Museum of the Highwood
High River, Alberta

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Listen Up! Musical Memories of the Highwood
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Lillian: "Well, this is sort of an interesting interview to do today because usually when you think of pioneers in this area, you think of people involved in agriculture and cattle and so on. But there always has been a great interest in culture, in music and drama in the High River area. And, Jack Pickersgill is sitting here in the living room with me and we're going to talk a bit about the contribution made by the Pickersgill family especially his father.
Jack: My father emigrated from England, the North of England in 1928. And in Yorkshire he was a coal miner. In almost every village in the small town of North of England, every small town village had its band, which was always a brass band. You'd never find a brass and a reed band. Always brass. And, uh, he was in love with his brass band. He was a member of the colliery band in Southmoor in England. He became very proficient at it and taught.
He taught two young fellows by the name of Smith, Arthur Smith and Ernie Smith who emigrated two or three years previously to Calgary and, uh, they heard, either heard or associated with the High River band. And the High River band at that time was looking for a musical director or a conductor and so they contacted Dad in England and suggested that if he could see fit then he should come to Canada and seek a new life and take on this position as band master in High River. So, conditions as they were, he pulled roots and came in 1928.
Lillian: So would your dad sell everything over there and -
Jack: Yah, he had to sell everything there and we came here with a couple of steamer trunks and that was the total of what we owned. And we were met at the station in Calgary by Dr. Bedingfield who was extremely active in the band at that time. He played in the band and I think it was almost as dear to his heart as the band was to my dad.
Lillian: So the band originally was a town band?
Jack: I believe originally it was a town band.
Lillian: But he hadn't got into school band music yet or maybe he never did.
Jack: No, not at that stage, there was no such thing. There was a town band, which was rather unique for a small town in Southern Alberta. To find High River that culturally advanced to have a band.
Lillian: So, uh, did he teach? Did he give private lessons as well?
Jack: Yes. Particularly in brass although he would teach a little guitar. I don't know how he learned enough to teach a little guitar. He knew how to handle the chords and how to tune them and, uh, guitars and a bit of violin and what have you. Eventually he taught a little bit of piano! He taught himself piano to start with. He had no formal lessons in the piano but he came very quick, proficient at it.
Lillian: So did he teach you kids?
Jack: Yes. I started when I was eight years old and Pete started, Peter my younger brother, started uh, about the same age.
Lillian: So you practiced every day?
Jack: Ya Dad said if you miss one day you know. If you miss two days your neighbors know. If you miss three days the world knows it so, ah, in order to retain your face muscles, what you call your embrasure, you have to practice every day.
Lillian: I think that's true of everything you do. You have to be disciplined to work at it, yah.
Jack: I don't know how many people today can attribute their interest in music or their ability in music.
Lillian: Or their love of it.
Jack: Of their love of it, to Dad but uh
Lillian: That's a wonderful - that is just marvelous to think that originally he started out as a coal miner in England. That's really something.
Jack: He only had, really, three interests in life: family, music and his home. I'm not too sure which order there is.
Lillian: No, he probably couldn't tell you cause they were all intermingled.
Jack: Most of us, at the end of our working day, find something else to do. The only thing he found to do was music.


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