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Sixty years of brass

Masterton District Brass Band member Brian Castle PHOTO/GERALD FORD

By Gerald Ford

Christmas parade season is here, and brass player Brian Castle is preparing for another circuit of the Wairarapa events – having played in brass bands for more than 60 years.

Mr Castle has been the drum major for the Masterton District Brass Band, but this year will be playing the cornet.

He is also an experienced tenor horn player.

Mr Castle has been playing in brass bands since 1955, when he was a member of the Carterton Brass Band.

He served in the army in Malaysia, and was a band major with the Royal NZ Artillery Band.

In early 1966, Mr Castle took over the conducting of the Carterton Brass Band, and when he left there, members combined with the Masterton District Brass Band.

He spent many years living in Papakura, and was involved with a brass band there that did the Auckland Christmas Parades.

“That was hot, that was a big parade,” he said. “People were lined up five or six deep.”

Keeping the numbers up is always a challenge, Mr Castle says, as young players grow up and leave the district.

“The attrition rate is pretty high. One young chap is off to university, that’s just the way it is.”

“Some of these kids go and team up with Wellington Brass, which is just a champion A grade band in New Zealand.

“We just continue doing our thing with what we’ve got… we might have to do 12, four by three, rather than 16 or 20 … the more we have, the better we look and the better we sound.”

At this year’s national championships in Auckland, the Masterton District Brass Band “won’t be able to attend as a band, but will be able to do ensembles and solos.”

The Masterton District Brass Band plays regularly at events around the region, but especially at Anzac Day parades and Christmas parades.

On Saturday mornings especially until Christmas the band plays at venues like supermarkets which is a good fundraisers.”

Mr Castle also likes to encourage members to visit rest homes and do their regular practices there rather than in the band room, to entertain the residents.

“Last year we were all carolled out, I didn’t have any volunteers apart from myself.”

Mr Castle is now 73 but says he stills feels young. “Kicking around with young people keeps you young.”

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