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.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Gordon Lightfoot still on the road at 81

Tickets for Island shows in Victoria and Nanaimo, selling well already

Vic High theatre tackles youth homelessness and more in 2020 musical

‘Runaways’ created in New York, but has parallels in Victoria: director

WINE NOTES: This blended red won’t get your goat

Robert Moyes takes us from South Africa to Spain, Chile to the Okanagan for his latest wine musings

REVIEW: UVic drama department shows a flair for comedy

Student actors have fun with artificial intelligence in Alan Ayckbourn’s Comic Potential

REVIEWS Pt. 2: Film fest heads into its final weekend in Victoria

Here’s your next batch of reviews from VFF 2020 from Monday’s intrepid film buff

Comedian Herb Dixon going Full Throttle in Greater Victoria

Comic gearing up for shows in Oak Bay and at Elements Casino next week

ALLAN REID: Chicken bonanza, Korean style

Simple Victoria restaurant knows how to please if your go-tos are chicken and fries

Island MusicFest going to Bahamas to close show

Comox Valley hosting annual musical extravaganza July 10-12 at the Fairgrounds

Take your pick of artsy activites this Family Day weekend

From museums and galleries to historic aircraft, there’s many options for families to choose from

Kirk Douglas, longtime influential movie star, dies at 103

LOS ANGELES — Kirk Douglas, the intense, muscular actor with the dimpled… Continue reading

Most Read