This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
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A Band of Brothers

07 April 2017

We love you, Alma Mater,
We always will be true,
With Mary ever guarding
Your doors with mantle blue.

We’re thankful for your light so bright
That helps us on our way.

Your spirit leads us onward
With banners red and gray.

We’ll cherish you forever
And love you Central High.

All praise to you, our Mother,
We love you, Central High.

The school song of
Central Catholic High School
Toledo, Ohio.

This is a postcard photograph of an unknown Catholic school band standing in the doorway of their school. It was probably taken to appear in the school yearbook. The only marking is the year 1910 penciled below the bass drum. The back is plain, without publisher or stamp box, so the boys in the band might just as well be from Canada as the United States. We can't even rule out France or Britain, though I think the young gentlemen's wool suits look more North American to me.

It's an impressive band with 36 musicians, all young men from ages 14 to 18 years old. Part of the reason I don't believe they are in the U.S. is that the band  has four single F horns, three with French/British style piston valves and one with German rotary valves. Horns, especially the piston valve kind, were not common in American schools in this era so I suspect this may be a school in Canada, possibly Quebec. However there are two mellophones, middle row right, which were once very common in American brass bands but never in British bands.

The band has three piston valve trombones, two tubas, a bass helicon, and a euphonium, as well as two saxophones and a generous number of clarinets, with two players holding small E-flat clarinets, front row left. There is also a bassoon, its wooden tubular bell visible at the back left, which is an instrument associated with British/Canadian military bands. There are also a pair of tympani perched on tripods typical of German school bands of this period. For a school band of 1910 this is a large ensemble that suggests the school as a whole is large too.

The reason we can say this is a Catholic school is that the band director wears a Roman Catholic habit and clerical collar. He stands in the center next to the bass drum holding a baton. But he is not the only priest in the group. There are a few more and I challenge my readers to find them all.  [HINT: There's more than three.]

Just above the band on the arched window above the door are painted letters that might identify the school's name, but most of the lettering  is obscured. Only an abbreviation V.I.O.C.D. is clearly visible. I suspect that refers to a Roman Catholic tradition, possibly a shortened Latin phrase, but I've been unable to discover what it means.

It's a band of musical brothers,
and fathers too, in a way.
In 1910 it was
just a keepsake from old school days.
But by 1914-1918
this photo of a Catholic school boys band
likely took on a different context
that turned it into a cherished memento.

  UPDATE: 9 April 2017 

Special thanks to a reader who sent me an email
explaining the meaning of the letters above the doorway.

<<<   >>>
"Ut in ómnibus glorificetur Deus" 
Latin: "so that in all things God may be glorified"
a Benedictine motto. The letter U was carved/engraved with a V in classical Latin.
I also make out the letters above "VIOGD" as "OR..." on the left and "...ORA".
Likely portions of "ORA ET LABORA, (Pray and Labor)
the main Benedictine motto.
As for the five religious men I spotted,
I suspect they are " Teaching Brother Monks" rather than Priests,
(as the Benedictines prided themselves in being mostly neither "clerical or lay"
and that this is a school connected to one of their abbeys.
<<<  >>>

I seems my choice of title was closer to the mark than I expected.
Thanks, WJ for your help solving this riddle.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where we always try to read from the same book.


Jofeath said...

My guess is 7, going by what look to be clerical collars.

Jenny said...

What a magnificent image! Your analysis of it is impressive. I hope you can eventually identify the location as it deserves better than to be left in the "unknown' basket.

Unknown said...

I'm drawn to the young snare drummer on the right -- with his turtleneck beneath his jacket; he's got that dark and handsome look.....ahhhh, never fall in love with a musician!

La Nightingail said...

An interesting and enjoyable post as usual! I counted 4, maybe 5 other priests besides the band director. Combined bands - meaning students and adults - is a great combination as they each have something to teach the other. :)

Boobook said...

Something was happening up on stage left that attracted two of the band members.
I give up on the number of clerics. Five maybe.

Barbara Rogers said...

I'm so glad I can rely upon you as a musician to know all the instruments, and their place in the history of bands around Europe and North America. It's great to have part of the question answered as to the initials of the saying on the lintel.

Wendy said...

Mike Brubaker - Piston Valve Detective.
I guess 7 - 5 in clerical collars plus 2 in dark turtlenecks. Brothers in training?

Little Nell said...

Judging by the impish grins of one or two of the boys, I bet the music was what kept them out of trouble!


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