Navy Band brings it all together for National Reconciliation Week

Published on LEUT Geoff Long and LS Jonathan Rendell (author)

Topic(s): Royal Australian Navy Band, National Reconciliation Week

Royal Australian Navy Band members record their individual parts for Navy’s recent 'In This Together' National Reconciliation Week video. (photo: Unknown)
Royal Australian Navy Band members record their individual parts for Navy’s recent 'In This Together' National Reconciliation Week video.

When the Royal Australian Navy Band first pitched the idea of an ‘In This Together’ National Reconciliation Week video, its members had no idea just how collaborative the project would become.

The stylised video project features Indigenous and non-Indigenous Navy members passing the ochre to demonstrate the significance of ochre to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Navy members.

The backdrop to the ‘Pass the Ochre’ video is the Navy Band’s performance of the Ben Lee song ‘We’re All In This Together’, arranged by Leading Seaman Musician Sam Sheppard - a musician from the Royal Australian Navy Band Sydney who shares his name with the newly-appointed Navy Indigenous Advisor.

However, the irony of playing the song about unity was not lost on the band members as they each performed their contributions in isolation, from across Australia, due to social distancing requirements.

Musician Category Warrant Officer Mark Ham, who is also one of the singers on the soundtrack, said the challenge of recording remotely had allowed the musicians to tap into capabilities and opportunities that were previously only used occasionally.

“We had to improvise a recording studio in addition to scheduling ‘shifts’ to bring different instruments in at different times to ensure we were observing social distancing procedures.”

“As a result you can lose some of the spontaneity and integration of a normal recording session, but it does allow you to focus clearly on your own performance,” Warrant Officer Ham said.

The band engaged Musicians in all six locations across the country (including Tasmania) to record the choir chorus parts. These were then cut into the mix which, for their part, spoke to the idea of all being in this together.

Able Seaman Musician Tom Brooke collated all the individual recordings and mastered the final audio track ready for use on the video.

National Reconciliation Week is held annually between 27 May and 3 June to celebrate building respectful relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

The theme for National Reconciliation Week 2020 was ‘In This Together’ - a theme that is now resonating in ways unforeseen when it was chosen last year.

Director of Music Navy, Lieutenant Commander Cassandra Mohapp, said the project had been a useful exercise in collaboration.

“The video has been a highly successful endeavour to engage Navy at all levels, in a project representing Navy’s commitment to Reconciliation,” she said.

Navy’s newly appointed full-time Indigenous Advisor, Lieutenant Commander Sam Sheppard, said that from a personal standpoint the project had provided another opportunity to paint up his daughters with ochre and help make them more comfortable with embracing their culture.

“I believe this is a challenge for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in modern society and my hope is that this project can start those conversations within their workplaces about how much their culture is an integral part of who they are,” Lieutenant Commander Sheppard said.

Watch the ‘In This Together’ National Reconciliation Week video on the Royal Australian Navy Facebook page: