Letter from Oz - Part Three - Dr Roy Newsome in Australia


Dr Roy Newsome and wife Muriel conclude their holiday in Oz.

Roy NewsomeArriving in Sydney on Sunday evening (20th June), we were met by our hosts for the next nine days – Mark and Bronwyn Howcroft, both members of the famous St Mary’s Band. Mark, holder of numerous national and state titles, has been its principal euphonium for over 20 years whilst Bronwyn is a member of the horn section.

We stayed in their lovely, spacious house, which became the base for a number of interesting excursions. There were also some serious discussions about banding in both Australia and Britain, and some intense CD listening sessions, especially of some of the recordings made by Black Dyke and Faireys, when I was their conductor.

The excursions included a visit to Katoomba in the region of the Blue Mountains, an interesting tour of the Sydney Music Conservatorium, and a wine-tasting expedition in the Hunter Valley, famed for its vineyards and said to be the sixth most visited place in Australia. The Blue Mountains, north of Sydney, were the location of an early Aboriginal settlement, and were also part of a famous coal-mining region. They form a spectacular land-mark and are so-named because of a distinctive blue haze which surrounds them.

We were shown round the Conservatorium by Matthew Van Emerick, an Australian euphonium virtuosi currently studying for a PhD, as well as making a name for himself as a conductor.

The climax of the week and, indeed, of the whole of our three weeks in Australia, came at the weekend. It began on the Friday with a cruise round the famous Sydney Harbour on a 75-foot luxury yacht owned by Adrienne, Lady Adrienne, the Patron of the Federation of Australasian Brass Bands (FABB) and close friend of Professor David King. The cruise took us from Rush Cutter’s Bay to Gladesville, passing under two very famous bridges, the Sydney Harbour Bridge itself and the modern, state-of-the-arts, Anzac Bridge, with magnificent views of the Sydney skyline both by day and by night.

Saturday saw intense rehearsals with St. Mary’s Band in readiness for a concert the following day in the auditorium of the famous St Mary’s Band Club, in which I appeared as Guest Conductor. The concert, initiated by David, the band’s professional music adviser, was a celebration of my 80th birthday tour Down Under. It featured cornet virtuoso Paula Russell, a former student at Salford and past leader of the NYBB. Paula lives in Brisbane and is the current Solo Champion of New Zealand. Also featured were Mark Howcroft, Ken Bradley – Australia’s most successful tenor horn soloist over a number of years but now playing E flat bass, and one of the band’s younger members, David Williams, recently crowned as Australia’s Junior Trombone Champion. The concert was titled ‘Youth Salutes a Master’, featured a number of my own compositions, and ended with the presentation of a bouquet of flowers to Muriel and a beautifully decorated boomerang to me.
I can only describe these three weeks as the holiday of a lifetime. In it we saw just a few of the wonders of Australia and sampled some of its exquisite wines and food (including T-bone steaks such as we haven’t seen in Britain since before Mad Cow Disease of the 1990s). We also experienced the superb warmth and friendliness of the Australian banding community and the hospitality provided by our hosts, all members of the Federation of Australasian Brass Bands. It was my fourth trip to Australia and one for which Muriel and I will be grateful until our dying days.

Roy Newsome


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