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Burra Cheer-Up Ladies Band: Keeping the music alive during war’s dark days
Saturday 25 April, 2015
Source: ABC News: Sally Sara
When the men went to the war, the ranks of Burra’s Coronation brass marching band were left empty – the trumpets, drums and trombones were silent.
So, a group of young local women had an idea. They had never played in a band before, and many couldn’t even read music. But they decided they would learn at least two songs so they could welcome home any returned soldiers.
The women convinced a local music teacher to become their conductor, and the first rehearsal of the Burra Cheer-Up Ladies Band was held in 1915.
“We will not dwell on the musical nature of that first evening, only to add that the girls were never more determined to do their best. We held two or three practices and tried our best to blow some musical sounds through the instruments, but the majority of the instruments refused to do what was required of them, and we had to retire beaten,” one member reported after the rehearsal.
The Cheer-Up Ladies Band made its first public appearance in February 1916. It wasn’t long before they gathered a lot of fans.
The Burra Cheer-Up Ladies Band marches through Adelaide (Courtesy Nancy Pearce)
In 1917 they were invited to lead a march through the streets of Adelaide. The women were dressed in white uniforms and matching hats. Like true, capable country women, they could play on foot or on horseback.
Their leader was Trix Pearce, who was a tireless fundraiser for the returned soldiers. Trix was an accomplished cellist, pianist and organist, A-grade tennis player, and a crack rifle shot. With those skills, she was unstoppable.
In 1920, the Cheer-Up band played at a reception for the Prince of Wales at the Adelaide Town Hall.
Just as the Prince stepped out of his car, the platform the band was playing on collapsed, while the women were sounding the final notes of God Bless the Prince of Wales.
The Cheer-Up girls escaped serious injury and the next day the Prince asked to meet Trix Pearce to thank the band for their efforts.
The Cheer-Up Ladies Band played its last concert on July 11, 1920. The women went back to their work and home lives, but the music stayed with them.
The Burra Jump-Up Ladies Band march through Burra, date unknown (Courtesy Nancy Pearce.)