. Keirstead
During the summer months the sound of music wafts through the area surrounding the Town Square on Sunday evenings as musical programs arranged through the courtesy of the Leisure Services division of the Town’s staff are presented. This area, over the years, has had many events of a musical nature. Let’s consider some of these.
As far as the Square itself, the music was usually in the wintertime. The outdoor skating rink was located where the tiny-tots playground presently sits. The rink took about one third of the current Square property. From the Club House, a phonograph machine was connected to a public address system so that the one or two records that were available were broadcast. Many a young lad would grab a girl’s hand and they would glide across the ice to “The Skaters Waltz”. In December (1940s – 1950s), the citizens of Hampton would gather around the community Christmas tree in the Square to sing Christmas carols and to await a visit from Santa. This event (tree, sing song, treat) was provided by the Kiwanis Club.
From the Court House (presently the Town Hall) lawn, concerts were frequently held by the Hampton Coronet Band in the early 1900s. Edwin Barbery organized a military band in 1863 – four years before Canada became a nation. The band in its early days was part of the New Brunswick Regiment Yeomanry Cavalry and was the “only mounted band in Canada”. Around 1900, they decided to separate from the cavalry and “to carry on instead as a town band to be known as the Hampton Coronet Band”. From the Band’s minute book we learn that on one occasion they gave a very short concert on the Court House Lawn. Why? “After playing one piece we were requested to discontinue on account of the serious illness of Mr. James W. Smith.” Would a band be so considerate today? [Mr. Smith lived in the building where the computer shop and other business firms are located today.]
The Church of Messiah once stood where the Atlantic Community Church (ACC) Youth Centre is now located. In 1893, the rector of the church asked the choir, after they had completed the first verse of a selection, to sing the final verse. “It did and, as a choir in that church, never began another.” An article in the press continues “Who is, and who is not to blame, we know not, but we do know that there is no music in the singing that is perpetrated at present.” It would be some months before this matter was settled.
The Anglican Hall (now the ACC sanctuary) was frequently used by G. Kenneth Robb, the local pharmacist, for his musicals. These programs, sponsored by the Kiwanis Club, gave adults of the area an opportunity to display their vocal talents.
The Kiwanis Club also sponsored several musical recitals by the youth of the community. The students presented their piano selections at the United Church Hall. The church and hall stood on the lot now occupied by the meat shop at the corner of Main Street and Keirstead Avenue. Many the times I played at these programs; each participant was rewarded with a “Revel” (an ice cream novelty) that was all the rage at the time. The six or seven music teachers in the community proudly smiled on their proteges.
Music has always played an important part in the community’s social life. Consider the following – Choral Club (1919), Ossekeag Singers (1970s – 1980s), Hampton Consolidated School operettas – usually written by the principal George Sypher (1942 – 1953), ukulele classes with Ann Scott (1980s ?), the Hampton Station Amateur Opera Company (late 1890s) presented “Pinafore” and the Hampton Orchestral Club was organized in 1926. Enjoy the musical talents of today’s citizens when you have an opportunity.