The Stonewall Brigade Bandstand in Gypsy Hill Park.
By Bob Moody, director. June 4, 2013
The bandstand in Gypsy Hill Park was built for the Stonewall Brigade Band in 1891, shortly after the park was established in 1889. The band played for the planting of the trees, and did regular concerts in the park from that time on. The first bandstand was in the circle of trees just behind the park sign inside the swing gate on Thornrose Avenue. This “Box Brownie” photo, obviously a home-developed contact print, was from about 1900. There were benches in a circle around the bandstand, and an entryway which can be seen at the right. The entire structure was of wood, which was in contact with the ground.
By the 1930s, termites had eaten away at the base of the bandstand, so it was cut off and lowered. This photo seems to be a contact print from a 4×5 Speed Graphic press camera and likely was taken by the local newspaper.
Here is a better view from a picture postcard of the period, showing the entryway and the seats.
Termites did their work again and by the early 1940’s the bandstand was unsafe. The city built a temporary structure at that time, located where the current metal seating is located on the gravel in front of the current bandstand. Here is a photo, also probably from the Staunton Leader of the Stonewall Brigade Band, with Paul Sanger conducting the Civil War Centennial Concert on July 17, 1961. Also seated on the bandstand was an announcer from radio station WSVA, which broadcast this concert. A local citizen held a tape recorder microphone in front of his radio and recorded this event on tape. It can be heard on the band’s web site www.stonewallbrigadeband.com
Other dignitaries included Mayor Hassett, and Dr. Marshall Moore Brice of Mary Baldwin College, who wrote the history of the band, entitled “The Stonewall Brigade Band.” There is a copy in the Staunton Public Library.
The military presence was an honor guard from the National Guard. The rope was to keep the local children from running around the bandstand
I took over as director in 1975, after having been Vice President of the Band and then Assistant Director. At that time, Frank Holt, long-time member and past president of the band got the ball rolling on the construction of a new bandstand. At first there was a contest by the students at the UVA School of Architecture. All the designs were modern and not in keeping with a Victorian town and its traditional park.
Frank was a member of the Staunton Kiwanis Club and approached another member of the club, architect Neal Goodloe about doing a pro bono design for a bandstand in a colonial/victorian style. Frank and I worked together to get the design parameters in place. At the time I was band director at Buffalo Gap High School, which had a wonderful auditorium for band music. That stage was 35 feet wide—large enough to seat a band of over 100 players. We set the width at 35 feet, which also became the depth. Before majoring in music education at UVA I spent two years studying electrical engineering and physics, so I worked with Neal to apply what I knew about physics and acoustics to the design of the bandstand. The height of the stage was set at the wavelength of the lowest note on the tuba. The gingerbread on the posts was brought a third of the way down to eliminate standing waves and equalize all the frequencies coming out of the stage. This principle was first discovered by the European organbuilders of the 15th century and is rooted in “Huygens Principle” which explains dispersion of waves. The baffle in the back was based on the physics principle “angle of incidence equals angle of reflection.” This “law of physics” is usually mentioned in reflection of light, but it also applies equally to sound.
After the design was complete, it was time for construction. Roland Harshbarger of Mt. Solon volunteered to be the general contractor for the project at no cost. Money was raised by the Kiwanis, the Stonewall Brigade Band, and others.
Here is a photo of the ground breaking for the bandstand on April 25, 1976. The late Gary Funk, who was president of the band for many years, is turning the first shovel of dirt.
Pictured are Bruce Grover, president of Kiwanis Club; Kenneth Landes, Chairman of Augusta County Board of Supervisors; Howard Shaffer, Kiwanian; Gifford Mabie, Kiwanis Project Chairman; Frank R. Pancake, Staunton Mayer, and Gary Funk (with shovel), Band President.
I conducted my first concert as director, after having done all the winter rehearsals, in June of 1976, in the old bandstand. The new bandstand was under construction at the time, and those attending the concerts could see the progress weekly.
The dedication was set for the first concert in July 1976 as the city’s gift to itself for the nation’s bicentennial. The main “dedication piece” played by the band was “Panorama USA” by James Ployhar, which we continue to play on the concert series and for various civic occasions. The dedication speech was by U. S. Senator Harry Flood Byrd.
The first bandstand was just the stage. In the design there were loudspeakers around the base, enclosed with metal covers. Wiring was placed under the floor to an outlet on the back wall where an amplifier could be plugged in. The Stonewall Brigade Band had purchased the sound system from the high school in Spotswood VA when Riverheads had opened, so that equipment was used at the first concert. Within a week, someone took the metal covers off, stole the speakers, and put the covers back on. The speakers were replaced, only to be stolen again.
This time the band bought a “rock band sound system” from Emerson Dietz’s sons, who all played instruments in the band during their high school years. The SBB has furnished its own sound equipment since.
Here is a photo of the new bandstand from 1982.
There were 36 players in the band at the time. That “rock band sound system” can be seen. Notice also the speaker grilles around the base, with nothing inside them. The Barberry Bushes were later removed for safety after someone fell off the stage and landed on one. The original roof was wooden shakes. The “megaphone” design of the back of the bandstand can clearly be seen in this photo, taken by Dennis Sutton of The Staunton Leader, from the bucket of a “cherry picker truck” belonging to the city. The item in the center rear was a banner made for the SBB trip to the Manassas Museum by the mother of one of our current members.
By 2006 the addition had been added to the back of the bandstand. Lynnn Sysson and Lee Beam were on the planning commission and developed the idea as a location for concessions at Jazz in the Park. Lew Morrison, director of Jazz in the Park and I had other ideas. We wanted storage. Prior to the addition all equipment had to be hauled in for each event and then hauled out. Lew used his station wagon and the band had a converted school bus which was bought at low cost at the Augusta County School Board’s annual auction.
Here is a photo of the SBB on the bandstand in 2006, showing the obvious increase in band membership, which numbers about 70-80 playing on each concert.
Here is a view from the back of the band toward the audience in 2006
The audience view of an evening Stonewall Brigade Band Concert
This blog was written by Bob Moody and posted by Jennifer Jones, Superintendent of Recreation.
Enjoy Staunton’s History!
- Passing of the last real child of the Stonewall Brigade(?) (cenantua.wordpress.com)