What an incredible weekend we have just had! The Australian National Band Championships were incredible on so many levels, but it also saw the world premiere of my first major work for brass band “Buckley”! You might have seen a bit of social media promotion for this in the last couple of days! Well, I thought it was best to properly explain everything behind Buckley in one big write up!
Many people have asked exactly where this work started, and funnily enough, it was due to my inability to find storage for my tuba at the 2016 Australian Nationals at Gawler! Slightly easing my frustration was the sight of another tuba player also on the desperate hunt for somewhere to leave his instrument. We got chatting along our quest, and noticing the name on his polo (namely for Geelong West Brass Band), I got talking about Jeff Steele and my Victorian State Youth Brass Band days. This man was Richard Harvey (the most gentle and lovely man you will ever meet), and he was impressed to hear a little about my compositional work at my age. In fact, he was so impressed that our discussions were followed up with a commission for a major work, as a gift to Jeff Steele and Geelong West Brass Band.
Our story begins in Holland, where William Buckley and his English comrades were combatting Napoleon's French forces. Seriously wounded, Buckley returned to Britain and was swept up into troublesome crowds. Found guilty of participating in the theft of a hankerchief, Buckley was sentenced to transportation for life, namely to the new Port Phillip penal colony in Victoria, Australia.
Buckley faced the lengthy and treacherous journey upon ship Calcutta to Port Phillip. Despite being treated well, Buckley and three other convicts made an escape from the colony, in the hope of reaching Sydney. Only managing to circumvent Port Phillip Bay, the group split up, and Buckley found himself alone in a foreign, dangerous land.
When a small group of Aboriginals came across the starving Buckley, the Englishman was accepted within the Watourong people. For over thirty years, Buckley firsthand participated in Corrobberrees, hunted for kangaroo and eels, and learned their native tongue. Surviving tribal warfare, years of living alone and even witnessing acts of cannibalism, Buckley truly lived as an Aboriginal.
In the meantime, more Europeans were venturing to Australia for a new beginning, and Buckley had to make a choice between his Eurpoean past or his Aboriginal present. Making a homecoming, Buckley's became an interpreter and consul for the natives. Despite his high value in society and a pardon for his crimes, Buckley went on to live a life of unrest, being paraded as a freak show and labelled "The Wild White Man".
Writing such a large work, I wanted to keep my various ideas flowing throughout, and came up with a number of motifs, many of which were incredibly simple, but appear throughout the piece. Following the story, I broke the piece into five main sections, plus an introduction, encompassing some of the key passages of Buckley's life. Throughout 2016, I was sending Geelong some of these sections to try out, and receiving feedback and changes from Jeff, Wally Pope and Richard himself!.
After many hours of work across many months, I had a final work finished by early January 2017 for the band to consider as an Own Choice for the 2017 Australian National Championships. After two rehearsals, I received the fantastic news from Jeff that the band had voted and had selected "Buckley". To say I was over the moon would be an understatement! My first major work was to be premiered at a national contest in a competitive 14 band B Grade!
Despite all this excitement, I had to be mindful that I had to keep this news under wraps, to ensure the fairness of the adjudication process at the contest. In earlier publications, I nicknamed the project as "The Bread Project", named after Buckley's first English word after returning to European society. Many of my banding friends only found out about the piece a week out from the contest! However, once the contest began and the Nationals program was made available, I found myself being interviewed by Tim from Brassbanned and even international brass band media, in the form of Iwan Fox from 4BarsRest.
Easter Sunday came around, I played with Northern Brass in the morning, and then prepared myself for the world premiere of "Buckley". After a very anxious lunch break, Geelong West came out to play, and what a fantastic performance it was! The soloists did a fantastic job, the band blended beautifully and Buckley's story was told brilliantly! I was chuffed, the band was happy and we could not have asked for any more.
However, it only got better. Geelong West's performance of "Buckley" placed them 3rd out of 14 in the Own Choice section, boosting them to an aggregate position of 5th, up 8 places from their 13th position in 2016. It was a job well done by everyone involved! I could not have been more proud of the band. While their performance at the Nationals marked the end of my greatest project to date, it will certainly not be the end of my collaboration with Geelong West Brass Band.
To Richard Harvey, Jeff Steele, Wally Pope, Nicole Pernice, the Geelong West committee and Geelong West Brass Band as a whole; thank you for this experience. I cannot possibly thank you enough! You have all been so kind, generous and supportive! You took a punt with me and it paid off, and I am so proud and happy for you guys to have achieved so much! Here's to a fantastic future of banding for you guys!
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Jared loves to share his passion for music and artists through music reviews and commentaries. These include a selection of reviews written for community radio stations 3MBS and Radio Monash.