Above: Aubrey conducting Para Hills Band at the Mayor's Breakfast, Salisbury Council Chambers, 16 December 1998
Above: Aubrey Gannon conducting Elizabeth Young Peoples' Orchestra, Strathmont Rehabilitation Centre, 21 July, 1974
Above: Aubrey conducting Para Hills Band at the Long Tan Ceremony for Vietnam Veterans Day, 17 August 2013
Above: Aubrey Gannon conducting Para Hills Band at Rundle Mall, 10 April 2011, promoting the SABA Brass Band Championships
Above: The Three Amigos - L/R Ron Arthur, Ken McMahon and Aubrey Gannon
Above: Aubrey (aged 13) with sister Iris (10) posing for a publicity shot at Chester Town Hall, UK in 1941.
Aubrey Gannon is a passionate man. I say this advisedly, the word passionate in contemporary vernacular is used to describe an attitude that used to be described as enthusiasm. In years gone by the word passionate was saved for use in describing our more intimate encounters. But in 2019 the attitude and actions of one Aubrey Gannon can be safely described as passionate! His enthusiasm for life and all things musical is beyond question.
Here is what Assoc Prof Margaret Arstall Director of Cardiology at the Lyell McEwin Hospital in the booklet ‘Elizabeth Champions’ published by the Elizabeth Council in 1994 had to say about Aubrey, she credits him as a major influence when she was part of the Young Peoples Orchestra;
“Any young person, on any instrument, with any amount of talent was encouraged to play. Mr Gannon arranged the music himself in a way that allowed everyone to be able to play well, and therefore make good music. Most important to Aubrey was that everyone should be able to enjoy making music together, to play within their level of skill, and to be able to play as an ensemble. He taught us how to perform in public, overcoming stage fright.”
In 1984 Aubrey received a Community Service Award from the Savings Bank of South Australia. The person who nominated him was Bernice Gibbons. Here is what she had to say about him;
“He sits up to all hours of the morning writing and orchestrating and the kids all love him.”
On a personal level, after spending the last 36 years working as a secondary school music teacher, I have to say that Aubrey’s teaching methods are right on the money. Giving the players material that is pitched at the right level of difficulty is essential. Not so easy that it becomes boring and not so difficult that it is seen as impossible. It needs to be in that perfect pocket. Easy enough so they can imagine themselves playing it but hard enough to push them into the “red” zone.
Aubrey got it right!
After spending many years in Musical Theatre and Youth Orchestras Aubrey then devoted 26 years to conducting the Para Hills Brass Band. In 1997 he was awarded a Badge of Merit from SABA, in 2012 he was also awarded a Fellowship of SABA, one of only three people to ever receive such an award. 2013 was the year that the City of Salisbury made Aubrey a Living Legend.
His contribution to the Brass Band movement has been most substantial and significant and is ongoing!
At the time of writing Aubrey is going through a tough time healthwise. His story was dictated to his devoted daughter Pat who faithfully and skillfully put it all together for her Dad.
Please enjoy Aubrey Gannon’s story. Geoff Meikle, 2019
Name: Aubrey Gannon
Born: 1928 In Mold, Flintshire, Wales
I had an unusual start to life. My mother Minnie Gannon, gave birth to me in Wales. I spent my early years living in a gypsy caravan next to the River Alyn (a tributary of the River Dee). However my Uncle Tom, who had bright blue eyes like my own, was the person who looked after me. I remember it well.
Eventually I was taken to live with my mother and husband, Robert Gannon who was a hawker and away a lot, in Chester U.K. By then I had a younger sister.
We used to listen to the radio and I particularly enjoyed the piano accordion music. By about the age of nine I had my heart set on learning that instrument. Now, here is the strange thing…..I was given a second hand, ornate, turquoise and gold glittery with diamante, heavy Frontalini piano accordion and my sister was given a piano. We had lessons too. Where did the money come from? Robert Gannon was not rich enough nor did he have any interest in music.
My sister, Iris, and I became a musical act. We would play at the local hospitals for the wounded soldiers from World War 11 and at the Chester Town Hall and various other venues. Iris did a bit of singing as well. I started work as a draftsman but in 1946 at the age of 18 was enlisted into the British army, as a corporal, for a couple of years and sent over to Italy to tidy up some areas after the war. I met my wife, Irene, at this time. She was serving in the ATS in U.K. She used to play the bugle in earlier times.I got married and started work at the local hospital in Chester. This is where my musical side came out again playing, directing etc in pantomimes.
In 1964 I emigrated to Australia with my wife and three children for the warmer weather. I played in the Northern Light theatre shows but it was not long until I took over as conductor. I would conduct and write music for all sorts of shows, including pantomimes. I spent many years of my life in the Shedley Theatre.
My whole life has been music. One of my favourite times was when I was conductor of the Young Peoples Orchestra. I did it for years. Several players went on to play in the Adelaide Police Band. Some became music teachers and doctors.
I have conducted several concert bands and Rotary Club shows and choirs too.
My wife (tenor horn) and daughter Pat (flugel horn), became players in the SA brass band world. At the end of 1989 they were playing in Para Hills Brass Band under the direction of Joe Smith. Joe asked me to step in as conductor one Friday night whilst he went up to Berri for a weekend. He never came back and I stayed on as conductor for 26 years.
I started taking Para Hills Band to SABA competitions and we were a real team. We always enjoyed going to Tanunda and having picnics on the side of the oval and then we would compete and sometimes win trophies in D grade. My players worked very hard and I am still very proud of them. We would get home about midnight on Saturday nights absolutely exhausted. We also marched in the Anzac day marches in Adelaide and Christmas pageants in Salisbury, Norwood, Glenelg and Mount Gambier. We played at lots of different gigs.
In the brass banding world there are some very good players and some average players. I made it my job to orchestrate many, many pieces of music to make the band sound its best with what instruments we had. It worked.
I retired in 2015 at the age of 87 because my legs started aching when I was conducting. However, I still guest conduct when required.
It has been my pleasure to have met and conducted some popular brass banding personalities from other bands. We are good friends these days….these include Ken McMahon, Ron Arthur, Geoff Meikle, Adrienne Meikle, Jeannie Magin and the lovely Lorraine Strain.
It’s funny….you start off competing against someone and in the end you become close friends. I think we band people understand each other.
Aub Gannon 2019