The First Centenary of NTB 1880 – 1980
Established as a brass band in 1880 by Otto Riedel, a shoemaker, the Nuriootpa Town Band began from humble beginnings. Otto originally played for the Angaston Town Band, however when Friedrich Gilgen, a Swiss musician, arrived in Nuriootpa Otto was quick to grasp the opportunity to form a band in his own home town. Otto gathered a total of 10 local players, utilizing Friedrich as the conductor until 1889, when Friedrich left Nuriootpa. The conducting role was passed on to Anton Wolf (a noted Austrian violinist) until 1896. In 1897 the band entered a period of significant growth attracting an additional 20 local players, reaching around 30 players by 1915 – a huge achievement given there were also 3 other local bands (Tanunda, Angaston & Freeling) at the same time. The conducting role had been passed to Ernst Kindler – a son of a founding member. This growth in local players also inspired the beginning of the “Light Band Contest”, which ran from 1911 – 1913, before being interrupted by World War 1 in 1914.
In March of 1919 Ernst passed away, leaving the role of conductor open once again. Mr O.J. Krieg, a talented tenor horn & baritone player at the time, was elected in his place shortly after, continuing practices weekly, held on a Saturday night. Unfortunately, these occurrences, the war recovery & a change to Federal Taxation laws in 1922, meant the band suffered a decline in membership, until 1924, where it is recorded only 24 practices were held for the full year.
In 1930, a special meeting was held, when it was decided a revival of the band was required. Mr W. Jarrett, a local bank manager & church organist was elected as conductor, followed by Cyril Creed.
In 1931, J.B. Traeger was elected conductor. A former player of NTB and a state champion B Flat Bass player on 9 occasions, he was well suited to the role. He led the band for 5 years, before resigning in 1936. In those years he led the band to acquiring new uniforms in 1932 featuring a red stripe on the trousers & red sleeve cuff on a khaki base. He also established the ‘Nuriootpa Juniors’ – a beginners band – the same year. The band entered the 1933 C grade Tanunda competitons, coming equal second in the street march, only 1 point behind first place. 1934 saw the band win both “C” & “D” grades in the quickstep & the street marching competition. The band also saw an increase of players back to some 30 members. In 1935 a new band rotunda & practice room was built, allowing practices to be held twice a week in a dedicated space.
J.B. Traeger is remembered as an important part of NTB’s history, with most players recalling the following story: At the Pt. Pirie contest in 1934, the band decided on an early morning marching practice. However, on arrival at the oval it was discovered that the gates were locked and the caretaker refusing to open them. When J.B. arrived and learned of the trouble, he strode up to the man in a belligerent style and said “Either you open those gates at once or I will eat you and deposit you out in the sea!” Other bandsmen had gathered round him, making a formidable, if not ferocious group, whose purpose and intent was clearly implied. The gates were promptly opened.
In 1936, O. J. Krieg was re-elected to the role of MD, while in 1938 the band acquired new uniforms again. During this time, NTB’s reputation as a marching band was famous across the State. Collecting all marching awards in the “C” & “D” grades wherever it went. From the records of the Tanunda Contest Committee at the time of the NTB centenary, Nuriootpa has won more street march awards than any other band in the history of the contest.
In 1946, Frank John returned from Sydney, where he had been part of the A.B.C. Military Band. He was elected MD and quickly went about improving the band’s playing ability. This helped them win the “C” grade concert programme and the street march in 1946. This continued until 1948, when Frank left the band, to be replaced by O. J. Krieg once more.
In 1950, Mr. Sam Trenwith, the lead trumpet player for the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra offered his services to the Nuriootpa Town Band, as he was considering moving to the Barossa. This offer was quickly accepted by the band. Shortly after, in 1953, a house was built in Light Pass for the conductor of the band in conjunction with the community centre. The same year a problem with the rotunda became apparent, due to a particularly wet winter. This resulted in the sub-surface practice room suffering water damage. Music & instruments were affected by mould & mildew & some rehearsals needed to be held in the Fire Station next door, due to the depth of water on some nights.
By 1955, there were only 4 to 5 active players, the rotunda top & the practice room needed urgent repairs, the instruments were in bad shape and the band had no conductor. Fortunately, the committee of the time, led by Chairman H. R. Burley decided to restore the band to its former glory. They elected Mr. Fred Boehm as conductor and Mr. E. R. Schulz as the conductor for a learners class. The committee then focused on carrying out temporary repairs to the building, allowing the band to appear in public by 1956. In 1958 major works commenced on rebuilding the band facilities. The floor was raised three feet, electrical wiring was installed, a servery and new toilets built, a new shelter built over the original entrance, fifty new chairs purchased & the whole building re-painted.
In 1960 the band again purchased new uniforms, having been successful enough the previous 2 years to have completely paid for all works that had been carried out on the building. In 1961 the band entered the Tanunda contest, winning the “D” grade quickstep, while also attending other notable events throughout the year, including the 75th anniversary of the Catholic convent & school in Terowie. This entailed an entire weekend of engagements for the band, heavily involving playing on & transport by train. Locations for this weekend included: Terowie, Peterborough, Redden’s farm, Jamestown & Clare.
1969 found the band travelling to Walla Walla NSW, to take part in the centenary celebrations there. This was the band’s most ambitious trip taken, and was remembered by players for 2 main reasons. The first being a heat wave with a temperature over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (approximately 38 degrees Celsius), the second being the bandsmen were all made honorary members of the Walla Walla club for the duration of their stay.
In 1972, the band decided to purchase a complete new set of instruments, 32 in total, creating a renewed enthusiasm around and in the band. This resulted in the band excelling in the 1973 Australian Band Championships, where 30 bands competed and Nuriootpa won in all facets – some six awards, including the Homburg Memorial Trophy, as most successful band of the day. This resulted in the band being selected to lead the John Martins pageant (National Pharmacies Christmas Pageant as it is known now) that year. The band was also approached by the S. A. Band Association to make a documentary film of band drill, quickstep, marching, evolutions and Drum Major’s staff drill, which was made available to all bands nationally for the purpose of improving the marching standard of bands and showing what could be done.
1980 saw the centenary of the Nuriootpa Town Band. This was a momentous occasion, with a new band hall being unveiled. This hall was unique in having 9 sides and a sloping ceiling, so that no 2 surfaces of the interior are parallel to each other. It was built over and around the old band rotunda. To assist with the cost of this, a special Cobweb Port was released. The first bottle of the series has a gold imprint of Carl Kindler, bass player in the original band in 1880, with a short history on the reverse side. The second label of the series, contains a facsimile of the old rotunda built in 1935. The third label of the series depicts the new band hall.
Elmore Schulz’s book “History of the Nuriootpa Town Band” was also released for the centenary. We’d like to acknowledge this book as the main source of information for the first centenary of this history page. It is available for borrowing to the general public in the Nuriootpa Town Library.