Anzac’s band visits Royal Marines School of Music

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Des Paroz (author)

Location(s): Portsmouth, United Kingdom

Able Seamen Musicians Thomas Brooke and Blair Reardon play with a Royal Marine School of Music student, during a visit to the Royal Marines School of Music in Portsmouth, United Kingdom. (photo: LSIS Paul McCallum)
Able Seamen Musicians Thomas Brooke and Blair Reardon play with a Royal Marine School of Music student, during a visit to the Royal Marines School of Music in Portsmouth, United Kingdom.

The five member detachment of the Royal Australian Navy Band currently embarked in the helicopter frigate HMAS Anzac recently had the opportunity to engage with their British counterparts and members of the public during Anzac’s port visit to Portsmouth, England. 

Portsmouth is in many ways the home of the Royal Navy, and is also the home of the Royal Marines School of Music, where Royal Marine musicians are trained for careers during which they will serve both ashore and in Royal Navy ships at sea. 

Captain Sam Hairsine, Assistant Director of Music (Training) at the Royal Marines School of Music welcomed Anzac’s musicians to the school where they were able to undertake joint rehearsals with a group of students, before putting on a joint show for the students and staff. 

“We’ve been really pleased to welcome some outstanding musicians from the Royal Australian Navy Band. 

“A visit like this only strengthens the historic links between our two great countries and the two bands.

“Of course we share so much with our Australian friends, even a common language – well almost!,” Captain Hairsine said. 

Able Seaman Blair Reardon is Anzac’s bass guitarist, but when working ashore specialises in playing the upright bass. 

“The Royal Marines Band members – students and staff alike – were extremely welcoming to us. 

“I was able to work with one of their student bass players, and it was great being able to play my instrument of choice, and to mentor a musician from the other side of the world. 

“That we were able to play together so quickly, and put on a joint performance after only an hour or two of practice shows the benefits of a common language of music, and approaches to playing. 

“Interoperability in any type of engagement works well when practices and terminology are consistent, regardless of language or culture,” Able Seaman Reardon said. 

Following the day of training, Anzac’s band gave a series of performances over a bank holiday weekend at the Portsmouth Naval Historical Dockyard – the home of Admiral Horatio Nelson’s HMS Victory (the world’s oldest commissioned warship), the Mary Rose (King Henry VIII’s ship) and other historical displays. 

Anzac’s band leader, Leading Seaman Bruce McIntyre, was enthused by the reception from the passing crowds. 

“It was amazing how many Australians came ‘out of the woodwork’ to greet us between songs. 

“Some were tourists, and others were expatriates living in the UK, but all were proud to see ‘their band’ performing so far from home. 

“A couple even had to hold back the tears as we played ‘Waltzing Matilda’. 

“We also had former British and Australian navy sailors and officers come up and relate their stories to us – one gentleman had joined the Royal Navy in 1936. 

“Music attracts people, and our shared Navy experience brings out some great stories,” Leading Seaman McIntyre said. 

Anzac’s band has been busy throughout the deployment with performances at commemorative services and official engagements, so the chance to ‘jam’ with the Royal Marines and play jazz in a public space was a welcome change of pace for the team, and for them to refresh some of their core skills in a very different setting. 

Anzac’s continuing NORTHERN TRIDENT deployment is focused on commemorating the Centenary of Anzac, building interoperability with allies and strengthening Australian links to international communities.