Musicians return to where it all began

NOTEWORTHY: Playing a solo in front of his home town audience is Royal New Zealand Air Force flight sergeant Ben Robertson on trombone.
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Ashburton audiences were treated to outstanding performances when the Royal New Zealand Air Force band played three concerts at the Ashburton Event Centre last Friday.

There were two performances for school children followed by a public performance in the evening.

The audience enjoyed a varied programme of brass music with many highlights, including a drum line and solos from leading aircraftman Matt Mulholland.

For two members of the band, flight sergeant Ben Robertson and corporal Byron ‘‘Buzz’’ Newton, the performance was extra special as they were back in their home town.

It was in Ashburton their music careers began, with the Ashburton Silver Band.

BACK WHERE IT ALL BEGAN: Ben Robertson (second from left) and Byron ‘‘Buzz’’ Newton (right) among some of the members of the Ashburton Silver Band.

Globe-trotting musician Newton admits music was not his childhood dream.

“My passion was centred on cricket,” Newton said. “I aspired to make a career out of it. However the cricket path didn’t unfold as planned, leading me to pivot towards music,’’ he said.

“Fortunately, it was a fantastic plan B that has since become a significant part of my life.”

Newton spent the first 13 years of his life in Ashburton. He attended Ashburton Borough School and Ashburton Intermediate School, where his future musical career began with keyboard lessons at the Technics Music Academy.

“One of my early highlights was performing Beethoven’s Fur Elise at the Ashburton Society of Performing Arts Annual Festival in the under-14 category,” Newton said.

He was initially drawn to the cornet before moving to the baritone horn.

He went on to join the Ashburton Silver Band. After moving to Christchurch Boys’ High School to finish his education, he crossed paths with the current RNZAF director of music, squadron leader David Gallaher, who introduced him to a new instrument.

“I was given a euphonium after I accidentally damaged my baritone attempting to remove a stuck mouthpiece from the lead pipe,” he recalled.

He’s now into his 12th year with the RNZAF band and has performed around the world.

NOTEWORTHY: From learning to play on a cornet with the Ashburton Silver Band world renowned euphonium player corporal Byron ‘‘Buzz’’ Newton entertains with the Royal New Zealand Air Force band.

In the performance Newton played solo piece Blind Spot.

‘‘‘It’s was great playing for the school children today and maybe we have inspired one of them to consider a career with the band. I was inspired when the New Zealand Army Band visited Ashburton Borough School when I was in my last year there,’’ Newton said.

When asked whether he had any advice for people considering joining the New Zealand Defence Force he said, “I would quote Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars and just say ‘Do it’,”.

Trombone player and bandmaster Ben Robertson, whose first taste in brass banding came as a nine-year-old was delighted to have finally played at the Ashburton Event Centre as it wasn’t built the last time the band visited, 15 years ago.

‘‘It was great, it’s a wonderful asset,’’ he said.

The audience were treated to a wonderful performance by Robertson

when he performed a solo rendition of Glen Campbell’s country classic Wichita Lineman by Jimmy Webb on the bass trombone. His talents were later showcased when he conducted the band.

He had enjoyed performing in front of the receptive hometown crowd. Being in Ashburton brought back special memories.

‘‘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,’’ Robertson said.

‘‘Being part of the band is amazing and you get to travel around the world attending amazing events.’’