History of The Stonewall Brigade Band 



 The Stonewall Brigade Band had its beginnings as the "Mountain Saxhorn Band" early in 1855. With the popularity of the Saxhorn, which had been patented by Antoine Adolphe Sax in 1845, and with the location of Staunton halfway across the Shenandoah Valley between the Blue Ridge and the Alleghany Mountains, it was natural for the group to adopt the name of Mountain Sax Horn Band. While the first president of the band was Edwin M. Cushing, it was David W. Drake, the founder, who secured the band's first director.
Drake is on the left and Cushing on the right in this photo:

Both Drake and Cushing were in their early twenties and enlisted other young businessmen in the newly-formed band. Mr. Drake had been a pupil of Professor Augustus J. Turner, a music teacher in Newtown, located just south of Winchester, Virginia.

Mr. Drake prevailed upon Professor Turner to move to Staunton, where he became instructor of music in the Wesleyan Female Collegiate Institute.    back to top

Within six months of Professor Turner's arrival, the band had furnished music for the dedication of the Odd Fellows Hall, had held several concerts jointly with Professor Graham's band of the Deaf, Dumb and Blind Institute, and by 1857 had begun to travel. On Independence Day, 1857 the band went by train to Craigsville Depot to play a concert and two days later played for United States Senator R.M.T. Hunter, who was visiting in Staunton. The first formal public concert of the newly organized band took place on Friday Night, July 17, 1857 at Union Hall on Beverley Street in Staunton.  Assisted by the Staunton Quartette and the Glee Club, the band played before an audience described as "the elite and fashionable of Staunton." The program included solos by Professor Alby; a burlesque, Teetotal Society, by Professor Turner; and a rendition of Turner's own composition, Gallopade. The admission charge was fifty cents per person or one dollar to any gentlemen accompanying one or more ladies.   back to top

During the 1850's the band began a long-standing tradition of playing for all civic occasions and political rallies such as those held for President Fillmore, President Pierce, Presidential candidates Stephen A. Douglas and John C. Breckinridge, and the ardent secessionist William L. Yancey. The band headed all political processions regardless of party affiliation. All churches were accorded its services. During June 1858, it presented concerts twice in Union Hall, one for the Methodist ladies, who were holding a fair, and again for the Presbyterian ladies, who were conducting a similar fete. In March 1859, when the two rival candidates for Governor, William L. Goggin and John Letcher, were staying at the Virginia Hotel, the bandsmen serenaded both.   back to top

Activities of the musicians took on a decidedly military aspect during 1858, when the state militia was reorganized to replace the old Staunton Light Infantry, which had been more of a social body than a military one. The West Augusta Guard was activated and the Staunton Artillery was formed. The frequent parades, reviews, musters, inspections, and overnight encampments of these units were shared almost invariably with the band. At this point in time the band became known both as the Mountain Saxhorn Band or Turner's Silver Cornet Band, depending on the occasion for which it played. On April 4, 1861, Turner's Silver Cornet Band, together with the Staunton Musical Association and the Glee Club, presented at Armory Hall the last concert that was to be given before the Civil War.  
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On Wednesday, April 17, 1861 Captain John D. Imboden, commander of the Staunton Artillery, was speeding westward from Richmond by special train. En route he received a telegram announcing that the Virginia Convention had passed the Ordinance of Secession. Imboden, anticipating the outcome of the issue, was hurrying with secret orders to move the Staunton military units as soon as he received official word. With the outbreak of the Civil War town bands (north and south) marched off with local battalions. The Augusta Guards became Company L of the Fifth Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment. With it most of the Mountain Saxhorn Band also mustered into General Thomas J. Jackson's First Brigade, Army of the Shenandoah. Of these band musicians who served during the war, one was killed, several were wounded, and one and probably one other were taken prisoner.   back to top

Throughout the conflict, the bandsmen performed a number of combat-related tasks, including guard and courier duties. From early 1862, they served as stretcher-bearers and surgeons' assistants. In addition to entertaining the troops in the field, they frequently appeared in concerts in Fredericksburg, Richmond, Staunton, and elsewhere to help recruiting rallies, clothing drives, and war relief fund raising.  
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Soon after Christmas in 1862, the members of the Fifth Virginia Volunteer Infantry (Stonewall Brigade) were detailed for picket duty along the Rappahannock River, below Fredericksburg, Virginia. The band exchanged serenades on several evenings with the Union band across the river. This was a time of quietude and good will; gifts of tobacco and apples were sent across the river while presents of coffee and candy were dispatched in return. Much later in the war, the long-awaited spring campaign began to open in the Wilderness of northern Virginia May 5, 1864. The Fifth Regiment, near Locust Grove, advanced far enough to the north to hear the strains of "The Star-Spangled Banner" played by one of Ulysses S. Grant's bands. The Stonewall Brigade Band responded with "The Bonnie Blue Flag" and the serenade was concluded with the Federal rendition of "Home, Sweet Home." In the years after the war, the true story of how the band members kept their instruments after the surrender gradually evolved through retelling and elaboration into a rather interesting legend which persisted throughout the twentieth century. The aging, war veteran members grew a story that it was a result of General Grant's awareness of the Fredericksburg Christmas event and that he responded with a personal order that allowed the Stonewall Brigade Band to retain possession of the only complete, unbroken set of Confederate Band instruments in existence -- Saxhorns, invented by Antoine Sax of Brussels, Belgium. In fact, General Grant was not at Fredericksburg to hear the Christmas serenade and was not at Appomattox at the actual surrender ceremonies to issue such an order.  Subsequent research reveals no such directive was ordered. In all likelihood the instruments remained with the members because they actually were their personal possessions and, fortunately, were considered by the Union to be personal possessions and not arms or other material of consequence to the terms of the surrender. Nevertheless, the "story" persisted and it influenced the band also to "grow" a particular affection for General Grant. When President Ulysses S. Grant stopped in Staunton on June 30, 1874 on his way by train to White Sulfur, West Virginia, the Staunton townspeople, and particularly, the band greeted him with fond enthusiasm. The band played several musical selections in tribute to the President from the portico of the American Hotel across from the Staunton depot. "...in response to an inquiry, Mayor Trout identified the musicians as members of the Stonewall Brigade Band. Grant, raising his hat and bowing, murmured, "The immortal Jackson!"  Such only reinforced the fable that Grant had singled out the Stonewall Brigade Band for special treatment and the band went on to honor the man by playing for his funeral service in New York in 1885 and again for the dedication of his tomb. Albeit an untrue story, its prestige served the band well in subsequent years when many financial and structural organizational woes bedeviled the band. The band's rich heritage, this myth, and the character of the membership bolstered spirits to overcome many serious threats to the band's continuous existence.  
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By 1875 the band was formally known as "The Stonewall Brigade Band”. The band included ten Civil War veterans and eight of the original founders of the band and. Edwin M. Cushing had continued as president of the band from the earliest years.

Before and soon after the Civil War, the band played concerts on the street corner of Main and Water Streets above the bridge (now called Beverley and Central Avenue), in the courthouse square, once on Reservoir Hill, and on West Main Street opposite Trinity Church.

During the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries the band became known nationally. In April 1889 the band went to the Washington Centennial in New York City and engaged in numerous parades and concerts. Here the band played for President Harrison and ex-President Cleveland. In 1893 the band was engaged for a two-week period at the Columbian Exposition, World's Fair, Chicago, where the band acquired the first-ever manufactured over the shoulder bass horn, called a helicon. This was the precursor of the famed Sousaphone. The Helicon is still in the band's possession and is used by the brass ensemble for performances of period music. back to top

The band also marched in six Presidential Inaugural Parades (Taft's, McKinley's, and two each of Cleveland's and Wilson's) and played at Cleveland's Inaugural. A crowning privilege came when the band was given the opportunity to sponsor a United States Marine Corps Band concert, under the direction of John Philip Sousa. The Marine Band played before a packed Opera House, now the Staunton City courthouse. After the concert, Dr. Sousa played several airs on the band's historic bugle, which was used in the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, the Mexican War, and the Civil War. During the Civil War Junius T. J. Tinsley, a soldier of the Stonewall Brigade was mortally wounded while blowing it to sound the charge. It was at this time that the bell was shot off the bugle. The historic bugle is still in the band's possession and has been played by such renowned musicians as Herbert L. Clarke—The Sousa Band's Cornet Soloist, Arthur Pryor—The Sousa Band's Trombone Soloist, and W. Paris Chambers—composer of the popular “March Religioso”.  
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The city purchased thirty acres of the Donaghe farm in 1876 and purchased additional land to total eighty-five acres by 1889 when the name Gypsy Hill Park had been adopted. On Friday 1 November Arbor Day, 1889, the band played while fifteen hundred trees were planted in Gypsy Hill Park.  Thus began the continuous series of concerts that has lasted to the present. The first bandstand was erected soon after and was a tall gazebo in the circle of trees south to southeast of the current bandstand. Termites infested this first bandstand so the uprights were cut off and the bandstand lowered five feet. During World War II, the termites again took their toll and a temporary structure was placed several yards from the original site, facing west. Listeners could pull their cars onto the grass while children ran, danced, and marched around the bandstand as the band played.  
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In February 1976 Frank B. Holt, a member of the band since 1923 and Past President of the Staunton Kiwanis Club asked the Kiwanis Club to raise funds to build a new bandstand. This won the immediate support of Mayor Frank Pancake, also a Kiwanian, and a committee was formed under the direction of Gifford Mabie and Kiwanis President Bruce Grover. Director Robert N. Moody drew up the acoustical specifications and dimensions for the new bandstand which was designed by architect Neal Goodloe, also a member of the Kiwanis. Contractor Roland Harshbarger coordinated the construction of the Gazebo bandstand without remuneration and much of the labor was donated by members of the Kiwanis and Jaycees. Much of the material that was not donated was sold to Kiwanians at cost, and a roofer, Fred H. Painter, donated his time to install the wood shingle roof. The dedication service for the new bandstand was Saturday, July 3, 1976 at 8 pm, featuring keynote speaker U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd, Jr., and included a concert appropriate for celebrating the two hundredth birthday of the U.S.A. The City of Staunton provided an addition to the rear of the Gazebo in 1996, including restrooms, dressing rooms and storage for chairs and other equipment. The bandstand was rededicated on Flag Day, 2001 by proclamation of Mayor John Avoli in honor of the Stonewall Brigade detachment of the Virginia National Guard and the Stonewall Brigade Band and is now officially the Stonewall Brigade Bandstand.


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The Stonewall Brigade Band is the nation's oldest continuous community band sponsored by local government and funded, in part, by tax monies. While a number of community bands have their beginnings earlier than the Stonewall Brigade Band's 1855 founding, all of the other bands have gone out of existence at some time and then been reorganized. The Federal Music Project in Staunton under the Works Progress Administration during the 1930's employed a dozen bandsmen and is credited with helping the band survive the depression. 
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In recent years the band has furnished music for the dedication of numerous facilities, including the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace, the Augusta County flag, the Augusta County Library, The Museum of Frontier Culture, the Augusta County Government Center, McKee Bakery, and the Woodrow Wilson Museum. The band plays for many civic, historical, and patriotic occasions.  Included among these are the visit to Augusta Expoland by Ronald Reagan in 1976, Christmas concerts to benefit the Valley Mission, a trip to Winchester to play for the United Daughters of the Confederacy memorial to General Turner Ashby, Memorial Day Services at the National Guard Armory, and annual Commencement ceremonies at Mary Baldwin College. In 1996 the band played for the 100th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone at St. Francis Catholic Church, having played for the cornerstone laying 100 years before. In 2003 the band played for the 150th anniversary of Christ Lutheran Church, having played for the laying of the cornerstone in the late 1800's. It also performed for the Virginia State Convention of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. In 2004, it performed at the Manassas National Battlefield Park in commemoration of the battle fought there in 1864 and at the Pamplin Foundation's "Celebration of America's Wars" in Petersburg, Virginia.   back to top

For impromptu engagements, the band uses its "Circus Band Book" sight-reading from a selection of popular tunes, waltzes, dances, and marches. Other small ensembles from within the band include a flute choir, a saxophone ensemble, and a brass ensemble, which performs in late 19th-century attire on period instruments.  
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The band conducts its annual Fall-Winter-Spring series of rehearsals each Monday night, from 8 to 9:30 p.m. in the band room at the entrance to Gypsy Hill Park.  Members learn new music and improve their performance skills in preparation for upcoming concerts. During these months the band reviews pieces needing added attention from the previous season, prepares a Christmas Concert, and sight-reading new compositions received "on approval" from the various publishers. The band members vote on the purchase of the music after playing through the selections. In mid-February the music committee and director select and program the music for the summer concert series and the remainder of the winter and spring rehearsals are spent on rehearsing each week's concert. 
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The Directors of The Stonewall Brigade Band:

1. AUGUSTUS J. TURNER was a native of Spartanburg SC, but moved to Staunton from Newtown, Frederick County, to become teacher of vocal and instrumental music at the Wesleyan Female Collegiate Institute, located in a brick building across the street from Trinity Church, which was recently torn down to make a parking lot. He also was agent for sale of pianos and other musical insruments and gave priavate lessons in piano, guitar, flute, violin, and ballad singing. Unlike other original band members he was well advanced in years when he joined the organization. In 1866 he became director of music in the Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Institute, remaining there until the 1890’s; and he continued as director of the Stonewall Brigade Band until 1884. In January 1900 he moved to Indianapolis to make his home with his daughter, Mrs. Cora Turner Freijs. He died there May 14, 1905, survived by four children.

2. F. R. WEBB came to Staunton from Ohio in 1883 as director of music in the Virginia Female Institute (now Stuart Hall) and as organist in the Trinity Episcopal Church. He was director of the Stonewall Brigade Band from 1884 to 1892 and continued at intervals with the band until 1910. He also served as drum major of the band on parade. After twenty-seven years in Staunton, Professor Webb returned with his family to his native state of Ohio.

3. FRANCISCO TOUCHON, native of Switzerland, became director in March, 1892. He formerly had been conductor of the Mexican National Band of Mexico City. In November 1892 he resigned to accept a position in Dallas, Texas.

4. THOMAS PROSHO, who was born in Derby, England, was instructed in music by V. C. Hill, who in turn was a pupil of Louis Spohr of Germany. Professor Prosho played in the Ole Bull Orchestra during its New England tour. In December 1892 he became director of the Stonewall Brigade Band, moving to Staunton from Richmond. Six months later he resigned to accept leadership of the Richmond Howitzer Band. He remained, however, until December 1893, conducting concerts and parades at the Chicago World’s Fair.

5. J. M. BRERETON, native of Delaware and former conductor of the Richmond Light Infantry Blues Band, became director of the Stonewall Brigade Band in December 1893. He resigned in 1904, though he served for two more decades as a member and instructor of the beginners’ class and for a short time as an assistant director. During his Staunton residence he led the First Presbyterian Church Choir and also taught the Staunton Military Academy band. In 1917 he moved to Richmond, but joined the band on subsequent tours.

6. THOMAS H. BEARDSWORTH, who was born in Blackpool, England, settled permanently in Staunton to head the VSDB music department, though he had served with the Stonewall Brigade Band several years before. Formerly he had been conductor of the First Virginia Regimental Band. In 1907 he organized and directed the SMA Band and eventually became known throughout the Shenandoah Valley for achievements in music. Professor Beardsworth was elected director of the Stonewall Brigade Band in 1904 and continued in intervals until 1922. He died February 5, 1941 in Staunton.

7. MARTIN G. MANCH was born in Erie PA and moved to Staunton in 1913. He attended the Royal Conservatory in Stuttgart, Germany, and also took training under Henry Gurney of Temple University, F. Melius Christiansen of St. Olaf College, and Frank Koehler of Berlin University. he taught music at VSDB, Augusta Military Academy, Staunton Military Academy, Fishburne Military Academy, Massanutten Military Academy, and Fairfax hall, and in his later years taught private music lessons and speech therapy. Professor Manch was founder and president of the Manch College of Music, and built a large structure in College Park which he sold to the Capuchin Brothers when the college went into bankruptcy during the great depression. He began association with the Stonewall Brigade Band in 1914 and served as director during several periods. He directed the Central Methodist Church Choir, and founded an orchestra at the church, which grew to become the Valley Symphony Orchestra, sharing rehearsal space in City Hall with The Stonewall Brigade Band.

8. ARTHUR JOHNSON, a native of England but veteran of the United States Army, came first to Staunton in 1922 with the Victor Concert Band (of the Victor Talking Machine Company, predecessor to RCA Victor Records) which played at the Shenandoah Valley Fair. He remained in Staunton and became director of The Stonewall Brigade Band in November 1922. He led the band through that winter and through summer concerts until August 1923, when he was called to Chicago because of illness in the family. He continued to be carried on roll as director until 1925 though his own illness prevented his return.

9. ROY W. WONSON was born in Gloucester, Massachussets, and was educated in public schools there and at the Citadel. He moved to Staunton in 1910 and served as headmaster of Staunton Military Academy until his death October 11, 1942. Among his distinctions was that of presidency of the preparatory school section of the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. He was choirmaster and organist at the Trinity Episcopal Church for a quarter of a century, where he was famous for his cantatas;  he was succeeded by Carl Broman at Trinity in 1938. He served as director and assistant director of The Stonewall Brigade Band for several intervals.

10. WILLIAM HOWE RUEBUSH was born in Singers Glen Virginia. In his early career he earned a wide reputation as teacher of vocal music. During World War I he directed an army band which won many honors in France; and later he led many civilian orchestras and bands, teaching in several institutions including the Shenandoah Conservatory of Music in Dayton VA. He was author of many marches, among them “The Stonewall Brigade March”, “Shenandoah,” and Tulane University’s “Alma Mater Song.” Captain Ruebush spent most of his life in Dayton, VA, where he became president of the Ruebush-Kieffer Publishing Company. For many years he led summer concerts of the Stonewall Brigade Band, and was officially director in 1927 during the absence of Major Wonson.

11. JOSEF STUDENY was born in Pilsen, Bohemia, and saw service in the Austrian army until his onorable discharge as master sergeant. He received most of his musical training in Germany, and, upon moving to America, enlisted in the United States army. He served thirty-four years as army bandmaster and retired as first lieutenant. Lt. Studeny was a member of the Stonewall Brigade Band during the 1930’s and director from 1940 to 1948. In 1949 he retired and moved to Highwood, IL. He died at Walter Reed Hospital December 23, 1958.

12. JOHN PAUL SWIECKI, a native of Michigan, was educated in public schools of Pennsylvania.  In 1908 he enlisted in the army and served for forty years.  He attended the Army Bandmasters School two years and was associated with musical activities for the remainder of his life.  As chief warrant officer he was an army bandmaster for ten years.  In 1947 Mr. Swiecki was assigned to the ROTC activities at VMI.  Upon retirement from the army he remained at VMI and continued his association with the band there.  He was connected with the Stonewall Brigade Band and the Stonewall Brigade Junior Band for several years prior to 1948, when he was elected director of the senior band.  He died in Lexington April 7, 1958.

13. PAUL B. SANGER, JR. was born in Free Union, VA. He attended school in Connecticut but took his Bachelor of Science degree at Bridgewater College with a major in musical education. He received a Bachelor of Divinity degree at Bethany Biblical Seminary, Chicago, in 1946, a Bachelor of Music degree at DePaul University Music School in 1947 and a Master of Music degree at the same in 1948. In addition he had courses at Peabody Conservatory and the University of Virginia. From 1947 to 1950 he taught music at Bridgewater College. He moved to Staunton in 1951 and established the band program at Robert E. Lee High School, as well as assuming directorship of the choral program that had been taught by Gladys Wenner, who moved to elementary music instruction. Mr. Sanger became director of The Stonewall Brigade Band in 1958 upon the death of Mr. Swiecki and held that office until 1966, when he resigned to become supervisor of music for the Virginia State Department of Education. Mr. Sanger passed away in Richmond VA.

14. RAYMOND E. BORRELL was born January 21, 1928 in Fairmont, WV and was educated in public schools there. He played alto saxophone inf the Fairmont High School Polar Bear Band. he enlisted in the army in 1946 and was assigned to the post band at Camp Kilmer NJ. After his discharge in 1947 he enrolled at the University of West Virginia, where took his Bachelor of Music degree in 1951 and his Master of Music degree in 1953. He taught in West Virginia, California, and Maryland before coming to Staunton to form bands at both Buffalo Gap High School and Fort Defiance HIgh Schools in 1962. He then was band director at Kate Collins Junior HIgh in Waynesboro and Waynesboro High School. He became director of the Stonewall Brigade Band in 1966 and held that post until his resignation in 1975. He passed away in Staunton VA.

15. ROBERT N. MOODY was born March 1941 in Staunton, VA and was educated in the public schools here. He began piano lessons at age 7 with Mattie Michael, began choir study with Beverley Fallis at age 8, and started in band at age 10, when Paul Sanger established the band program for the Staunton Schools in 1951. During his high school years, in addition to playing flute and piccolo in the Lee High Band, he sang in the choirs of First Baptist Church under Beverley (Fallis) Beard and Christ Lutheran Church under Thelma (Koiner) Erwin, his aunt. He began organ instruction with Dr. Carl Broman at Trinity Church upon graduation from high school. He enrolled at the University of Virginia in the School of Enginering and studied Electrical Engineering and Physics for two years before transferring to the Curry School of Education from which he graduated in 1963 with a degree of Bachelor of Science in Music Education. While he was a student at the University of Virginia he was organist at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Charlottesville in 1959 and organist/choirmaster at Hinton Avenue Methodist Church in Charlottesville from 1959 through 1963 as well as being chapel organist for the YMCA. He succeeded Raymond Borrell as band director at Buffalo Gap High School in 1963, a post he held for 23 years, also teaching physics at the school for several years and teaching all the beginning band students in the feeder elementary schools. Under his direction the high school band program grew from 17 students to over 120, and with the elementary program he was teaching over 200 students by the time he left teaching for the business world in 1986.  He was also the first organist/choirmaster at Covenant Presbyterian Church from 1963-1969, and choir director at Tinkling Spring Presbyterian Church from 1969 through 1983. He became assistant director of the band when Mr. Borrell became director. After completing his Master’s Degree at Madison College in 1974, Mr. Moody became director of The Stonewall Brigade Band in 1975 and has become the longest-tenured director in the history of the band, as well as the first Staunton native, the first student of a former director to become director of The Stonewall Brigade Band and the first director to have a son write music for the band. He is also the only director of the band who is a descendent of one of the original band members.  He is also a member and past president of the Staunton-Augusta Rotary Club, working closely with Jazz in the Park.

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From The Stonewall Brigade Band by Marshall Moore Brice Condensed with additions by Frank Holt (1985) and Robert N. Moody (2003).

The Stonewall Brigade Band by Marshall Moore Brice (Professor of History, Mary Baldwin College, Staunton VA), McClure Printing Company, Inc., Verona, Virginia—Copyright 1967, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 67-30663.
(Copyright ownership - Stonewall Brigade Band, Inc. 2000 by gift of Elizabeth Brice Lendian).

The Stonewall Brigade Band by Marshall Moore Brice (out of print) is available for reference in the Staunton Public Library, and for loan from the Augusta County Public Library and the Massanutten Regional Library (Harrisonburg, Va.). Copies are available for purchase by special arrangement from the Stonewall Brigade Band, Inc. Address inquiries to: Treasurer, Stonewall Brigade Band, Inc., 3 Gypsy Hill Park, Staunton, VA. 24401.

Click here for "Valley of the Shadow" project history of the band from 1855-1927

Click here for "Valley of the Shadow" project history of the band from 1927-2005

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Stonewall Brigade Band, 1924

The band performs its summer concert series at the Stonewall Brigade Bandstand in Gypsy Hill Park

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