Tag: tauranga brass band

Dear Seth Godin

[For those who don’t know, Seth Godin is a marketing guru who writes short but thought-provoking blog posts.]

Dear Seth Godin

I probably should have written this post before now. It’s my response to a post about how you learned the clarinet for eight years, but you never actually played it—well, not the way it could be played. You said we often opt for more instead of better, where we should focus on better.

I agree. We should work towards better, not more.

But not always. We live in an individualistic culture, and it’s easy to forget that we’re not all called to be an individual, to work in a vacuum. Sometimes we’re called to be part of a team, to be part of a group where the sum of the whole is more than the sum of the parts.

Sometimes we're called to be part of a team. Click To Tweet

Tauranga Brass Band

I’m a member of the local brass band. We practice together once a week, and we play in public several times a year. Some of our players are outstanding—they’ve been playing for decades, and they practice every day. Others are relatively new to music and bands, but are diligent in attending practice and trying. Many are competent but not outstanding, people who love music and playing, and embrace the opportunity the band provides.

I’m a mediocre player at best, but I still play.

I play because I enjoy it. But mostly I play because if I didn’t, there would be something missing. We’re a small band. Only one person plays each part. No matter how humble I might think my part is, how mediocre I am as a player, the band is better for me being there. It doesn’t matter that I’m not soloist material. My part is important. The band wouldn’t be complete without me. The sum of the whole is more than the sum of the parts.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we play at the Dawn Service on ANZAC Day, to commemorate the servicemen who died in the battle at Gallipoli in World War One. We play at the Battle of Britain Day service, commemorating all those who died in that epic battle over the skies of England.

We play at the Merchant Seamen’s Memorial Day, commemorating all those who died in while serving on merchant ships, transporting food and vital supplies to the front. And we play at the Battle of Crete Memorial Service, where we commemorate those who gave their lives in defence of Crete in World War Two, an act which has made our soldiers legends in Crete.

We play at community events.

We undertake an annual charity concert, usually in conjunction with a local choir, to raise money for causes as diverse as establishing a local church playgroup and freeing sex slaves in India. We play carols in a local shopping centre at Christmas. We play in the park on a Sunday afternoon, and small children dance to our music. One looks at us in wonder—has she ever seen music performed live before?

Does she even know those sounds on the radio or TV are made by real people playing real instruments?

Every time we play, someone stops to tell us how beautiful it sounds, how much they like our music. We remind them of their father, their brother, their husband, their son, their loved one who played in a brass band or a concert band or an orchestra. We bring back memories of happy times.

So you’re wrong, Seth Godin.

But you’re also right. You said we should focus on the things we care about. And while I might not be an expert brass soloist, I’m a very good brass band member, and I do care. I’m part of a team who work together, and bring people joy.

And for me, that’s more than enough.


Remembering ANZAC Day

Next Monday, 25 April, is ANZAC Day.

It’s the day New Zealanders and Australians join together to commemorate all those who served in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations. Other countries have similar days of remembrance: the US have Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, while the UK has Remembrance Day and Remembrance Sunday.

ANZAC Day is an important day for us. It’s a public holiday, and only essential services are allowed to be open. There are heavy fines for businesses who open on the morning of ANZAC Day: as a nation, we want everyone to be able to attend a commemoration service. No, not everyone does, but they can. ANZAC Day is also observed in Canada and many Pacific Island countries.

Australia and New Zealand chose this day specifically to commemorate the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign, which began at dawn on 25 April 1915, when the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps—the ANZACs—landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey. It was the first major battle either country had been involved in which led to major casualties, and forged our identities as nations.

As I’ve done for the last five or six years, I will be awake, showered and dressed long before dawn. I’ll attend the Dawn Service in the grounds of the local Returned Services Association (RSA), wearing the green and black uniform of the local Brass Band, sitting front and centre and playing my tenor horn.

The Dawn Service is special.

We arrive while it’s still dark and watching the sun rise as the music plays and prayers are intoned. I’m always impressed by the number of families with children. Some wear medals that used to adorn the chest of their father, grandfather or perhaps great-grandfather. They wear these medals with pride, in memory of men they may never have met, men who have become legends for their service and sacrifice.

Also present are the legends themselves, men who fought in France, Crete, North Africa, Korea, Vietnam, the Falklands, Afghanistan. These men wear the medals they earned facing enemy fire under what were often horrific conditions.

There are no longer any veterans of Gallipoli with us, but we still meet at dawn on 25 April to remember and honour the men who served in that disastrous campaign. And we meet to honour those who served in subsequent wars in the Army, Navy, and Air Force, as well as those who served in the merchant navy to keep the home nations supplied and fed, and who were just at risk of being torpedoed or bombed as their army and navy counterparts.

The veterans and visitors sing as we play the God Save the Queen, the national anthems of Australia and New Zealand, and a hymn. I will be able to hear a pin drop when Peter, our lead cornet player, stands to play the Last Post, as we pay silent tribute to those who fought and died for freedom.

After the Dawn Service and a hot breakfast at the RSA, we’ll head to the civil service at the city’s official war memorial, Memorial Park. This service starts with a march, led by shuffling veterans who have fortified themselves at the RSA bar, followed by the cadet forces marching proudly, then groups such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides.

A group of Army, Navy and Air cadets will form the honour guard, standing to attention throughout the service. The choir will lead the congregation in singing hymns and the National Anthem. The band will play quietly as wreaths are laid by representatives from local community groups. An Army chaplain will pray for the fallen. Peter will play the Last Post again—still poignant, although not as spine-chilling as in the pre-dawn light of the Dawn Service. A student representative from one of the local high schools will read the famous poem, In Flanders Fields.

Everyone will be silent, as befits such a solemn occasion.

Another student, perhaps the Head Girl of one of the local high schools, will deliver a speech about what ANZAC Day means to her. She’ll be wearing the formal school uniform: tie, jacket, and stockings. She might mention a family connection to one or both World Wars, or possibly a later conflict. She will talk about freedom from oppression, and about innocent young men who travelled far from home and made the ultimate sacrifice, their lives in exchange for our freedom. She might even quote the Bible: For greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

But her polished speech will miss the most important sacrifice: the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross for your sins and for mine. She will miss the end of the story of sacrifice: the victory Jesus gained through the resurrection. ANZAC Day without Jesus is like Good Friday without Easter Sunday.

It’s only half the story.

ANZAC Day is important. It’s a time to come together as a community and remember those who have gone before, those who gave their lives that we might live. But it’s more than a commemoration of sacrifice.

It’s the story of victory.

Lest we forget.