They’ve played for Prince Charles, for heads of state, for military veterans and for crowds of thousands. And this Sunday night, the Naden Band of Maritime Forces Pacific will perform for a Ladysmith crowd at the Transfer Beach Amphitheatre.
Canada’s Navy band on the West Coast is a multifaceted ensemble of 35 professional musicians who, as ambassadors of national pride and goodwill, perform throughout Canada and abroad. The band will perform Sunday at 6 p.m. as part of the Ladysmith Resources Centre Association (LRCA)’s Concerts in the Park series. Admission is by donation to the LRCA.
The Naden Band plays a variety of music ranging from big band to rock.
“We’re quite versatile in what we do,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Karen Shields, who has been playing flute in the Naden Band for six and a half years. “People think of a military band as a marching band, and we do that, but we also play traditional music written for concert bands, some swing, some jazz and some rock. We try and hit a little bit of everything; that way, people of all ages will appreciate it.”
For this Sunday’s performance, the Naden Band is performing with Victoria’s Stephanie Greaves, who has been singing with the band for more than 10 years.
“Stephanie is great,” said Shields. “She’s a lot of fun and really entertaining, and she likes to get the audience participating.”
The Naden Band supports local communities with its active role in fundraising for non-profit organizations. The multi-talented members of the band perform in a symphonic concert band and a choreographed marching band, as well as several smaller ensembles such as jazz and dance ensembles, a Dixieland band and brass and woodwind quintets.
The Naden Band travels a lot, performing at military parades and public performances primarily in Western Canada, but also across the country and overseas.
“Our main focus is to help communities and to help serve the needs of the community,” said Shields. “Whether it’s bringing live entertainment and making people feel happy and bringing enjoyment that way or raising money for a charity, it brings the community together as well for causes. That’s our main goal, to enrich the lives of others.”
The Naden Band is also a marching band, and the musicians march in many large parades. They perform for the opening of the Legislature in Victoria and will play when naval ships head out on deployments, and they also perform for students.
When they’re not on the road, a typical day for the Naden Band musicians starts with rehearsing in the morning. In the afternoon, the musicians each have a secondary job, so they concentrate on that job. Shields works in public relations, while other band members will be in charge of the music library.
When the band goes on tour, they load and unload all their own equipment and set up their sound equipment at venues.
“We’re always on the go,” laughed Shields. “Teamwork, that’s the big thing to make everything run smoothly. It’s a lot of teamwork and helping everybody out.”
“It’s a great job,” she added. “You get to meet a lot of people. Our summer schedule is quite hectic because you’re on the road, but it’s quite fun. The band is a great group of people.”
One of the highlights of Shields’s career was performing during the opening ceremonies for the Paralympic and Olympic Games in Vancouver in 2010.
Another highlight was touring across Canada during the Royal Canadian Navy Centennial in 2010.
“It was great to see a lot of the veterans out, and some were in uniform,” said Shields. “That’s one of the things I really enjoy about being in public relations — you get to meet the communities you help. You get to talk to veterans and hear their stories.
“At our concerts, we always play Heart of Oak, a traditional Navy march past. What’s tradition is at the end of the show, when we play this, we ask former Navy personnel to stand to recognize them. It’s interesting because the veterans have such interesting stories. It’s very rewarding, I would say, knowing you’re making a difference in the lives of people.”
The Naden Band has been part of naval tradition on the West Coast since 1940.