Our History

The roots of today's Regimental Band can be found in the tin whistle band that was formed shortly after the CLB was established in Newfoundland in 1892. Tin whistles were chosen as they were inexpensive and there was no shortage of lads able to play this instrument. Lt. Joseph Shea, the first bandmaster, taught the lads to play popular marching tunes such as "A Life on the Ocean Wave", "We Won't Go Home Until Morning", and "The British Grenadiers" among others.

In 1898, four or five instruments were obtained to form the nucleus of a brass band. The musicianship within the band had reached a very high level and in 1907 the band travelled to Ottawa to compete in the Earl Grey Intercolonial Music Competition, placing second to the Quebec Symphony. The band was in high demand for concerts and official receptions, along with the regular church parades of the Brigade. During World War 1, eleven band members volunteered for duty. The band was present when the Blue Puttees boarded the Florizel and was called upon to lead subsequent drafts of soldiers as they paraded from the CLB Armoury. At the end of the war, the Band was also present to welcome those who returned.

By 1942, the number of members had reached 43 and instrumentation had expanded to include woodwind instruments; more closely resembling the Regimental Band as it exists today. During World War II, several members of the band volunteered for service in various branches of the forces and served with gallantry, including three members who were taken prisoner when Hong Kong fell in 1941. Yet another story of gallantry involves one band member who was among the 99 people who lost their lives here in St. John’s at the Knights of Columbus Hostel fire in 1942. He had escaped the building but returned to try to rescue some of those trapped inside, only to lose his own life.

The CLB Regimental Band has enjoyed steady growth over the years and has flourished under the baton of several Bandmasters, but most notably under Major Walter Learning, bandmaster from 1972 to 1999, and then Director of Music until his death in 2011. The band has also faced its share of challenges. The Harvey Road fire of 1992 claimed the CLB’s Armoury and with it the band’s music library, the majority of its instruments, and other equipment. Still, the band was able to gather itself and provide music for the funeral of a CLB member just two days after the fire.

 This is a very brief synopsis of a long and successful history of the CLB Regimental Band. Its achievements are numerous, but of greatest value is the comradeship, fine music, and community spirit that it fosters among its members.The band performs annually in CLB parades and church services in addition to numerous civic events and special functions within the local area and throughout the province. Indeed, the CLB Regimental Band is a prominent musical entity in Newfoundland and Labrador. Some noteworthy events that the band has participated in over its long history include:

1901Visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York

1907The Earl Grey Inter-Colonial Music Competition in Ottawa, awarded second place.

1908The official opening of the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company mill in Grand Falls

1914Entertained the Newfoundland Regiment during training; paraded each draft of soldiers to their ships

1924Unveiling of the National War Memorial by Field Marshal Earl Haig

1925Official opening of the Bowater Mill in Corner Brook

1934The inauguration ceremonies of the Commission of Government

1939Visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth

1940Paraded to the railway station with the 1st draft of Royal Artillery

1945Paraded to the railway station to meet returning troops

1951Visit of Princess Elizabeth

1967Visit of Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother

1970The official opening of St. John’s City Hall

1977Opening and closing ceremonies of the Canada Summer Games

1983Participated in the official opening of Branch 1 Royal Canadian Legion - Blackmarsh Road

1983Visit of the Prince and Princess of Wales

1984Visit of Pope John Paul II

1985Grey Cup Parade in Montreal, awarded second place; performed for guests at Le Grand Hotel

1986Grey Cup Parade in Vancouver, awarded first place; provided entertainment during the Government of British Columbia Luncheon

2000Major Walter F. Learning, Drum Major William G. Tilley, and the CLB are awarded the Freedom of the City of St. John's

2009Visit of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall

2011The Royal St. John’s Regatta Committee and the City of St. John’s dedicate the bandstand at Quidi Vidi Lake as the Major W.F. Learning Bandstand to recognize his contribution and that of the Band to the Regatta