In her article “History of Music in Chemung County”, Marion Kolb Stocker notes that at the turn of the 20th century, “a majority of local residents, if asked, would probably have said, ‘I don’t know anything to the music ; but I know what I like. What they loved was the melodious music of orchestral concerts…”
In 1873, Asa La France (1845-1927), along with his brother Truckson, was one of the founders of the Elmira LaFrance Fire Engine Co., now the American LaFrance Fire Engine Co.
“Asa had served in the Civil War as a member of New York’s Veteran First Cavalry Party, becoming the leader,” according to a January 24, 1927, Star-Gazette article. “When he returned to Elmira, he organized the LaFrance Band, one of the leading musical organizations in the state… Mr. LaFrance lost his left arm in a hunting accident in 1862, but he continued to play the cornet with one hand.
In his “Round Town” Star-Gazette column for May 10, 1933, Matthew Darrin Richardson wrote: “This old band from Elmira came into being before the days of cheap printed band music… Mr. LaFrance gleaned the cream of Civil War-era music, wrote his own scores and composed the parts, which were bound in neat little booklets… When the LaFrance band paraded through the lake or water streets in playing Doring’s ‘Brisk March of General Grant’, it was worth listening to the music chosen had a charming richness, depth and dignity…”
Frank E. Hauver
Noted in the Star-Gazette of April 30, 1917: “When one thinks of brass bands or orchestras, it is natural to think of Frank E. Hauver (1873-1965), one of the most known at that time. part of the country. »
Hauver was born in Owego and brought to Elmira when he was 8 years old. He learned to play guitar, piano, alto and baritone horn, and his No. 1 instrument, the trumpet. According to Edward E. Van Dyne (Star-Gazette, October 28, 1956), “His first engagement as a bandleader was at the Elmira Interstate Fair about 1890… About 1898 Frank took over as conductor of the Northern Central Railroad Band These musicians became the core of the famous Hauver’s Band of up to 50 musicians, including about six full-time professionals.
The band performed at “estate auctions, store openings, weddings, outings, fairs, block parties, auto shows, rallies, harness racing, and other sports. Sometimes marching bands played to dance. The dances Popular included quadrille, polka, square dances, lancers, two step, waltzes and favorite jigs.
Hauver recalled, “concerts in Brand Park when crowds of 5,000 to 6,000 were commonplace and when standing listeners poured into Maple Ave., back into Sly Street and even onto the Madison Ave. Bridge.”
Arnold Hager (1873-1936) was born in Elmira on November 26, 1873. He would follow in the footsteps of his father, who led the first Hager’s Band.
His name would become synonymous with band music in Elmira. He organized his own band in 1903. In 1906, during a massive celebration of Old Home Week in Auburn, the Hager’s Band was the official band of New York State.
Hager played violin, viola, piano, organ and cornet. He had a varied musical career, playing in bands, orchestras, theater and circuses. In 1896, he passed the civil service examination and obtained a position as a music teacher at Elmira Reformatory, beginning a 40-year career.
More Elmira story:The Thursday Morning Musicales not only entertained Elmira but helped many musicians
In his “Round Town” column for February 19, 1934, Matthew Richardson wrote: “For many years Mr. Hager was Director of Music at Elmira Reformatory…There his boys idolize ‘Professor ‘ – and how he hates being called that… Arnold worked long and hard with the inmates, until the reformatory orchestra became the pride of the establishment – yes, and l one of the high places of harmony in the musical achievements of the penitentiary establishments of the State.
According to Erin Doane, former curator at the Chemung County Historical Society, “When the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898, Hager joined the Thirtieth Separate Company and was appointed regimental band leader. When a reporter asked him why he had enlisted, he replied: “To charm or rather hypnotize the Spaniards with my correction group.”
In 1905, a financial crisis impacted Hager’s band. The Star-Gazette philosophizes on the need for a group: “A city the size of Elmira cannot afford to be without a good group, recognized everywhere as one of the best and on which one speak. It’s one of the best advertisements a city can have…”
Fifty years later, in an article on Frank Hauver on October 28, 1956, the Star-Gazette noted: “By the time of the First World War, professional brass bands began to disappear. During the 1920s, boy bands, often sponsored by a lodge or club, proliferated and high school bands became larger. In the 1930s, school orchestras gave the deathblow to the old professional orchestras.
Jim Hare is a former history teacher and mayor of the town of Elmira. His column appears monthly in the Star-Gazette.