Dwayne's musical payback to Timaru

Brass band director gives back to Timaru

Last updated 05:00 07/11/2012
Dwayne Bloomfield’s musical career has turned towards composing and conducting.
JOHN BISSET/Fairfax NZ

PATHWAYS: Dwayne Bloomfield’s musical career has turned towards composing and conducting.

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For 14 years, Dwayne Bloomfield has been travelling the road between Timaru and Christchurch to conduct Timaru's brass band. As the band prepares for its Remembrance Day concert on November 11, he spoke to features editor Claire Allison.

Dwayne Bloomfield left Timaru 25 years ago, but he keeps coming back.

The music director for the Alpine Energy Timaru Brass Band is all too familiar with the stretch of State Highway 1 between his Rolleston home and the North St band rooms, travelling up to three or four times a week if concerts or contests are approaching.

It is a lot of driving. It costs a bit more now to get to Timaru and back than it did when he took on the job and there are many more traffic lights to negotiate, but Bloomfield sees it as a way of giving something back to Timaru, because it was his experience here that launched his career with the New Zealand Army Band.

"I got a lot out of Timaru. Timaru got me to the army band, so it's a bit of payback."

Raised in Timaru and a former student of Watlington Intermediate and Timaru Boys' High School, Bloomfield's musical skills got him involved with the then Timaru Municipal Brass Band, winning the junior euphonium title in the 1987 contest.

"Then I got a letter from the army band to ask if I would be interested.

"I've been with the New Zealand Army Band now for 25 years. I left school and came straight here and have been here ever since."

Bloomfield is now the administration officer for the band, second in command to the director of music, Captain Graham Hickman.

Hickman himself conducts a community band - the champions, Woolston Brass. Bloomfield says about five army band members conduct various bands in and around Christchurch.

His administration role means he does not get to play so much nowadays, and his musical career has now taken him down the path of composing and conducting.

"I started composing about 20 years ago or maybe even more.

"I started dabbling in it and had a couple of successes.

"I was always interested in conducting, and when I was composing, I'd be standing in front of the band for the first time playing it anyway. I took one of the Christchurch bands, Addington, for a couple of years before I took on Timaru, when the legendary David Wulff retired. I saw there was an opportunity.

"I'm all self taught - and I don't know if that's good or bad - but if it sounds good, it works, is my philosophy, and if it draws out the emotion from the audience."

Bloomfield's work has certainly done that. His latest composition, 7.1, draws on the experiences of the Canterbury and Christchurch earthquakes. Coupled with some visual images, it premiered in Timaru in July, during the New Zealand Brass Band Championships

But much of his work has a military history theme, reflecting his interest and research in the field.

Fernleaf Headstones refers to the New Zealand soldiers buried overseas and was commissioned for the funeral procession for the return of the Unknown Warrior in 2004.

Behold the Narrows from the Hill tells the story of the New Zealand Infantry Brigade's capture of Chanuk Bair on Gallipoli in 1915, and was inspired by reading the book Gallipoli by Chris Pugsley.

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Seven Wonders has been played by various bands throughout New Zealand and Australia, and is now a test piece in Australia.

Bloomfield says the works are often given some context by the compere at the performance, and using multimedia technology to combine a visual element with the music is also becoming more popular.

He jokes that coupling the music with some evocative visual images means the audience "doesn't have a show" of keeping their emotions in check.

Sunday's Remembrance Day performance - Anzac Remembered - is likely to be equally emotional. Timaru and Woolston will combine forces for an afternoon's entertainment, performing separately, and then as a massed band, and the afternoon's programme will include the memorable 7.1.

"I'm allowing the Woolston band to play it this time. They're Christchurch-based, so we expect the emotion will come out again.

"They all lived through it, some of them are still living through it, with their houses, and the band rooms were affected as well."

Bloomfield says 10 bass drums were in the theatre at nationals for the piece, and the building shook - "I reckon maybe about a 3.8".

He is hoping to have a similar number on Sunday for full impact.

The concert is also a chance for the band to perform in something other than a competition setting and showcase to the community what it can do.

"I took over in 1998-99, and they were a C-grade band, and after about four years, we were promoted to B grade.

"The first year, we went to Tasmania and won the Australian B grade competition over there.

"We're a good B-grade band. We always have a placing at nationals. We're up there in the top half of the B grade."

Bloomfield is working with a wide range of experience.

"We've got an 11-year-old on stage performing, and he sits beside a 70-year-old.

"We put on some good music, and it beats sitting around at home watching Shortland Street or Coronation Street."

Anzac Remembered - Alpine Energy Timaru Brass Band and Woolston Brass at Timaru Theatre Royal, Sunday, November 11, 2pm.

Bookings at Newman's Musicworks.

- The Timaru Herald

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