A Life in Music: Jim Denmead


This past Anzac Day (25th April, 2016) marked an amazing 70 year dedication to the Bathurst community from one special man, Jim Denmead.

After the Anzac ceremony the Band joined Jim and his family at Jack Duggan’s on George Street for a luncheon to celebrate his 70 years of music, and dedication to the music scene in Bathurst. Little to Jim’s knowledge, this luncheon was to commemorate his efforts in form of a celebration – speeches, laughs and a special plaque awarded to him, the second award of the day. The first was presented at the Anzac ceremony itself by the Bathurst RSL. The ‘Jim Denmead Perpetual Trophy’ is the first of its kind in the Bathurst City & RSL Concert Band’s history and was awarded to the man himself. Jim’s name was engraved on the gorgeous crystal trophy, and in the future it will be awarded to members who have dedicated their time, efforts and passion to the band and the Bathurst community. One of the highlights of the luncheon was a speech written by Jim’s wife Margaret, and read by his son (and lead trumpeter) Peter.

Jim’s lifelong love of music began in 1946 when he was 10 years old. The Bandmaster of the Bathurst Distract Band called into the public school in George Street in a bid to recruit players for the junior band. Jim and a few other 10 year olds decided to give it a go and duly turned up at the band room where he was handed a tenor horn and taught to blow a few tentative notes.

Harold Walmsley, the then Bandmaster, would brook no nonsense from his young charges and had high expectations, daily practice and high attendance was demanded and if not complied with, you were out! As a result, the young musicians attained a high level of competency at an early age.

A key factor in banding at the time was competition. Band members would travel far and wide to contests and in the process Jim had quite a lot of success, the cherry on top was becoming Australian Junior Champion on the Tenor Horn.

By the teenage years, Jim was a well-established and committed bandsman and the workload was heavy and constant. Many towns in the Central West held band on Sundays. A time of comradeship and enjoyment, contesting was important as well as formal engagements one of which was Ben Chifleys’ Funeral. The band played at the graveside, a very somber occasion.

At age 18, Jim was one of the lucky ones to be drawn out of the ballot for National Service, as it happened he was selected for the band and given the role of assistant bandmaster, safe to say national service training was on the whole, a lot of fun!

In 1959, Jim married Margaret Burge. At the time he was bandmaster of the Carillon City Boys Band. On exiting the Cathedral, the young couple were surprised with a guard of honour of young bandsmen, resplendent in their grey and burgundy uniforms.jim's wedding

In 1965, Bathurst held their sesqui-centenary celebrations. Jim, always an enthusiastic Bathurstian, was the youngest member of the committee and an obvious choice to organise the bands. The celebrations were a great success, thoroughly enjoyed by all the residents of Bathurst.

Margaret and Jim were blessed with five children. Geoff – Tuba; Peter – Trumpet; Tony – Drums; Rosemary – Tenor Horn; and Michael – Soccer.

It seemed they had their own little band. You would have to feel sorry for the long suffering neighbours.

As the years went by there was a change in direction. With the growing interest in school bands, Jim was approached to teach. And so began an association with All Saints College, the Diocesan Girls High School and Charles Sturt University, all very fulfilling challenges.

The seventies saw the germ of an idea come to fruition. With the birth of the All Stars Dance Band. The Band consisted of four brass, two guitars and a drummer and emcee vocalist. Of course, nothing just happens overnight. Music had to be procured and rewritten, then practice, practice, practice for the all important dance tempo. The All Stars eventually became part of the Bathurst music scene with regular bookings at the RSL club and many of the District Balls.

For Margaret, she had soon grasped the meaning of ‘band widow’ with Geoff’s birth coinciding with an important band meeting in Orange, and Michael, a Saturday night gig at the RSL club. Fortunately, the three others were born mid-week.

This Anzac Day 2016 marks 70 years of playing at the Carillon ceremonies and music in general. Almost a whole lifetime of involvement to be hopefully continued by children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

I guess William Shakespeare got it right with his quote:

“If music be the food of love, play on.”

Written by Margaret Denmead

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