Naden Band plays The Royal Theatre Dec. 16 to 18 at 7:30pm, with guests Ken Lavigne and Stephanie Greaves. Tickets: $10 with an unwrapped toy.

Armed to entertain

Naden Band plays The Royal Theatre Dec. 16 to 18 at 7:30pm, with guests Ken Lavigne and Stephanie Greaves

Each December, a branch of our federal defenders are sent on a mission unlike any other. Thirty-five men and women sit hushed behind a curtain, instruments drawn, about to detonate 45 minutes of non-stop concert tunes on a room packed with school kids.

“It’s not a sense of impending doom, but you can hear them – they’re all hyped up,” says Naden Band director, Lt.(N) Matthew Clark. “It’s our job to get them even more hyper. You can see the teachers all sitting there, like: ‘Oh, man.’”

This month, the Royal Canadian Navy’s Naden Band will perform its 35th season of holiday concerts, including elementary school matinees, which supply needy families with toys for their children under the Christmas tree. The Salvation Army toy drive show exemplifies one end of a wildly diverse list of engagements for the professional band, now supporting National Defence’s Maritime Forces Pacific for the 73rd season.

A favoured element of the holiday shows – and a direct demonstration of the band’s aim to foster goodwill with the public – includes the tradition of bringing a randomly drawn audience member to the stage to guest conduct Sleigh Ride. Highlights during Clark’s two-year run have included poised, pre-pubescent maestras, a man who simultaneously mimed riding a horse and an older gentleman who appreciated the opportunity as a former musician.

“He was the politest, most humble man, a lovely man. I shook his hand at the end and he looked at me and said: ‘I didn’t realize it was that easy,’” Clark says with a laugh.

The band’s primary mandate is to support the Navy at any given time to get the job done. They’re ready to deploy, as Clark puts it, into a concert band, stage band, dance band, brass quintet, woodwind quintet, two jazz quintets, brass choir, woodwind choir and any number of duos and combos to do just that.

Despite its long history in Esquimalt – which includes a three-year hiatus from ‘94 to ‘97 when federal funds were cut, and outcry ensued – the general public often isn’t aware that the band is comprised of full-time professional musicians with either undergraduate or master’s degrees in music, not military members who happen to have developed their musical talents.

“Many people don’t understand the level of musicianship,” says Petty Officer First Class Karen Shields, a flautist and PR contact for the band, who successfully auditioned in 2006. “They’ll come to the shows and be wowed. Once you engage in the conversation – they’re fascinated by what we do and the education that we have.”

Audiences at this year’s holiday shows will be privy to the world premiere of a new composition by the Naden Band and Juno Award-winning Order of Canada recipient trombonist Ian McDougall. The work was composed in McDougall’s Saanich-based home studio – a situation that initially intimidated Clark.

“He made me feel so very comfortable, so very quickly,” Clark said. “If he swears at you, it means that you’re in. He’s an excellent man.”

The difference such professionals experience with Naden versus other bands, Clark says: it’s the closeness and positivity between members. He likens the dynamic to that of a family – one with a range of interests.

“The great talent of the Naden Band lets us play everything from Sponge Bob Square Pants to the finale of Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony.”

Just Posted

Pet-A-Palooza a good reason to ‘pawse’ this weekend in Victoria

Puppies, goats, wiener dog races and more on the grounds of St. Ann’s Academy Aug. 18-19

UVic art display showcases craft of bookmaking

Art of the Book 2018 is in the Audain Gallery at UVic from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. starting Aug. 11

Celebrate local food with Feast of Fields in North Saanich

21st Feast of Fields on Vancouver Island is at Kildara Farms on Aug. 26 from 1 to 4 p.m.

RIFFLANDIA: Local artists thrive under festival model

Bands like Current Swell, one of the 2018 headliners, made their mark at RAP

Baseball’s HarbourCats wind up WCL season with loss to Pickles

Victoria needed a win to make the league playoffs, now looks ahead to 2019

‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin has died

Publicist Gwendolyn Quinn reports Franklin passed Thursday at 9:50 a.m. at her home in Detroit

REVIEW: Ever wanted to be young again? Theatre Skam’s Concord Floral will make you think again

Strong acting in an interesting theatre space, writes Sheila Martindale

Brad Pitt says he has given Jolie Pitt millions since split

Actor Brad Pitt denies Angelina Jolie Pitt’s claim that he has paid no meaningful child support.

WINE LOVERS UNITE: Victoria festival offers numerous tasting options

Parkside Hotel and Spa hosting Victoria International Wine Festival

Farquhar Auditorium updates image for 40th season

The Farquhar at UVic ushers in new season Sept. 22

THEATRE SKAM: Young cast brings Concord Floral to life in vacant downtown retail space

Former office supply store a unique venue for telling mysterious tale of youth with secrets

Schedule released for world junior hockey championship in B.C.

Vancouver and Victoria ready to host, as Canada conducts training camp in Kamloops

Five things to do this B.C. Day long weekend

Check out these great community events in Greater Victoria

5 things to do in Greater Victoria this weekend

Check out dragon Boats, artists, football and more

Most Read