On January 20th the National Youth Brass band convened for a week of music making in the upper South Island. The management team had organised a program full of rejuvenating ideas for the band including a concert which included both musical and theatrical forms of audience engagement. In order to make these concerts a success we began our week with four full days of intense rehearsals. We focussed mainly on our two major works, “Aotearoa” and Le Carnival Romain” spending some time also on our smaller concert items and working with our stunning soloist Kyle Lawson. The pieces were all so enjoyable to play that, generally they came together very quickly under good direction and the band’s desire to play pieces they enjoy, to the best of their ability. The band also spent quite a bit of time in section rehearsals with a team of exceptional tutors, Anthony Smith taking the front row, Alan Spence taking the back row, Kevin Hickman with the Horns, Steve Miles with the Eupho Baritones, Mark Davey with the Trombones, Phil Johnston had the basses and Grant Myhill with the percussion. This incredible lineup were instrumental in making each section come together to play accurately and stylishly. So for that guidance we really thank them!!
Whilst doing all of this practice we were well looked after at Nelson college, with exceptional food and great facilities. Despite the weather consistently being in the upper twenties and Dave keeping the heat on us in the band room the entire week the band managed to stay cool most of the time thanks to the help of the school pool. Most of the band’s free time was either spent there or participating in organised activities, this included an afternoon of sports planned by Sue Ford (at the expense of Logan Ford) which allowed the many sporting inclined members of our band to showcase their extraordinary talents. Once the band was suitably exhausted it took us several hours of rest and recuperation by the pool before our next event; a bowling and quiz night tournament. Kindly hosted by the Tahuna Bowls Club once again we were able to demonstrate our sporting prowess, with Alan Spence even hitting a record high for incorrect Biases and his team mates for a record number of times yelling “Come on Spencey”. After this the annual quiz night took place with the Euphoniums, Baritones, Trombones and about four tutors simultaneously getting away with such an advantage and winning the entire competition quite convincingly.
After our four or so days of intense rehearsal it was time for our first concert in Nelson at the Annesbrook Church where we practiced our routine and costume changes in the morning and performed in the evening. Our routines involved changing from overalls, to suits, to traditional British band uniforms, then from marching gear to our “Jazz” outfits. Over the course of the next three days our costume changes would become more and more convincing although the first performance only saw one big error anyway; when the band was changing out of our overalls into our suits the lighting crew moved to early and when our name was read out to introduce us to the audience they clapped to a completely dark stage. This performance was livestreamed and we put on a good show for both the live and livestreamed audience, with both the theatrics and musical aspects of the performance coming off well.
Following a post performance debrief kindly hosted by the Ford’s the band was to hit the road the next day, we were on our way just down the road to Blenheim, with a short detour to Westport! Upon our arrival in Westport we unloaded at our accommodation and then had a great meal hosted by the Westport band. The committee and band members put on a great spread and we enjoyed exploring their bandroom and seeing their rich history on the bandroom walls. Next was a well executed yet particularly sweat inducing concert at the balmy NBS theatre. Once again a post performance debrief was held at the band room and the following day we were on the road again. It was awesome to travel around the beautiful south island however some of the scenery seemed pretty familiar by our second day of travelling. Our performance at the Blenheim ASB theatre was going to be a highlight, the new theatre was hyped up considerably by the Marlborough contingent of the band. However they did not disappoint as playing in that theatre was a highlight of the whole trip for me and I certainly am looking forward to playing there again this nationals. The best of three very large audiences saw our band playing the best we had all week and finish on a real high. We were hosted once again brilliantly by the Marlborough band both for dinner and our debrief.
On our final day we were hosted by Marlborough band again in the beautiful ASB theatre to record our CD. This proved to be both a long yet rewarding day for the band, especially the members of the band who have never recorded an album before. It was tedious at times however a very interesting insight into how these sorts of recordings come about. I look forward to the release of this and to hear how a band on top form sounds! Our annual prize giving ceremony concluded our week and many of the band were deservedly recognised for their exceptional contributions to the bands performances and behind the scenes work. Finally a night of celebration ensued and several faces looked very ‘sad’ getting onto the plane the next day.
This years youth band was so incredibly well thought out, planned and executed and I’d love to thank all those that made it possible. The Nelson, Westport and Marlborough bands which hosted us so graciously in their towns, the places which we had for accommodations which put up with all of the racket we made in the band room (and otherwise) and to our exceptional management team. The tutors for their expertise, Dennis Teeling for his huge help as stage manager this where so many things were going on on stage for him to think about, our exceptional soloist Kyle Lawson for his professionalism and presence at the camp and to Leigh Martin for his support and expertise behind the scenes as assistant manager. Finally a big shoutout to Dave Bremner and Mike Ford for their incredible work planning, organising, choosing and running this band. No minute of the camp was wasted yet at no point of the camp did anyone feel overtired thanks to Mike’s balancing skills and the polished final product which I know our CD will be is a testament to the skills and musical brain of Dave.
Thanks to everyone involved for an incredible week.