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The RNZAF Central Band on Tour

The RNZAF Central Band on Tour
The RNZAF Central Band on tour (WN09-0025-16tn)

Blog #4
Friday 20 February:

With the first concert of the day not taking place until tonight at Taupo’s Great Lakes Centre, today is a chill-out for the band – Yay! Given the pace of the past few days, it is a necessary break. With seventy people on the road, living out of suitcases and spending all day together things can get a little scratchy – all part of the joys of touring.

Some of the band are heading off to the prawn farm for lunch (yum!), the Drum Corps have decided to go jet boating, and others are just reading.  Some sad saps are working – Owen Clarke has two radio interviews scheduled as the next stop is Hastings and with Napier’s Art Deco weekend on, there’s a bit of competition.

On tour with us this year are two gorgeous singers – Bella Kalolo and Stephanie Paris. It varies things to have some vocal pieces alongside the pure band ones; besides which, the audience love them.

Bella has performed in a range of shows, including Dancing with The Stars, The Lion King and alongside the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. On tour she sings a powerful Tarakihi, a song Kiri Te Kanawa recorded a few years back and was used as part of an All Black tour.

Stephanie, a popular jazz singer around Wellington has also toured NZ, Australia and South Africa with the Pink Floyd Experience.

She also has a family connection with the band. Bella is married to Alastair Isdale who works with our Director of Music at the band rooms in Wigan Street and also plays the double bass and bass guitar with the band.

Stephanie is married to Andre, a talented saxaphonist with the band, who’s sax solo of Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’ is a velvety rich performance in the evening concert line-up.

After tonight’s concert we will be farewelling a very wet Taupo and heading to the (hopefully sunny) Hawke’s Bay. On Saturday there will be a brief outdoor concert before some of the band hold a music workshop for local students; while others get to do more dreaded marching practice.

On Sunday at the Hawke’s Bay Opera House at 12.30 will be our last performance before we pack up and head home to Wellington!

Blog #3
Thursday 19 February.

The ‘Central Band of the Dark Shadows Under Their Eyes’ are starting to feel a bit tired. The past 24 hours has been a frantic cacophony of school concerts during the day, followed by evening concerts.

In the last blog we were just about to perform our first evening concert in Hamilton to a very full Founder’s Theatre. The evening concerts are slightly more formal affairs and include ‘Festival Overture’ by Shostakovich and ‘Les Preludes’ by Liszt  - although it's not all serious, with ‘The Gumboot Song’ getting an airing and ‘Mamma Mia’ from ABBA.

The Maestro’s - Owen Clarke’s - parents were in attendance as were the Chief of the RNZAF’s – luckily the show went off without a hitch! Catching up with family around the country is a great part of tour, with parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends all coming to watch the shows. 

Wednesday morning dawned, well actually it was still pitch black, when an advance party headed to Rotorua. The loading team to set up and Owen to have a radio interview. Imagine the long faces of Owen’s driver and photographer when they got to the radio station to be told the interview was scheduled for 8.30am, not 7.30!

The announcer was keen to have a blow on a trumpet, which he did. It is unlikely he will be asked to join the band anytime soon.

The school concert at 11.00am had Rotorua’s Civic Theatre packed to the gunnels. A thousand excited kids revved up by SGT Murray Mansfield were raring to go.Unfortunately when it came time for Murray to play his pipes (attired in a Pink Panther costume and kilt) ‘someone’ completely forgot and launched into conducting the last song instead. Oops.

Then it was time for a quick bite before a lunch-time performance at City Focus, in the centre of Rotorua’s CBD. A good crowd assembled to watch us strut our stuff, while some handed out fliers promoting the evening’s concert.

With the evening concert fast approaching it was back to the Civic Theatre. It went even smoother than the first night, and everyone is feeling good about the selection of music, with serious pieces interwoven with some lighter ones.

The lunch-time performance must have paid off, because it was pretty much a full house and the front of house team did a roaring trade on selling the band CD.

Then it was back to the hotel and straight to bed, completely bypassing the bar where none of us would dream of spending our allowance money!

This morning was again an early one for the Loading team (who really have done a spectacular job this tour setting up the venues and packing down after the shows) and Owen heading to Taupo for a second radio interview.
 
Today’s two school concerts were both held at Nui a Tia College. Their head of Music used to play in the band. The first concert was for the College’s students and the second for other local schools, although local can mean as far away as Taumaranui, who had students travel over an hour to come to the show.

With the second concert being the last schools’ concert of the tour (and the last ever schools’ concert for Lucy who is going to Canberra after tour to do further study) there were some hijinx with vibrating cell phones taped under chairs, improv dancing, and even a Mexican wave.

We are all now relaxing in a very muggy Taupo, having the night off and catching up on rest and laundry. Word is tomorrow’s evening concert is sold out, so watch this space!


Blog #2
Tuesday 17 February

The tour continues with the band now in the City of the Future (as the slogan says) of Hamilton. With a bit of a break between shows most are catching up on some zzzz’s before tonight’s evening concert.

Yesterday, after an excellent evening at Base Whenuapai, (where only two people managed to lock themselves out of their room and thank you to the Base Auckland band for hosting the evening function) the band performed two shows at the Bruce Mason Theatre in Auckland. The first one was ‘Morning Melodies’, a regular show that has guest performers, and yesterday that was us.

It is targeted for retirees, so most of the audience were grandparent age, not that it made them any less enthusiastic.

SGT Murray Mansfield, who doubles as an aircraft technician with 3 Squadron and a champion bagpipist, nearly recruited one elderly lady who thought front of house were recruiting. Any excuse to talk to a handsome man in uniform!

After the show there was time for a quick lunch before the raucus sounds of 1000 school children could be heard filling up the theatre for the afternoon’s school concert.

What a show it was! Along with some education (it is school time after all) about the different instruments that make up the band, there was the chance for some lucky kids to conduct, (proving that DMus really is just there for show). Murray in his kilt with the bagpipes was a huge hit, as were the drummers performing the ‘Gumboot Song’.

Probably not too surprisingly the biggest hit would have been the tunes from ‘High School Musical’ that literally brought the house down. After the concert the band was shoe-horned into Air Force bus, bound for Hamilton.

This morning we headed out to the Founder’s Theatre for a morning school’s concert.  With the first of the school groups not arriving until 10.45am for an 11.00am show, the front of house team were getting a little ancy. Herding 1000 school children is a little like herding cats.

Again the kiddies loved it. The schools concerts really are a highlight of the tour, with everyone on stage and off getting the chance to let their hair down and have fun with the music. After the concert we all quickly left the theatre for our first street march this tour. With the police having shut off the road, we marched down the main drag – Victoria Street.

Lead by our indefatigable Drum Major, W/O Bob Gillies it was for some of our newbie members their first ever marching experience. Judging from some of the bewildered faces of the public, it might have been their first marching experience too!

Shortly we will heading off, dressed to the nines in our evening dress, to perform the first evening concert of the tour. Break a leg!

Blog #1
Sunday 15 February 2009

We are underway! The Central Band of the Royal New Zealand Air Force has embarked on its annual tour. This year we (all 65 of us, plus singers) are travelling to Taupo, Auckland, Hamilton, Rotorua, Taupo (again!) and the sunny Hawkes Bay before heading back home to Wellington.

The first leg got underway on Friday 13 February and saw us bundled into two large buses and a van, leaving a rain-soaked Wellington for Taupo.

Our first performance on Friday evening was a small one at the Taupo cenotaph where we performed a few quick pieces and the Beat Retreat ceremony. Then it was off to the Taupo RSA for dinner and karaoke (it’s hard to know if we sang better than the locals, but the rendition of ‘Unchained Melody’ certainly got the eardrums ringing!)

Saturday dawned clear and windy as the loading team were dispatched to set up the stage at the airfield adjacent to the Taupo Gliding Club, which was where the day’s show, the Flying Proms was to be held.

During the quick rehearsal it became clear that Wellington’s title as New Zealand’s windy city would be challenged. Music stands, mics, indeed anything that moved had to be taped to the stage and music pegged to the stands. The rehearsal also revealed that the wind chill factor was hovering somewhere near 0 Celsius.

The Taupo Flying Proms is the first of its kind in New Zealand, combing flying displays set to music and ending with a good old fashioned Proms concert knees-up.

In what is its second year the day included displays from a Gyrocopter, Tigermoth, the Yak aerobatics team, a Mustang and the RNZAF’s own Red Checkers.

Director of Music, Squadron Leader Owen Clarke, did a great job selecting music for the different aircraft and the timing of the flights to the pieces was choreographed to perfection.

As the show progressed the temperature continued to plummet and the wind continued to blow. Ingenious methods were used to keep warm. Lucy came up trumps, somehow managing to fit her Air Force jacket on under her shirt. She looked like she’d had a few too many pies but at least she was warm!

Also feeling the cold, ever the professional was guest soprano Emma Fraser, who sung a wonderfully rich version of Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’ and a heartfelt ‘O Mio Bambino Caro’.

The crowd, wrapped up against the elements were fantastic, joining in with a rousing ‘Rule Britannia’ and Fred Dagg’s ‘Gumboot Song’.

With the cold and the wind, it would have to be one of the hardest concerts the band has done. Big ups to the loading team who continued in the cold packed up in while the rest of us headed to the nearest pub to defrost!

Next stop Base Whenuapai and Auckland!

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