Published on Friday, 15 January 2010 23:29
Written by Bruce Gale
Veterans' Praise: A CD Review
Recorded by Allan Neuendorf at Baker Street Studios
Burwood, Victoria and at The Salvation Army, Doncaster
Melbourne, Australia, 2003.
We don't normally think about 80-year-old grandfathers playing in bands. But they do, and some of them sound quite good!
I would like to share with you some music from one such brass band based in Melbourne, Australia. It is called the Veterans' Band (picture), and the average age of the members is about 76. You can download two tracks from their latest CD (WMA files) entitled Veterans' Praise at the bottom of this page.
The Veterans' Band (let's call it VB for short) was formed in March 1982 to play music at a Senior Citizens' Rally organised by the Salvation Army. It was to be a one off event, but because its performance proved so popular there were immediate requests for the band to accept other engagements. None of the VB members are professional musicians, but almost all have been playing off and on for decades, including my father, who plays alto horn. The youngest member is about 65. The oldest is about 86. More than 120 men have belonged to the band in its 21 years. As you can imagine, there has been quite a turnover in membership! Even so, of the 44 original players, there are still 4 playing along on this CD.
When I first received the CD from Australia in July 2003 and read the sleeve notes, I was shocked to see just how many of the band members I know personally. (When you know so many senior citizens, you get to realise just how old you have become yourself. Ugh!). Apart from my father, there is Noel Jones, the bandmaster and resident composer. (I played in one of his bands when I was a rebellious teenager). Then there is Don Sketcher on solo cornet (I sat next to him in the cornet section of my father's band when I was about 14, and thought he was a fantastic player). Then there are family friends such as Jim Web – another amateur composer – on baritone, and Jim King (playing flugel horn on this CD, but better known in his younger days as an accomplished cornet player).
"We don't play that funny modern stuff!"VB's repertoire probably wouldn't appeal to many in the younger generation. As my father
only half jokingly put it “We don't play any of that funny modern stuff!”. Still, the band is not adverse to performing new compositions by their
bandmaster. In fact, the band's signature piece – which forms the title track of the CD – was written by Noel. It is a traditional-style brass band march, and you can download it here
or at the bottom of this page. I hope you like it anyway.
I have also included a simple hymn tune
) from the CD to give you some idea how they sound when playing chorale
style music. Hymn tune playing is traditionally regarded as a Salvation Army brass band specialty.
The various tracks on the CD display a careful concern for articulation – a characteristic of the brass bands Noel has conducted in the past. Even so, critics will inevitably find something to complain about. If you listen carefully, for example, you can sometimes hear the cornets straining in the upper register. You can probably also hear a few intonation weaknesses as well. But, hey, they have at least one fantastic alto horn player! (Guess who). The trombone section is not bad either. Before you criticise, remember that these guys are not young bucks anymore, and some of them are probably half deaf anyway. The real question to consider is, will you be able to do any better when you're 80?
Veterans' Band Instrumentation
Soprano Cornet: 1
Cornet in Bb: 11
Flugel Horn: 2
Alto/Tenor Horn: 7
Tenor Trombone: 7
Bass Trombone: 1
Eb Tuba: 5
Bb Tuba: 2
Download the tracks here:
The CD can be purchased from The Salvation Army Southern Territory (Australia) headquarters, 5 Hamilton St, Mont Albert, Victoria, 3127, Australia.