Band missing a vital beat

20:42, May 01 2012

The drums are falling silent for the Blenheim and Districts Highland Pipe Band, which is urgently looking for drummers.

The band is finding it increasingly hard to perform after its drum core shrank to just three players, aged from 12-15, one of whom has been playing for only just over a year.

The band usually needs at least four side drummers, two tenor drummers and a bass drum, drum major Alan Kernick, who leads the band on parades, said.

The band has had a shortage of drummers before, he said. The situation was often cyclical as children often joined the band and stayed until they left to go to university or work outside of Marlborough.

"We're a feeder band for a lot of other good bands around the country because we train them and then they get them when they're good."

This year the situation has been particularly bad as the band was already low on numbers when its bass drummer moved to Auckland and another drummer moved to Christchurch.


The bass drum is essential for performances and while Alan has been playing it during practices, he is needed to lead the band. One of the band's best pipers had to fill in on the drum when they marched in the Anzac Day parade in Blenheim last week.

The situation has led to some funny moments, such as at a performance at Brayshaw Park on Waitangi Day when Alan ended up leading the band with a stick instead of his ceremonial mace.

"I was going to play the bass, but our old bass drummer was down from Auckland and came to the park. I gave him the [bass] drum so I could lead and just grabbed a stick from under one of the trees."

The band would like to go to the New Zealand national pipe band championships in Timaru next year but will not be able to without more drummers, he said.

Side drummer Declan Jones, 12, has been playing with the band for two and a-half years and said it took anything from six to 10 months to learn the basics and be ready to perform. Along with weekly lessons the boys also attend a national summer school camp each year where they get five days of training from some of the top tutors from New Zealand and overseas. The camp was a highlight of the year, Declan said.

Lead drummer Logan Silcock, 15, said when he joined the band in 2008 he had wanted to be a piper but the band was also looking for more drummers then and taking up the drums had proved to be great fun. Learning a new piece and performing it with the full band was really rewarding, he said.

There was a lot of banter between pipers and drummers and the band was a great social group, the boys said.

While the band was keen for new young drummers, Alan said it was also hoping to attract more experienced players who were keen to start again.

Anyone interested can contact Alan on 5789356 or 0274315589.

The Marlborough Express