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A MUSICAL VOYAGE - Royal Australian Navy

A MUSICAL VOYAGE - Royal Australian Navy

- 190 – The Bonhomme

- 190 – The Bonhomme Richard has the capacity to carry 3000 personnel though there were only 1200 onboard when we embarked. Talk about overwhelming, especially when we had just come from a ship with a crew of 180! We were given a brief tour then headed off to scran, which in itself was bizarre. Huge long queues, trays instead of plates, and very sweet food, especially the bread! And, boy, do they love their “peanut butter and jelly”. Then it was off to the hanger to rig up and do a sound check for the performance the following evening. As expected, the gear wasn’t quite what we were used to but our wonderful sound technician, Able Seaman Rampant, gave it his best shot with fantastic results. During the sound check, the Commanding Officer came down and was very excited to have us onboard. We definitely had made a fan! Then question was the asked…….. “Are you coming to the ice cream social?” Now, for those of us with a sweet tooth, this was to be a highlight. They have every possible flavour of ice cream imaginable, along with every topping, sprinkle and hot fudge possible and you get this huge cup which they fill with all your favourites. We then made our way to the seating area of the café and gorged ourselves whilst the crew took it in turns to sing karaoke, complete with a big screen! This was one of the many activities they do on a regular basis onboard, along with jousting, dodge ball and trivia nights. The following day was a steel deck BBQ complete with sumo wrestling, bike riding, footy practise and golfers teeing off. Of course, the only thing we could do was to enjoy their hospitality and rest up before the much anticipated concert that night. Now, what can I say about the Rock Group concert that night………………….? Unbelievable! It was definitely the best gig of the trip and the band sounded fantastic! The crew absolutely loved the band, waving their Aussie flags and having a great time. Special mention goes to Able Seaman Dowd, Able Seaman McCorkelle and Able Seaman Rampant. Able Seaman Dowd was brilliant on kit and vocals, Able Seaman Rampant did amazing things with what equipment we had available to us and Able Seaman McCorkelle had the crowd eating out of his hand in his role as Master of Ceremonies. All up, our two day cross deck became an eight day adventure, with many false starts on a daily basis when it came to departing. Our time onboard though saw us do a couple more performances, appear in articles in their onboard daily newsletter and we also attended a morning tea with the Commanding Officer who presented us all with a ships coin. The hospitality shown to us by the United States Navy during our stay was very much appreciated by all members. Needless to say, we were welcomed back to Tobruk with open arms, though I think it was only due to them struggling to find people to do café party as well as our guys did! Sea phase finally came to an end and we had four days alongside in Hawaii before making the trek home. During this time we actually had no commitments so there was the opportunity to do some last minute shopping, sightseeing and generally have a good time. The trip home was quite uneventful but long, as those of you who have done 14 days straight or more at sea would know……..just the usual Tobruk breakdowns (not for exercise!), damage control exercises and some more café party. Before we knew it, 19 August was upon us and it was all over as we had Fleet Base East in our sights. To everyone involved with the RIMPAC 2008 Sea Deployment Group, a big heartfelt thank you to you all for your contributions and enthusiasm during a somewhat challenging time. KING’S CORONATION, TONGA Article by Leading Seaman Esa Douglas From 21 July until 4 August, a group of 34 musicians travelled over to the Kingdom of Tonga for the momentous occasion of the Coronation of his Majesty, King George Tupou V. Coinciding with the Coronation festivities, was the Heilala Festival, the country’s national flower. Over the two weeks, the ceremonial ensemble performed at a number of functions, as well as rehearsing for the Kings Coronation ceremony, and military parade. Royal Australian Navy Band: A Musical Voyage

- 191 – The first commitment for the deployment was to attend the opening of the Heilala Festival on Tuesday 22 July. Entertainment was presented throughout the night to the Princess with traditional dancers and entrants of the Miss Heilala festival parading as part of the upcoming competition. The contingent performed a number of Australiana tunes, and afterward was invited to watch the rest of the night’s entertainment. The next day, we met with the Tonga Defence Service Band for a first initial sit down and running of the music that would be performed for the King’s Coronation events. They would later be joined by the New Zealand Army Band and the U.S. Marine Corps band to form a massed band for the King’s Coronation Service and the Coronation Military Parade. Rehearsals were run everyday with the massed band, guard and officers to ensure the Coronation Parade would run smoothly. To ensure the success of the event, timed rehearsals were run from the very first person marching onto the parade ground, simulating arrivals of guests and dignitaries, conducting the march past and short marching display, to the end of the parade and a march that would later take us through the town. This may appear to be a walk in the park for those of us that have stood through many parades, but the rehearsals not only timed for three hours, but on the day, the parade went for at least three and half hours with one and a half hours of timed arrivals! As well as rehearsals for the Coronation, the contingent interacted with the community in a number of other activities. We performed a concert for two schools, starting with the drum ruffle and then playing the Australian Marches Aussie Salute and Waltzing Matilda. The first school, Apifo’lo College welcomed the contingent with their amazing voices singing a prayer in a cappella style. The second school, St Andrews, displayed their musical talents with their concert band not only performing for us, but also joining us to play a march together. We were also in for a special treat, first being offered a gift of a Tapa mat (a mat made of beaten bark), and then watching a young girl performing the tau`lunga, a traditional Tongan dance. As part of this tradition, the girl is covered in oil, the purpose of which is not only to highlight her beauty, but also for those watching to place money notes on her. Quite often, the money received is used for fundraising purposes. That school in particular is trying to build its resources for their new music department. To end the first week, and to have the opportunity to relax and enjoy the cultures and traditions of Tonga, the contingent attended the “One Tonga” Block Party in Nuku’alofa, the purpose of which was to celebrate Tonga’s Diverse Community. There were stalls lining the main street representing countries present in Tonga; from Samoa, Fiji and the Philippines, to Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Germany. Each country also had the opportunity to present on the main stage, a performance representing something from their respective country. The festivities went long into the night, with traditional dances from Fiji, New Zealand and Tonga, a recital by two young children in German, and finally (about three hours later than originally expected!) the Royal Australian Navy Band taking to the stage to loud cheers and applause from the audience. The weekend gave us the opportunity to relax and explore Tonga a little more. We were invited to attend a church service on Sunday, and although the service was spoken in Tongan, we were all impressed by the beautiful singing from the entire congregation. As no activities or trading occurs on a Sunday, we ferried out to one of the neighbouring resort islands to spend the day relaxing and snorkelling in the pristine waters. After fine-tuning rehearsals, on Friday 1 August, the Tongan people lined the streets from the Palace to the Main Free Wesleyan Church. They had also placed along the entire route the King would travel on, Tapa mats that had been made especially for the Coronation. Loud cheers and clapping followed the King as he was driven from the Palace to the Church. An hour later, King George Tupou V was officially coroneted as the new king of Tonga. On Saturday 2 August, the culmination of our time in Tonga saw us taking to the parade ground for one last time for the Coronation Military Parade held at the Palace. At the conclusion of the parade and the massed band marching through the streets of Nuku’alofa, we were invited to attend a traditional Tongan feast at the Palace. Royal Australian Navy Band: A Musical Voyage

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