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Victorian Bands League & Brass Bands

Royal South Street Society has a long history with brass bands and the VBL - Victorian Bands League. 

The Victorian Bands League (VBL) is the association of amateur community bands in Victoria, Australia. Its members are those of brass, concert and stage bands who have joined for the benefits that the association gives.

The VBL provides competition, training and representation for its members. Individual members are registered directly with the League to ensure that competitions are as fairly run as possible.

The VBL has conducted the State Championships at the Royal South Street Society Ballarat Eisteddfod for many years. 

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Stories

Learn more about our history with the Victorian Bands League and our Brass Bands discipline from our collection of stories, historical records and media....

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Frank Wright

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Radio Interview

Listen to Dominic Brine’s ABC Ballarat interview with Mark Witham of the City of Ballarat Municipal Brass Band

Explore

Explore our history timeline

intro

1900

The first Painting and Brass Band Competitions are introduced, with 15,000 people making their way to City Oval to watch the closing of the Band Contest. The band competitions prove to be so popular that schools are given the afternoon off so they can attend. At the end of the Eisteddfod’s first decade, entries total 3500 and prize money totals 200 pounds.

1901

The Victorian Band Association is formed to manage the overwhelming interest in the Band contests, and thousands of avid South Street supporters travel by stream train from Melbourne to Ballarat to watch the competitions –an eight hour round trip.

1914

The Right Honourable Andrew Fisher opens the competitions and Mr J Beswick is brought out from England to judge the Band Contest as increasing numbers of interstate bands travel to Ballarat to compete despite the war.

The Senior Vocal Championship is awarded to George Lemke and forges a long association between the Lemke family and South Street, while the competition goes from strength to strength.

The mammoth South Street Competitions show no sign of decay; in fact, judging by recent indications, there is no limit to the possibilities and achievements of this remarkable institution. The Society, taken as a whole, is an institution that aims at the moral and national advancement of the community, and is worthy of recognition at the hands of the citizens. (Ballarat and District Year Book, Ballarat Library, A.H. & R.J. Powell)

1920

The Competitions ramp up with Military, Drum, Bugle and Harmonica Band sections and the Federal Government offers its support with a 250 pound grant.

The Arch of Victory is officially opened by His Royal Highness, Edward Prince of Wales to commemorate the fallen.

1921

After the war, enthusiasm for Brass Bands and Choral work pushes the South Street Society to greater heights. Six thousand entries are received from every Australian state and for the first time, some have to be rejected, with 20 choirs, 48 bands and 150 calisthenics teams keen to compete.

‘Tides of visitors flow in and out, filling hotel, boarding-house and bed-and-breakfast accommodation, putting smiles on the faces of the proprietors of café and fish-and-chip shops.’ Weston Bate, Life after Gold.

Ballarat West and East Councils finally amalgamate and W D Hill, founder of South Street, becomes the first Mayor of Ballarat Citycr-w-d-hill

John Brownlee wins the gold medal as champion vocalist at the South Street having never had a singing lesson his life and abandons accountancy to sing full time. In 1926 he would sing with Dame Nelle Melba in La Boheme in Covent Garden at her farewell performance.

The first live radio broadcast from South Street takes place and W D Hill dies in office after 42 years of remarkable service to the Eisteddfod and Ballarat community.

1934

Radio 3BA broadcasts for half an hour on the first night of the Sun Aria and the Duke of Gloucester attends the afternoon session of the Band Contest. The contests prove so popular that applications are made for a state holiday and bank holiday to allow people time off to watch bands compete from around the country.

Events at City Oval include Highland dancing, pipe band contests and quick step contest, with teams from H.M.S. Sussex and H.M.S. Dunedin participating in a tug-o’-war event.

1948

The Sutton “Star for Opera” Quest commences with prizes totalling 50 Guineas. Open to contestants aged 18-23 years, the Quest is designed to assist young singers hoping to pursue an operatic career.

Following a visit of the Western Australian Municipal Band, it is decided to revive the South Street Band Contest after a lapse of 14 years.

The first all Australian car, the Holden, is produced and millions of immigrants arrive post war as part of the nation’s immigration scheme.

1953

The Ballarat City Band takes out every major award in the   “A” Grade Band Contest under the baton of Charlie Smith who was carried shoulder high to the band platform to receive the trophies from South Street President, Mr. L. V. Kennedy.

Robert Lemke wins the Courier Ballad, the Star for Opera Quest, the Vocal Championship and receives an honourable mention in the Sun Aria.

Ballarat’s first Begonia Festival is held and the Mayor announces plans for a new hall on the Haymarket site.

1964

New Zealand entrants cross the puddle and successfully compete in the vocal sections by winning the Sun Aria in ’64, ’65 and ’66.

The Manawatu Society of Registered Music Teachers of New Zealand hopes to establish a similar contest to the Sun Aria for the Centennial Celebrations of Palmerston North, NZ.

Victoria, NSW and Tasmania Band Associations send their State Champions to Ballarat to compete in the Champion of Champions Contest – and a proposal is put forward to create a CWA Choral Contest for CWA Associations only.

The death of Lyle Blackman, Secretary of the Society is met with great sadness after serving the society for 58 years.

Ballarat National Theatre enters the Play Section and on the national stage, Beatlemania sweeps the nation.

 

1993

Keeping pace with the times, new successful sections are added to the Competition’s program including Contemporary Choral and Modern Vocal Ensembles. A weekend Play Festival is also introduced with adjudicators Julian Oldfield and Peter Tullock.

The Mechanics Institute is used for the Brass Bands’ warm-up.

The Federal Minister for Arts, Senator Bob McMullan visits the Eisteddfod and a civic reception is held for Jason Wasley, Herald Sun Aria Winner.