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A MUSICAL VOYAGE - Royal Australian Navy

A MUSICAL VOYAGE - Royal Australian Navy

- 148 – The following

- 148 – The following day the brass quintet went across to the chow hall to provide some background music for the lunch and evening meal sessions. This proved to be tiring on the ‘chops’ with all five of us feeling like there was nothing left by about halfway through the last session. The group also performed for the lunch session the next day. That evening there was finally the chance for the full group to perform—the venue being the customs compound of the camp. It was a great opportunity to see how our part of the show went together and to get that first performance under our belts. The crowd was very appreciative with a great vibe (mainly US soldiers that were heading home for some leave with their families over Christmas). We identified some areas where we could improve and had a plan of attack ready for the next set up when the civilian artists arrived. The civilians we worked with during this tour were great, a real pleasure to perform with. In “performance order”: Hayley Jensen. A young vocalist with an amazing voice. Hayley performed three songs for most of our shows; all originals, and we believe she has a couple of hits there. This was probably verified by the fact that most of us were humming the tunes during pack ups every night. She is a lovely girl, who should have a good future in the Australian music industry. Beccy Cole. What can one say? Most of us were a little hesitant not being big country music fans, but what we expected and what we got where polar worlds apart. Beccy is the consummate performer with an amazing talent. Her originals are just that, with fun lyrics and catchy tunes. This tour has given her a vast number of new fans. Off stage, she was just as much fun. Lehmo. What a funny man! Lehmo (who doesn’t like to be known as Anthony or the ex chartered accountant—now there’s a major career change), played to the crowd, and kept the band amused even on the last show, when we had heard some of the jokes every night. A lot of fun—the Adelaide Fringe and Melbourne Comedy Festivals should be in for a treat with his upcoming “Christmas in Baghdad” show. Little Pattie. Pattie was accompanied by her husband Laurie on kit and performed some great old classics. She received a great reception from the crowds who were very appreciative of her Vietnam efforts; a real déjà vu trip for Pattie, but without the fireworks that she was in with the onset of the Battle of Long Tan on her last tour. She has had a very long performing career and still knows how to grab a crowd. Angry Anderson. Hard to put into words the little stick of dynamite that is Angry. He has been performing for many years, and still had them rocking in the aisles. A “bad boy” with a very tender heart and a great deal of compassion. He gave Dan, on sound, a hard time always wanting more fold back. Most of us were going deaf from the loud levels, but it was never enough for Angry—the louder the better! Bessie Bardot and Geoff Barker. Bessie was always a favourite with the predominantly male crowds, and she certainly played the part to the hilt. Geoff—‘Commando’ from the TV series ‘Gladiator’—seemed to have the same effect on our female troops. We cannot forget the skills of the Royal Australian Navy Band. Not only did they put on a great show as a separate team, showing a great deal of versatility, but they also accompanied all of the artists magnificently. It was no small task with such varying styles, but they tackled each with the same professionalism and great results. Beccy Cole found it more appropriate to name the band “Sexual Chocolate”. I don’t think it will stick, but you never know… On Wednesday morning the civilian artists arrived. It was great to catch up with them all again and to finally meet the “funny man” of the show, Lehmo. No time for the guests to acclimatise or recover from jet lag though as we had our first full show that night. It was fantastic to finally see the show all come together—and even better to see that it worked! All of the civilian artists did a great job (especially considering they were jet lagged). Although there were a couple of first night blips, the show was a great success with a fantastically appreciative crowd. We had one final show at the Australian camp before finally leaving for our next destination. Royal Australian Navy Band: A Musical Voyage

- 149 – With our combat body armour and all bombed up we boarded a Hercules C130 and travelled the first leg towards our next destination, Camp Smitty. For some, this was their first time on a Hercules, so a little bit of extra adrenalin was pumping through some bodies. After a very smooth tactical landing it was time to change from air to land, with our first convoy of the trip. For me, this was the first time that it really felt like we were in a totally different part of the world. What an unforgiving landscape—all you could see for miles in every direction was a lot of sand, dust and flatness. Then out of nowhere, a roadside store selling produce, be it rugs or home goods, even clothing. Travelling through the rural area there was only a hotch-potch of houses—looking quite basic, especially when compared to what we are used to, but nearly all with a satellite dish on the roof. In the less built up areas there seemed to be only the oddly scattered tents. I managed to see quite a few herds of sheep throughout the two hour convoy journey, but missed out on the camels, although apparently they were out there. So, no music for a day, but a day of firsts for many of us— as our esteemed Chief Petty Officer Andrew Stapleton would say, “This is the stuff” (or words to that effect). Our new hosts greeted us very warmly and we had some great tents to call home for the next couple of days. After our Christmas Eve show we all awoke very bleary eyed for a Secret Santa/Kris Kringle session. Angry won the best dressed competition (that none of the rest of us were aware was happening) sporting an extremely stylish neck to toe thermal striped ensemble, complete with Australian flag and silk boxers—quite a sight to behold, especially for poor Tracy seeing the pre-boxer short version when she went in to give the boys a wake up call. I don’t think she has recovered yet. On Christmas Day, 11 people (including Bessie, Beccy and Angry) jumped on an English Merlin helicopter and went to Basra to perform for Christmas lunch. Meanwhile, the brass quintet performed for Christmas lunch at Camp Smitty. It was a very noisy affair with not much brass quintet being heard, but the troops, along with special guest, the Governor General, seemed to enjoy themselves (probably helped along by a beer issue). With lunch over, we set up as much gear as possible for the upcoming evening performance. It was then that the best laid plans started falling apart. Due to bad weather, the Merlin was unable to return, so the 11 were not going to be back in time for the evening performance. As it turned out they didn’t return to Camp Smitty at all, finally meeting us at the next location. Obviously that left us with some limitations as to what could be performed, but our main issue was that we had no drum kit. As chance would have it, one of the troops on the base was an intrepid musician who just happened to have his electronic drum kit with him. We ended up having a fun show, which concluded with a cover band comprising Aussie and British soldiers. Following the show we were quite limited with time to pack up and get ready for our next flight. We made the time line and were ready to go by 2030. Plans were not to go smoothly that day though, at 0100 (and in very, very cold weather) the message finally got through to us that we wouldn’t be going anywhere…so it was back to the tents for another night. The next night we tried again, although the flight was delayed we did get off the ground. With the benefit of being out so late the previous night, most of us were a lot more rugged up, doing our own impersonation of Michelin men. We travelled by US Chinook helicopter, which was a great experience (the first for nearly all of us). After a nearly two hour flight, we dropped a small party of musicians off at the landing zone in Camp Victory before the rest of the tour party continued its journey to the International Zone in Baghdad, arriving at about 0400. The small party we left at Camp Victory conducted performances in the Palace and dining facility at Camp Victory while the remainder conducted performances for Australian and Coalition Forces in the International Zone in Baghdad. After three hours sleep, we set up for our next concert (meeting up with most of the Basra group that we had “lost” on Christmas Day), before being lucky enough to be taken on tour of the International Zone. The tour included Saddam’s crossed swords, which was very sobering. Following an afternoon concert we had another tour; the former Ba’ath party headquarters. It was a great view from the top of the building (well worth it after the 150 step climb in full body armour). The moment was very surreal as we watched a beautiful sunset whilst a gun battle was being fought just a short distance away. Royal Australian Navy Band: A Musical Voyage

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