Nelson City Brass celebrate winning the C grade competition at nationals earlier this year. Photo: Supplied.

Brass band turns 160

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One of the oldest brass bands in the country will be celebrating its 160th birthday this weekend when it performs a world premiere at a Gala Concert in Nelson’s Theatre Royal.

The Nelson City Brass was formed as part of the region’s military services in 1857 and this Saturday it celebrates its 160th anniversary with a street march and a Gala Concert.

To make the big day extra special, the band will be wearing new uniforms and will play the world premiere of a composition titled Tasman Bay, that it commissioned for the anniversary.

“The band was formed by the early settlers and because the army were involved it was called the Nelson Garrison Band,” band secretary Wayne Jennens says. “Then that was changed to the Nelson Municipal Band and finally the Nelson City Brass – it’s not official but we are claiming the title of the oldest brass band in the country.”

And now it has become one of the best bands in the country after winning the national C grade competition for the second consecutive year in May.

Six of its members also helped the National Band of New Zealand finish second at the World Music Contest in the Netherlands and Wayne says that’s largely due to the influence of musical director Nigel Weeks.

“We have won every single contest we have been in since Nigel started at the beginning of 2016. He comes from a background of excellence and he’s been the key to our improvement. ”

“We’ve also been very lucky to get support from the Nelson City Council and a number of pub charities. It costs a lot to get to all the contests, especially when they are in the North Island.”

Although the band is becoming more competitive and professional, Wayne says it remains “very family-orientated with lots of couples and fathers and sons”, and players of all ages.

The youngest members include teens Jake McNaughton, Ben Kirby and Natania Ngawhau, while the oldest, 98-year-old Maurice Abrahams, has just retired from playing.

Wayne says Tasman Bay was written by English composer Dan Price.

The band will open its gala concert with the piece, which he says reflects the places and people of Nelson.

The concert will feature special guest artist Jackie Clarke. Steve Miles, who is regarded as one of the finest euphonium players in the world, will also play at the concert.

The street march will be held on upper Trafalgar St starting at 10.30am, while the Gala Concert starts at 4.30pm.

Tickets for the Gala Concert cost $25 for adults and $15 for children and students and can be purchased at the Theatre Royal or through Ticket Direct by phoning 0800 224 224.