Army Band targets classical music lovers with new album

The New Zealand Army Band in Palmerston North.

After almost a decade in development, the New Zealand Army Band is releasing its latest album, Aotearoa.

Featuring original works for brass by some of New Zealand’s leading composers, the album is a project of passion for the New Zealand Army Band and its Director of Music, Major (MAJ) Graham Hickman, DSD.

“There’s been a wealth of original contemporary music written for brass bands by New Zealand composers over the past 20 years. However, very few recordings are available, and no album is dedicated to showcasing them.

“It’s been a real joy to explore these works and commit our interpretation for posterity,” said MAJ Hickman.

With works by Gareth Farr, ONZM, Kenneth Young, John Psathas, ONZM, Anthony Ritchie and Dwayne Bloomfield, Aotearoa showcases the New Zealand Army Band as a classical brass and percussion ensemble.

The album, recorded over a number of sessions during May and June 2017, was produced by MAJ Hickman and Ian Tilley, a well-known producer whose work has consistently enjoyed success at the top of the British classical charts.

“We were really fortunate to secure Ian to record and produce this album. He’s worked for most of the major labels, including Universal, Decca, Deutsche Grammophon and Classic FM. He brought a real depth of skill and experience to the project.

“We were also very lucky to once again secure the services of Rolf Gjelsten, from the New Zealand String Quartet, for the cello concerto,” said MAJ Hickman.

The concerto for cello and band, Gareth Farr’s Dear Horizon, was originally commissioned for the NZ Army Band and Rolf Gjelsten to perform as part of the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s 2015 production Salute: Remembering World War One, commemorating the 100th anniversary of ANZAC soldiers joining the ill-fated Gallipoli Campaign.

“This is a wonderful work and the band thoroughly enjoyed working with Rolf again,” said MAJ Hickman.

One of the challenges the album faced was a lack of recording venues in Christchurch as a result of the earthquakes.

“We usually record in our bandroom at Burnham Military Camp, but an album like Aotearoa needed a large natural acoustic. We spent a day traveling around the city with a small ensemble, trialling a number of potential venues. We finally decided on the auditorium in the new Christchurch Salvation Army Citadel because of its lovely natural acoustics,” MAJ Hickman said.

Over the past decade the New Zealand Army Band has extended its repertoire to include contemporary performance art, championing New Zealand composers and artists.

The ensemble has toured nationally with both the Royal New Zealand Ballet and the New Zealand Dance Company, and perform regularly at local and international arts festivals.

Aotearoa is out now and available for download on iTunes, CD Baby, or CDs can be purchased directly from the New Zealand Army Band by emailingarmy.band@nzdf.mil.nz.

Background:

Since its inception in1964, the New Zealand Army Band has evolved from a traditional brass band into a unique entertainment and performance art ensemble. The integration of a rhythm section in the 1970’s saw the inclusion of swing, jazz, rock and pop into their versatile repertoire.

Simultaneously, the band developed an entertaining marching display, incorporating distinctive choreography, musical humour and intricate drill manoeuvres, earning an international reputation as one of the finest marching bands in the world. Today the band regularly performs at royal occasions, tattoos, exhibitions, and commemorations around the globe.

The New Zealand Army Band first recorded a collection of New Zealand compositions in the 1980’s. This album featured works by both civilian and military composers, including the Bandmaster of the World War Two era 4th Battalion Band, Sir Dean Goffin, who composed his celebrated Rhapsody in Brass in the Syrian Desert in 1942. Unfortunately this album was never published and has since been lost to posterity.

The New Zealand Army Band’s new album, Aotearoa.
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