Homecoming for air force band members

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MUSICAL TREAT: The Royal New Zealand Air Force Band in action. Images supplied.
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The Royal New Zealand Air Force Band is tuned up and ready to entertain Mid Canterbury crowds with a world-class performance.

The band will perform at the Ashburton Event Centre on March 1. It will be a special performance for two band members formerly from Ashburton – Flight Sergeant Ben Robertson who leads the band as its bandmaster, and Corporal Byron ‘Buzz’ Newton who plays euphonium.

Music flows through the veins of these two talented musicians who both started as members of the Ashburton Silver Band.

Robertson said it will be great to be back in Ashburton playing.

‘‘I haven’t played in the new theatre as it has been fifteen years since the band has played in Ashburton. I am looking forward to playing in the theatre as well as playing in front of friends and family,’’ Robertson said.

‘‘I always wanted to play in a military band. I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to play in two such bands. I was inspired to join the New Zealand Army Band in 2003 by the then drum major of the band and fellow Ashburton Silver Band member Andrew Beckley.

“I’m really excited to be bringing such a talented group of musicians on a home-coming of sorts,” he said.

“It’s great to be able to show off the awesome versatility of the RNZAF Band.”

When not conducting the band, Robertson plays trombone.

Ben Robertson.

“In our concert I have the added bonus in that I get to play a bass trombone solo on Jimmy Webb’s ‘Wichita Lineman’, a pretty nostalgic pop tune.”

While starting on the cornet he has progressed through several instruments. Most of the band are part timers with other jobs but he, and two others, are full time members.

After studying trombone at undergraduate level in Wellington and then at postgraduate level in London, Robertson returned to Wellington in 2014 to join the RNZAF Band and was appointed bandmaster in 2018.

‘‘Being part of the a band is amazing and you get to travel around the world attending amazing events. There have been several highlights of my career including playing at tattoos in Scotland and Brussels, playing for the King’s coronation and leading the band at the 100th anniversary service for Anzac Day at Anzac Cove.’’

Along with his duties with the band, Robertson undertakes other musical works such as conducting with the Fellowship of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

For his services to the New Zealand Defence Force, Robertson has been awarded a long service medal.

Fellow band member, principal euphonium player Byron ‘Buzz’ Newton grew up surrounded by honeybees in Mid Canterbury which lead to his nickname. After two years of working as a bee keeper for his father Derek Newton, who owns TranzAlpine Honey, he decided to focus on becoming a full time musician. He is now one of the world’s top euphonium performers and a leading figure in brass education in New Zealand.

Byron ‘Buzz’ Newton.

After graduating from the University of Canterbury with a Bachelor of Music and a postgraduate diploma with distinction from the New Zealand School of Music in euphonium performance, Newton accepted a scholarship to study at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

He returned to New Zealand in 2012 and has been in high demand as a soloist, teacher, and freelance musician throughout Australasia. He holds the position of principal euphonium and assistant musical director with the Wellington Brass Band. He is an artist teacher at the New Zealand School of Music.

‘‘Those attending our concert are in for a real treat. The band’s performance will be a variety, a real liquorice allsorts. From big band to bag pipes, marches to musical theatre, drumlines to overtures and classical to country, showcasing the instrumental versatility and talent of a truly professional military band,’’ Robertson said.

  • The Royal New Zealand Air Force Band perform 7pm at the Ashburton Events Centre on March 1.