Engaging cultures with Australian vibes | Sunday Observer

Engaging cultures with Australian vibes

31 March, 2019

The Colombo harbour saw four Australian ships being docked this week as part of the Indo- Pacific Endeavour 2019, joint naval training exercise. Of these vessels the HMAS Canberra with a displacement of 27,500 tons and a sea endurance of 45 days was the most majestic ship. She carried on aboard an assortment of sailors and soldiers. Of these men and women there were 21 musicians who had sailed all the way to Sri Lanka to entice our audiences with their pulsating music. I was fortunate to meet the band at the beautiful and opulent Galle Face Hotel last week.

Attired in their camaflouge uniforms they looked smart yet friendly. We shared some light moments before talking about how important their music is to them.

The band members were not sailors but combat trained soldiers of the Australian Army, stationed in Sydney. The prudent band master Warrant Officer Peter Mathison, with 24 years of military service explained “We are delighted to be in your country. When our vessels sailed into port, the Sri Lanka Navy Band gave us a resounding welcome in keeping with naval traditions. We are a multi faceted band in terms of our music. We can play ceremonial marching tunes, jazz, rock and even Irish tunes”.

The other musicians were enjoying their tea and coffee as we chatted on. Warrant Officer Mathison added “We practice five days a week. We perform outside our base for many events. We believe music can connect people”.

The youngest member of the band is keyboardist Grace Kim, who said ‘I am excited to be here. I enjoy my work. I hope I can see an elephant before I leave your beautiful island”. Grace has another two female colleagues Amelia Johnson the lead singer and the bassist Maureen Wallace. The three ladies were fascinated by our spice laden cuisine. Maureen added “Back in Australia we visit the aboriginal communities, and play our music- connecting with them in a way they too can enjoy”. The other members of this band include Alex O Neill, Henry Schroder, Curtis Wilcox, Charlie Sinn. Adam Taylor, James McMahor and Sergeant David Shadforth.

Sergeant David said “My parents are from the Australian Defence Forces - so I had an early influence from them and decided to enlist. It is a great team to be in”.

The band members have different costumes to suit each event. They dress in ceremonial uniforms, black coat and tie and even have a winter uniform.

Some have travelled to nations in the Middle East, Turkey and East Timor. Standing six feet tall Adam Taylor has a unique instrument - the bagpipes.This requires great skill, strong lungs and patience! Adam said “I have some Scottish origins. The bagpipes always attract people.

Some wonder how this instrument would fit into this modern band, well I somehow make it happen”. Some of the members had begun to appreciate our seafood whilst one was keen to climb the Sigiriya rock.

The Australian Army Band gave a stunning display at the Galle Face hotel on Friday evening, with the crowds giving them thunderous applause. Reflecting on this amazing night I can only endorse that good music connects people, and sustains relationships. Music is certainly an international language!