Thursday, May 23, 2024

NZ Army Band plays on for 60th anniversary

It has been six decades since the New Zealand Army Band was officially formed, with the milestone marked in spectacular musical fashion over the weekend when band members past and present took to the stage at the Christchurch Town Hall. 

The concert was part of a reunion which saw more than 100 past band members gather from around New Zealand and further afield to share memories and enjoy another chance in the spotlight.

Their performance highlighted the band’s evolution over six decades and demonstrated not only its wide range of styles, but why members are internationally recognised for their musical prowess.

Director of Music, Major Graham Hickman said the weekend was a tremendous success.

“This was all about honouring our veterans, our ‘Living Heritage’, whose efforts over the decades shaped the band into the world-class organisation it is today,” he said.

“The current band is very much standing on the shoulders of giants, and it was great to be able to host so many legends over the weekend.”

Director of Music Major Graham Hickman leads the New Zealand Army Band on stage at the Christchurch Town Hall.

A member of the Army Band since 1985, and Director of Music since 2010, Major Hickman’s connection to the band runs deep.

“There have been Hickmans in New Zealand’s military bands for five generations now, so I feel a real sense of responsibility towards the band’s heritage,” he said.

“It’s also a huge privilege to work with the fabulous musicians we currently have in the band. They are exceptional – both as individuals and as a team – and achieve stunning results wherever they perform.”

Past member, Trevor Bremner, who joined the band in July 1964, said the weekend was great fun and brought back many good memories.

Mr Bremner was introduced to the band by a good friend who used to bring him along to play when they were short a cornet. He was then officially enlisted, with two stints lasting more than seven years.

“Music is my life. I started playing before I was five and am still blowing to this day,” Mr Bremner said.

Another past member, Tristan Mitchell, spent the weekend reminiscing on his 25 years with the band.

He auditioned with his trombone after seeing the group perform in his home town of Westport, and officially joined the band in 1993.

Mr Mitchell held many positions over the years, including Drum Major and Senior Instructor for the School of Music.

He said his role as Drum Major was a highlight, as he designed and led marching displays for major events including the 2006 Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant in 2012 and her 90th Birthday Celebration in 2016.

“It was a bit nerve-wracking. There was a lot of pressure and responsibility but I always had faith in the people behind me.”

The band officially marks its formation as 5 April 1964, when it was involved in the opening of the Hall of Memories at the National War Memorial in Wellington.

The band continues to support military ceremonial and diplomatic events today, along with inspiring future generations of musicians through a range of programmes and engagements.

“Everything the band achieves today is a result of continuous inspiration, innovation and improvement over the past six decades,” Major Hickman said.

“For this, we owe a great debt of gratitude to our predecessors, those who drove this quest for excellence.”

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