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Melbourne Staff Band joins forces with Navy Band for symphonic sounds

The combined bands perform during the Saturday afternoon concert at Waverley Temple Corps in Melbourne.

The Symphonic Sounds 2024 concert featuring the Royal Australian Navy Band Melbourne and The Salvation Army’s Melbourne Staff Band was held at Waverley Temple Corps on Saturday 2 March.


Introducing the guests, paying the due respects and courtesies, welcoming all present and thanking God for the opportunity, Melbourne Staff Bandmaster Ken Waterworth said “it was a thrill to be sharing a concert” again with the Royal Australian Navy Band Melbourne, who duly commenced proceedings.

The naval musical director, Lieutenant Commander Brian O’Kane, responding in kind, noted the beauty of the day and succinctly replied, “Just enjoy the music.” (Due credit offered to the following arrangements by members of the maritime ensemble.)

Naval musical director, Lieutenant Commander Brian O’Kane.

Presenting Gustav Holst’s First Suite in Eb, which, as the Royal Australian Navy Band Melbourne (RANBM) supremo noted, was “the first piece of music written for a concert band”, the group demonstrated quality musicianship, with lovely tonality and balance. The nautical musicians navigated their way through the three movements, ebbing, rising and soaring as the conductor willed.

“Good music doesn’t die, does it?” O’Kane mused thereafter. “It could be any genre.”

To prove that point, the navy band presented Popular, Somewhere and For Good from the revels of musical theatre.

Laura Kendall and Maggie James delighted the congregation with their songs.

Popular, sung by Able Seaman Musician Maggie James, was a delight. It was presented with excellent characterisation and connected with the audience. Bernstein’s Somewhere, sung by Able Seaman Musician Laura Kendall, showcased a lovely deployment of rubato, upheld by a sympathetic understanding with the band.

The two vocalists combined forces in the duet For Good, again from Stephen Schwarz’s Wicked, lending deft harmonies to effective storytelling, propelled by the RANBM’s tidal pull.

Donna Chung performs the beautiful piece ‘Gabriel’s Oboe’.

The navy crew followed on with the aching beauty of Gabriel’s Oboe by Ennio Morricone, with Able Seaman Musician Donna Chung excelling with her control and tonality. This was a confluence of eloquent writing and glorious performance; the item showed what is possible when professional musicians listen closely, watch sharply, phrase intuitively, and feel and think in accordance with the music.

Four Scottish Dances featured frolicking rhythms, whirling reels and haunting airs, with a bonny evocation of droning pipes, lochs, the heather and bracing downpours.

The Melbourne Staff Band (MSB) commenced its offerings with Michael Kenyon’s arrangement of Camille Saint-Saëns’ Marche Militaire Francois, delivered at a cracking pace.

Thus enlivened, the MSB presented its main work, Bowen’s Kaleidoscope, an arrangement drawing on Rimsky-Korsakov’s brilliance. The MSB’s rendition effectively conveyed camaraderie, breast-beating laments and the grandiloquent, turbulent plight of Mother Russia’s people.

The lush soundscapes of Roger Trigg’s God of the Ages followed, with the entreaty of St Anne: “O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come …”. The MSB, bolstered by faith and common purpose, helped listeners transcend time and place.

Great is Thy Faithfulness (Dan Forrest, arr. Andrew Wainwright) moved from introspective musing to stalwart testimony. This music offered hopeful prayer and balm for weary, wounded souls, as the MSB captured something of the grandeur and solemn beauty of the brass band through this piece.

The Melbourne Staff Band cornet section.

In resurrecting Bramwell Coles’ arrangement, Treasures from Tchaikovsky, Bandmaster Waterworth drew energy from his charges, with skilled eloquence emanating from high and low quarters. Scintillas of grace were on offer amid rendered aural beauty and virtuosic moments from the lower brass.

When the two groups combined forces, conducted by Waterworth and then O’Kane, the concert caught alight.

Robert Redhead’s Reflections in Nature (based on Catherine Baird’s Easter classic, When Jesus Looked o’er Galilee) was an inspired Lenten choice, and inspiring in its spine-tingling performance; an apt choice, Reflections was the musical and spiritual pinnacle of the afternoon. The gifts of the assembled musicians were put to a celestial task, and the massed group met that task ably.

O’Kane’s leadership of The Chief of the Navy, listed as a quick march, was assured, measured and great fun. The audience’s feet were set tapping, and veteran servicemen and women in the audience were seen to be nodding along, with broad smiles on their faces.

“The good thing about music is that it brings people together,” O’Kane observed in his closing remarks. That was, indeed, an observable truth, proved by both the performers and concertgoers.

Click through the slideshow below for more photos of the concert:



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