Architecture, Cement History, Local History, Social Life

Monument to Music

You couldn’t call it a building – it doesn’t have walls. Structure doesn’t do it justice – too practical, too uninspiring. Perhaps monument seems a little grandiose, but I’ll stick with that for the moment. I’m talking about that architectural beauty in White Crescent Park, just at the entrance to town – the Kandos Band Rotunda.

Rotunda, I recently learnt, is any building with a circular ground plan. There were plenty of churches in the middle ages of that ilk. The band rotunda is a more recent creation, becoming popular around the turn of last century, to showcase brass bands which were also becoming popular.

Our rotunda might seem solitary and neglected, yet it is to me, romantic and uplifting. I would suggest also that it has more to say about Kandos history than any other building in Kandos.

Just consider the setting. James Angus and his board of directors always expected the reserves formed by White Crescent and Angus Avenue would be a showpiece for the town. They were part of the company’s vision for a town where ordinary workers could build their own home and garden on a quarter acre block in attractive surroundings (an idea developed from the suburb of Rosebery). That is why, when the company offered this area to Rylstone Shire Council in 1919, it was on the proviso that it always remain parkland.

Kandos people aspired to a band rotunda at least as early as 1920, a decade before their goal was achieved. Like most other facilities in Kandos, the rotunda was a long-term aspiration, gained through the input, co-operation and often tense interplay of various groups. Townspeople, urged on by the Progress Association, cleared scrub, planted and maintained trees, attended band concerts in the park and organised fund-raisers for the local band and band rotunda. Unions contributed to both of these under the industrial scheme. The shire council levelled and kerbed the area. The company offered their architect Stanley Jeffreys to design a concrete rotunda similar to the one at Gulgong; and gave cement and other materials for a chain fence.

However, it was a partnership between an architect and a builder that finally progressed the dream of a rotunda. Bolton Millane, architect and O F Roberts, builder, both from Sydney, had worked together on a number of projects in the Central West, including the Good Samaritan Convent in Fleming Street (Stanley Jeffreys by this time had retired). Millane specialised in religious buildings and his temple-like structure was not far removed. O F Roberts’ tender was £198/10/- and he completed the project in 8 weeks.

Designed in the classical revival style, the rotunda is built entirely of cement, with Doric columns and domed roof capped with a decorative ball. Its octagonal shape contains a wrought iron balustrade and when built it was lighted by electric lamps. Rumour suggests a capsule is set into the structure. On Friday 5 September 1930 the town gathered around the newly completed rotunda to hear an uplifting program of music by the Kandos Town Band under the conductorship of Bandmaster Julius. The acoustics were deemed excellent.

Throughout the thirties the rotunda was a popular venue for band recitals, mainly on Sunday afternoons and Friday evenings, with programs that included classical, popular and sacred items. It was also used occasionally for public meetings by election candidates and unionists. In the fifties, town bands in the central west had their heyday and Kandos got into the spirit with its annual Bands Festival. The festivals mainly took part at the sportsground but the rotunda was always acknowledged in some way. In 1954 “when passing the rotunda gardens each band halted in turn while its Bandmaster planted a tree to commemorate its visit”.

Kandos Band Rotunda sang romance but advertised Kandos industry. It was an industry that built much of Sydney infrastructure, and more around the state – being used on farms, roads and buildings. Today it is obvious in fences and houses throughout Kandos, particularly through the use of ash and cement blocks.

Since living in Kandos I have attended only a handful of events at the rotunda in White Crescent Park, usually for Christmas Carols. The most memorable event for Kandos people in recent years was surely the centenary event on Sunday morning of the October long weekend in 2014. The morning began with a combined church service, followed by a short program by Kandos Band and a welcome and thank you to local pioneers. Governor and Mrs Hurley cut and shared the celebratory cake, thanked Kandos for hosting their first “Governor duties”, and then listened to the fiddle music of Joe Yates.

On a path leading up to the rotunda is a section of pavers, a project of the centenary celebrations, which commemorate families and individuals connected to the town. Overlooking the pavers are signs capturing important aspects of the history of Kandos.

So yes, the rotunda is a monument – to music, to the town of Kandos, to its cement industry and to its history.

Sadly today, Kandos Band Rotunda is somewhat forlorn and neglected. Wouldn’t it be good to have community gatherings there again? Any ideas?

Thank you Donna and Bruce for suggesting this topic but no, I haven’t discovered anything more about the rumoured hidden capsule.


Christmas Carols at the Rotunda 2008 (featured image by author)
Kandos Band Rotunda (photo by author)

5 thoughts on “Monument to Music”

  1. We have lived in a variety of towns and there was always a service at The cenotaph to the fallen. These include Windsor, Freeman’s Reach, various towns in nth. Tassie, Lithgow. With school students marching & a variety of service bands, they were all well supported so let’s “remember “ the fallen to show kids we are & always will be, proud Aussies.


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