An estimated 330,000 people lined Adelaide streets recently to watch the annual Christmas pageant, the largest parade of its kind in the southern hemisphere, and South Australia’s traditional welcome to the festive season.
The Royal Australian Navy Band South Australia was out in strength as it took pride of place amongst more than 171 floats, dancers, clowns and bands as the pageant wound its way through the streets of inner Adelaide.
Acting Bandmaster, Petty Officer Musician Tom Bastians, said it was exciting to be part of such an iconic event particularly with 2017 being the 85th Christmas pageant since its inception in 1933.
“It’s very rewarding to contribute to such a community event, mainly staffed by literally thousands of volunteers, including pageant marshals, make-up artists, clowns, dancers, walking performers, drivers, bands and float participants,” he said.
“The Christmas pageant has a real sense of community as bands mingle with other bands and performers and reaffirm bonds with many different hardworking members of the community.
“Volunteers are on hand to serve participants a cuppa and a muffin, and one can't help but feel a sense of pride in the contribution we're making to the South Australian community and beyond.”
For Navy Band members the excitement was palpable as they stepped off in anticipation of a rousing response to what was the Band’s fifth appearance at the Christmas pageant.
“The moment the band first wheels onto King William Street (start of the Pageant route), the thousands of children and their families erupted into a loud cheer and deafening applause - it sends chills up your spine and makes you grin from ear to ear,” Petty Officer Bastians said.
“The crowds extended several rows deep along the entire length of the three-kilometre route.
“The pageant culminated in the traditional delivery of Father Christmas down Adelaide’s Rundle Mall to the Magic Cave, where he remains every day until Christmas Day,” he said.
Petty Officer Bastians said the Navy Band provided a highly visible Navy presence in South Australia and supported a wide variety of community and ceremonial events, and the annual Christmas pageant provided a unique opportunity to perform to a diverse and much larger audience.
“Every time the band puts on the Navy uniform, we do so with great pride. We're proud to be ambassadors for the Navy, showing our people looking resplendent in their whites and sounding great, contributing to the success of the day and bringing a special sense of ceremony to the occasion.
“For some children, it may be the first time they have ever seen someone in a Navy uniform, and it's fantastic to think we've given them an experience they will remember fondly forever”, Petty Officer Bastians said.
Considered one of the largest pageants in the world, the impact reaches far beyond those lining the streets of Adelaide, as its streamed live and broadcast nationally and also viewed internationally in the countdown to Christmas. Apart from a four-year hiatus during the Second World War, the pageant has been held every year since its humble beginning at the height of the Great Depression during the 1930s.
The Navy Band in South Australia comprises of 21 Naval Reserve Musicians based at Keswick Barracks. The part-time Reserve Musicians represent a variety of civilian occupations including full-time students, secondary school teachers, arts administrators, a bus driver, a landscape architect, a retail manager, a pathologist, an economist, as well as several full-time professional musicians.
The Band provides a highly visible Navy presence in a state with otherwise low naval uniform representation and supports a wide variety of commitments and organisations requiring many varied styles of music.