Band History

Then he said “RIGHTO” and there was a band.

The origins of the NSW Fire Brigades Brass Band date back to the early 1900’s. The high musical standards attained in the early days of the band have been maintained through the years to the present day.

During its long history, the band is fortunate to have had dedicated and stable leadership, having had only four leaders. Most notable was that of Bandmaster Jerome Phelong, who was conductor for almost 40 years. As well as his duties as Bandmaster of the NSW Fire Brigades Brass Band, Mr. Phelong was also the principal trumpet of the then fledgling Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

This strong tradition of excellent musical leadership has continued over the past 30 years under the baton of Mr. Mark Reay, who is the current Musical Director.

Since 1986, the Precision Drill Marching Team, under the leadership of Rosina Holley, has been an integral part of the band’s concerts and presentations. The drill team, who have held numerous National and Australasian Championship titles, provide a stunning visual impact with their showcase displays and precision marching.

The main function of the band and marching team is to foster public relations. It does this by promoting the NSW Fire Brigades through entertainment provided at venues throughout Sydney and the many regional centres across New South Wales.

Under the direction and innovative skills of Mr. Reay, the band and marching team have developed into a highly polished and professional unit, which provides an excellent opportunity to pass on information about Fire Safety to the large audiences attracted through their musical extravaganza.

Versatility is a feature of the band and drill team’s performances, with all musical tastes and styles accommodated for, from traditional brass, classical, rock, jazz through to modern and popular music heard on most radio stations today.

Over the years, the band and marching team have performed extensively throughout NSW and Australia, as well as overseas, at each members own expense, in countries such as Canada, New Zealand, Mexico and the USA, including Hawaii.

In 1985, the band was invited to represent the Brigades and Australia at the inaugural World Police & Fire Olympic Games at San Jose, California, with the marching team joining them for the following World Police & Fire Olympic Games in 1987 & 1989.

The band and marching team’s growing reputation resulted in an invitation to the 1993 Rose Bowl Festival and Parade in Portland, Oregon, with the parade proving to be a challenge at just over eight kilometres in length.

The final trip undertaken overseas for the 20th century was in 1997 to the World Police & Fire Olympic Games and Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Canada.

The band and marching team visited China in September 2002 as part of 30th Anniversary celebrations of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Australia and China.

In 2003, the Band and Marching Team toured Victoria country towns and cities, including Shepparton, Bendigo, Ballarat and Warrnambool as a fund raising venture to assist the CFA after the devastating bush fires earlier that year, finishing with a concert at Ivanhoe Girl’s School in Melbourne.

Another trip to the USA was undertaken in July 2006, visiting Hawaii and playing at a number of locations, including in the 4th of July parade and concert at the Marine base, Las Vegas and a concert with the Las Vegas Brass Band, Los Angeles and concerts at Disneyland and Knottsberry Farm.

2007 included the usual community activities and commitments the Band and Marching Team undertake, as well as a considerable number of Fire Station Centenary celebrations in the N.S.W. Fire Brigades. In addition, there was a trip to Maryborough Qld for the “Best of Brass” festival in June, and a visit to Lakes Entrance Vic for the National Firefighters Championships in October.

The Band and Marching Team enjoyed a very successful tour of Austria in July 2008. The main purpose of the trip was to take up an invitation to participate in the week long International Band Festival “Blasmusikfestival” held in Bruck an der Mur. This prestigious event is held every two years and attracts the best bands from in and around Austria, which included this year the German Air Force Band, the Army Bands of Slovenia and Austria, and the Russian Military Band from Moscow.

The N.S.W. Fire Brigades Band and Marching Team were privileged to be the first performers invited to the festival from outside Europe and was afforded star status with large posters and advertising all around the city. The response from the audiences at the Plaza, Concert and Tattoo performances showed that they really appreciated the Band and Marching Team’s entertainment and musical ability. Video footage can be seen on “Youtube” with a search on “Blasmusikfestival Bruck” . There are two official videos posted by the organisers, as well as three separate videos of individual performances by the Band and Marching Team. 

In addition to performing at Bruck an der Mur, the Band and Marching Team also performed at the renowned Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna and visited Seoul, Venice and Salzburg.

In September 2010, the Band and Marching Team were privileged to be invited to participate at the Zurich Police Music Festival in Switzerland. Other groups to take part in the festival included the Hong Kong Police Band, the Hereford Police Choir, New York Police Pipes & Drum Band, South African Police Service Band, Netherlands Bicycle Show Band, the Zurich Police Band as well as other special guests.

The Band and Marching Team stayed in Lucerne the week prior to the festival and on the Saturday, did a parade though the old city centre before doing a concert in the Korn Market area. On the Sunday, they performed in the Pavilion by the lake to a very appreciative audience of over 600 people.

In Zurich, there was a formal welcome parade through the city on Wednesday evening and city concerts on Thursday evening, followed by three festival performances attended by over 13,000 people on Friday, Saturday afternoon and Saturday night. On Saturday morning, all bands participated in a Parade through the streets of Zurich which was watched by a very large number of people.

The trip to Switzerland will be a highlight to be remembered by all members of the Band and Marching Team. The festival was very well organized and the quality of the participants was exceptional. Links to the Band and Marching Team performances can be found on our home page.

In 2012, the Band and Marching Team participated in the German Musikparade and performed in cities across Gemany, including Rostock, Berlin, Braunschweig, Saarbrucken, Kempten and Nuremberg.

The Band and Marching Team has received numerous invitations to perform overseas in 2014, 2015 and beyond, including from Germany, Switzerland, Spain and China, but have decided to make a return trip to Zurich in July 2015.

This was a great trip in 2010 and we are all looking forward to catching up with our good friends in the Zurich Police Band.

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