10 April 2018

Unmoved RSL to press ahead with War Memorial funded speaker trial on Anzac Day

| Ian Bushnell
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Canberra City Band performs at the 2013 Anzac Day ceremony. Photo: Canberra City Band.

RSL Canberra has rejected pleas from ACT community bands, including a petition from the Canberra City Band, to be reinstated in the coming Anzac Day Parade.

The bands were last month axed from the event in favour of a trialing speaker system relaying music from the Royal Military College Band performing at the top of Anzac Parade down the length of the march.

RSL Canberra President John King said the Australian War Memorial was paying for the trial and although he did not know how much it would cost, companies had previously quoted about $5000. The AWM had directed all previous questions back to the RSL.

He said the trial had been funded and was set in place, and claimed bands he had spoken with were comfortable with the decision.

Mr King told bands in a letter last month that the veteran’s organisation had requested the AWM trial a new audio system designed to resolve issues with the march music.

“You will appreciate that for many years there have been issues with the march music, including inconsistent tempos and audibility, that have been a concern to our marching veterans,” Mr King wrote.

Canberra City Band, which has performed at every Anzac Day service in the ACT, launched the change.org petition, saying that removing live music from the parade will severely diminish the spirit of the day.

It says the band and other community bands have not been consulted about the decision, and the RMC band will not be able to play continuously for the entire event, something Mr King denied.

The petition has garnered nearly 600 signatures.

Canberra City Band says there are a variety of alternative compromises which will address these concerns. “We passionately seek to reach a compromise that will achieve ALL of our mutual goals to honour and serve,” it says.

The band also says that the ‘look’ of hundreds of passionate musicians along the parade route contributes greatly towards honouring the troops.

“To replace those people with speakers and cables will remove the human qualities from the event, and make it feel cold and impersonal,” it says.

But Mr King said complaints from veterans about the bands had been a regular feature of Anzac day de-briefing and eventually something had to be done to get the march beat up to the same speed.

“On Anzac Day if they [the bands] want to entertain, they’ve got to play the right music at the right tempo because first and foremost the bands are providing the tempo for the marchers,” he said.

Mr King said the RSL pointed out to the AWM that its own people had the ability to pipe the music down Anzac Parade and suggested it was time to trial the system.

He said if the trial fails, then the bands would be invited back to the parade.

The Canberra City Band turns 93 years old in 2018. “Please help us retain this tradition which is so important to our members and our community,” it says.

Comments left on the site include:

“What’s the point of commemorating Anzac Day with the community, if you’re going to exclude some of the community’s biggest advocates? Wake up, RSL.” and “Anzac Day belongs to us all. Community bands should be involved.”

What are your thoughts on this issue? Let us know by commenting below.

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Phillip Babidge11:13 am 20 Apr 18

This apparent attitude is what the community, & former service people are up against. It shows complete disrespect at the significance of community band musicians who signed up as bands during war time. Playing music & participating also helps manage PTSD symptoms, whether from the military services or home services. There is concern, not only from bandies & how they are being treated, but has extended to how children’s involvement is being modified. Apparently, even era military vehicles may be banned. A petition is important to establish evidence of a ground swell developing regarding community concerns. There are no issues to which the RSL have stated that cannot be resolved with proper meaningful communication, & consultation (& the will to do so), in my opinion. It is Interesting to note that after mentions of complaints that “The AWM had directed all previous questions back to the RSL”. I think that just about sums up who makes the decisions is in this case! It’s a shame that the parting words are more or less… “If the trial fails, then the bands would be invited back to the parade.” There seems to be a complete misunderstanding between the significance of bands & remembering that significance in wars past. Many of us feel for our colleagues in the pipe band community, also under the same sort of “scorn”. We should be proud of our heritage & the former band veterans who died as community bands & signed up voluntarily, defending our country! Very shameful in my opinion. If you’d like to voice concerns to the RSL another option is contact them directly, (as advertised on their website). Please be polite & respectful. The President and Editor is Mr John King, email: editor@actrsl.org.au . The RSL site can be found here: http://www.actrsl.org.au/about/

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