Army band visit highly anticipated

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The New Zealand Army Band playing at a tattoo. PHOTO SUPPLIED.
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The New Zealand Army Band’s jazz ensemble is to perform at the Ashburton Event Centre on May 1.

Among those looking forward to the performance are members of the Ashburton Silver Band, which has had a strong bond with the army band over the years. The silver band has had five of its bandsmen and one tutor join the army band.

One of which is Andrew Beckley, who still lives in Ashburton today. The 52-year-old has many memories of his time as a trombonist with the band. He remembers stepping out with the band for the first time.

‘‘We had just done four months basic training just like any other soldiers at Waiouru Military Camp, just the same as anyone else in the army did. I hadn’t played an instrument for four months. I got on a bus with the other band members who were heading to New Plymouth for a tattoo. I practiced in the back of the bus, including marching. Stepped off the bus, and we played.’’

Beckley was a member for 20 years. He became the drum major, before retiring to spend time with his family. He became a St John paramedic and owner of Beckley Coachlines and Travel.

Beckley also danced and sung with the band. ‘‘I just did as I was told,’’ he said.

‘‘I think I have been lucky to turn a hobby into a career, it’s been pretty cool.’’

Highlights included playing at Charles Upham’s funeral, the unveiling of the New Zealand Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and playing at the Korean War memorial in Washington DC.

Andrew Beckley performs with the army band in his youth.

The first from the silver band to join the army band was Michael Moylan, who joined in 1970 aged 29. Today he is 82 and lives in the North Island.

Michael spent five years with the band playing both euphonium and baritone. He said he joined because it gave him the opportunity to go to Singapore.

‘‘I was playing as an extra for Christchurch Fire Brigade Band for a contest and one of their players with in the army band and he convinced me to join.’’

‘‘We played some terrific music and I learnt to arrange music. I would recommend to anyone to join the armed forces. Life in the band was great. We made lots of good mates and travelled extensively. We went all over New Zealand and overseas including Fiji, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand,’’ Michael said

‘‘ I have lots of wonderful memories from my time with the band and the year’s spent in army ordinance post band. Memories like playing at the Queens visit to Singapore , High Commissions visits and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation Head Quarters in Thailand as well as millions of miles on buses where camaraderie was a big thing. I played at several tattoo’s and concerts galore.’’

Others to have joined from Ashburton over the years include Paul Ryan, Murray Duthie, Peter Dent and current drum major and euphonium player with the Royal New Zealand Air Force band Ben Robertson.

* The New Zealand Army Band’s jazz ensemble, joined by the United States Air Force Band’s Pacific brass quintet, will stage Rhythm and Brass at the Ashburton Event Centre on May 1. Tickets are available from the Ashburton Event Centre.