Written & researched by Trish Crowe-Grande and Cliff Whitfield

In 1949, Harry Peacock, a member of the Orillia Kiltie Band, decided to leave the Kilties to start up a brass-band in Orillia. In the 1950s, Mr. Peacock, along with his band committee, secured the sponsorship of the Orillia Oddfellows Lodge. Hence, it was initially known as the I.O.O.F. Orillia Brass Band. The Rotary Club had turned over the Boys Trumpet Band equipment to the I.O.O.F.

At the time, the Band consisted of eight members. In the early years, the Orillia Brass Band was dependent on grassroots fundraising initiatives such as bottle collections and scrap drives to keep the Band afloat. The Wednesday Nighter reported in 1958 that the Band was able to purchase a set of 24 brand new instruments for an approximate value of $9,000.

The style of band was based on the classic British brass-band that has existed for over 100 years, consisting of cornets, horns, flugelhorns, baritones, trombones, basses and euphoniums. Initially the band was dependent on support of bandsmen from the local Salvation Army Citadel. The band members wore Orillia Air Cadet uniforms.

Around 1958, Orillia town council held a study to source grants to secure the continued support for the Silver Band musicians. These were obtained and split between the Orillia Kiltie Band and the Orillia Silver Band.

I.O.O.F. Silver Band

By 1961, under Bandmaster Peacock, the Band soon started to receive accolades and awards in competitions with eighteen first place finishes throughout the province, including the Boosey & Hawkes Trophy awarded at the C.N.E. competition.

In 1969, the Rotary Club donated the instruments and uniforms for the formation of a local Trumpet Band which was the beginning of the Orillia Silver Band (formerly the I.O.O.F. Brass Band), which up to this point had won many honours. 

The OSB was comprised of 33 members by 1972. The Bandmaster was Elwood Brennan, a former solo euphonium player, who had taken over from Harry Peacock when Mr. Peacock retired in 1971, after 22 years at the conductor’s podium. In turn, Harry Peacock replaced Brennan on the euphonium. It was around this time that the Orillia Lion’s Club took over the band’s sponsorship with the uniforms now highlighting the Lion’s colours of purple and gold. The band placed second at the CNE competition that year.

The Wednesday Nighter reported in 1975 that the Orillia Silver Band, under Bandmaster Dan Dunlop, was valiantly playing on. They were currently supported by the Lions Club in the payment of the Band’s operating expenses. However, a high turnover of membership was a key challenge for the Band. As experienced by the Orillia Kiltie Band, the younger players were moving away to attend university or take jobs out-of-town. They were hard to replace. At this time, there were only four or five brass bands operating in Ontario.

Harry Peacock passed away in 1976 and in June of that year, a memorial concert was held at the Orillia Opera House, with Harry’s fellow musicians assuring local music lovers that they would carry on with the high standards he had set. But in 1979 the Silver Band was revived by the Christmas season due to the hard work of Bill Gallagher re-uniting a few former members and ten students. The Band used the silver instruments from the original group. They met in its own hall, obtained in 1958, at St David’s Anglican Lutheran Church, located at Regent and James streets, where they held band practices and student instruction.

The Orillia Silver Band dissolved in 1981, but the band was able to re-emerge in 2004, banding together based on the experience of sixteen original members and fourteen new members, with much credit due to conductor Jim Ferris, a former music teacher from Parry Sound. The following year in April, they played their first concert in Parry Sound and became a regular participant at the Festival of Brass in Toronto each spring.

The Silver Band has commissioned Canadian compositions, notably Robert Redhead’s “Railroad Trilogy,” based on Gordon Lightfoot’s iconic song the “Canadian Railroad Trilogy.” Robert Redhead, an internationally renowned composer and conductor, retired to Orillia in 2005. Over the years, he was a guest-conductor on occasion for the Orillia Silver Band who were also grateful to Gordon Lightfoot for permission to use his song.

The Orillia Silver Band was founded 70 years ago and continues to entertain audiences locally under current music Director Neil Barlow, who has been with the band since 2013. Recently in May, they held an “Excursions Concert” at St. Paul’s Centre, inviting attendees to explore a world of music through travel.  The band continues to honour the legacy of its founder, Harry Peacock, with an annual Harry Peacock Memorial Scholarship to assist one of the young members in their musical education and development.

Silver Band