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A MUSICAL VOYAGE - Royal Australian Navy

A MUSICAL VOYAGE - Royal Australian Navy

- 138 – A LIFE ON THE

- 138 – A LIFE ON THE OCEAN WAVE Article by Lieutenant Michelle Coleman, RAN Long Look Exchange has taken place between Australian, New Zealand and British forces for the last twenty years. It commenced primarily as an exchange for the Senior Non- Commissioned ranks of the Army, but has since been opened into a Tri-Service venture and is open to all trained ranks. Twenty positions were available to the Royal Australian Navy in 2004 and I was one of the lucky contenders. On Friday 17 May 2004, I boarded a Royal Air Force Tri-Star aircraft with about 100 other excited souls wondering what was awaiting us all at the other end, and just what were we letting ourselves in for during the next four months. It wasn’t long before we realised that it would take a little more time to find out. We were taking the “long-route” to the United Kingdom so that the aircrew was able to do an around the world flight. First stop Fiji – unfortunately a few hours for refuelling at Nadi airport does not constitute “been-there, done-that.” Next stop was much more substantial, being Honolulu, Hawaii. We arrived there local time 0100 Friday morning, which was approximately 5 hours before we’d left to travel to the airport in Sydney. All that after spending over 14 hours in the air. A prime example of the time line playing tricks on the mind and body. Our Friday extended over 40 hours. Luckily we had a full day in Hawaii, and the time to be able to visit Pearl Harbour. The memorial that is set up there is fantastic and well worth the visit to anyone that gets the chance. Of course, I also got the chance to view (and photograph) the world famous sunset over Waikiki beach – absolutely stunning. Next morning we headed off bright and early for the second and final leg of our trip. This was broken up with another “airport visit” – this time in Edmonton, Canada. We finally arrived at RAF Brize Norton on Sunday afternoon local time after more hours in an aircraft than I’d like to remember. From Brize Norton is was about a two hour drive to Portsmouth and HMS Nelson, which was to be my home for the next four months. For the duration of my exchange I was posted to the Royal Marines School of Music. I was lucky to work with some great musicians and had the chance to really learn about the finer workings of the training system within the Royal Marines Band Service (RMBS). As many of you probably know, the Royal Australian Navy Band was initially originated from the Royal Marines (RM), so our ties go back a long way. We have kept many of our RM traditions, but have also changed quite a few things. Two of the most noticeable differences between our two organisations now are with regards to instrumentation. The RMBS trains all its personnel to play string instruments, and the orchestra is still a large part of their commitments. The second main difference is that the RM still has a dedicated Drum and Bugle Corps. Upon joining the RMBS, musicians that play drums will either become a percussionist or a drum/bugler. It is quite overwhelming listening to those beginning bugle players that have just started training – some interesting sounds. The percussionists will play cymbals and bass drum on parade, but never military side drum. As with the RAN, the majority of RM musicians play more than one instrument. The categories set by the RM are much stricter however. For example if you audition on saxophone, you will also be required to learn either the violin or the viola. A euphonium player would also learn to play cello. At this point in time, the RM is not hiring specialist vocalists and guitarists, although a guitarist was hired just before I left. As there is no specific category for him, he will need to learn new instruments, but will also be utilised on guitar. All newly recruited musicians attend a 10 week training course which is run at the Royal Marines School of Music by Royal Marines Commandos whom are posted to the school. Following their recruit training, the new entries commence their music training course. This course is of 2 years duration for the drum and buglers and 2 years 8 months for the musicians. Some trainees complete the course in much less time than this, but many must learn a new instrument, so the majority of training time is utilised. Royal Australian Navy Band: A Musical Voyage

- 139 – The location of the school is the old Royal Navy jail. It is a heritage building, and keeps many of its traditional features. The cut glass on top of the thick outer walls certainly gives a feeling of times gone by. The jail cells are now individual practice rooms for the students. The only difference now is the students choose to lock themselves in (and others out). Whilst I was at the school I held the position of Assistant Director of Music – Training. This involved a myriad of tasks including teaching, assessing, administration, course planning, and rehearsing ensembles. I particularly enjoyed the teaching programme that I was involved in for the duration of my stay. It gave me a working relationship with most of the staff and students at the school, and a great insight into the RMBS from all levels. During my time in the UK, I also worked with Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Band Portsmouth. This was both through the advanced training wing and as a guest conductor. This group of musicians was great to work with. The band is quite large, and is forever multi-tasking. I was involved in the 60 th Anniversary of D-Day celebrations, which saw my first brush with royalty. The band involved me in many other experiences both as performer and observer, which also gave me the chance to see some more of the countryside. I was lucky to have my husband come over and join me for a month of my exchange. We were fortunate to be able to travel through a great deal of the United Kingdom. It was an absolutely fantastic experience. There is so much beautiful countryside, and so very different to home. We spent a lot of time being overawed by the history and greenness of the country. Throughout the four months I had the opportunity to meet, work with and master class with some fantastic musicians (both military and civilian). Added to that were the unique experiences like attending a dining-out night on board HMS Victory. There are so many similarities between our two organisations, yet still many subtle differences. This trip was a wonderful chance to strengthen ties between our organisations and to impart and receive knowledge about the way that we currently do business. Add to that a chance to see some beautiful countryside, and a wonderful experience is guaranteed. RIMPAC 2004 Article by Able Seaman Tracy Burke In May 2004 Able Seaman Riseley, Able Seaman Lowe, Able Seaman Macfie and myself joined HMAS Parramatta for RIMPAC exercise 2004. After five days of work-ups with the ships company, sea sick and missing home, we sat on the flight deck and played the ship out of Sydney Harbour with our rendition of Hawaii 5-0. Once at sea we were quickly integrated into the ships company, all four musicians would have a taste of a sailor’s life at sea. Our days were busy but exciting, we were put into watches on the bridge, day duties with different departments and still tried to squeeze in our rehearsals. Our first port was the island of Tonga where we performed Ceremonial Sunset and jazz group for Tongan dignitaries and residents. The Tongan people were so friendly and generous it was kind of sad to leave, but we knew that Hawaii was only ten days away. When we arrived in Pearl Harbour we were met by the Chief of the Pacific Fleet Band who showed us around the base, but most importantly, introduced us to the thirty musicians that we would be working with over the next few weeks. For all of us this was a dream come true, the opportunities were endless. We were fortunate enough to perform at such events as the fourth of July celebrations in front of over ten thousand people at Ala Moana, Hawaii’s biggest shopping centre, and in the hanger of the Aircraft Carrier USS Stannis for the Commanding Officers and ships company and all involved in RIMPAC. We sailed from Hawaii and went back to our duties. We were involved in Evolutions with the ships company, jackstays and helped store ship etc. Standing on the GDP in the pouring rain while we refuelled was actually quite unforgettable. New Zealand was our last port before returning to Sydney, the weather was terrible but we were happy to be so close to home. Our time onboard HMAS Parramatta was definitely a great experience; we made lots of friends and took home some great memories. Royal Australian Navy Band: A Musical Voyage

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