Above: Contemporary Eric
Above: Eric with friends at Tanunda Bands Darwin Octoberfest gig
Above: Cabin Home reunion playout, Salisbury Band, 28th October 1990
Above: Eric and Janet Molenaar backstage at Melodienacht with James Morrison
Above: Oompah fest 1984, Eric with Wayne Kershaw
Above: Senior Solos 1997, Eric with Rosie Keen
Above: Eric, 5th from the right , middle row with Salisbury Band in the mid-eighties
Apart from playing the trombone very well, Eric Molenaar runs a successful business, likes posh food, is sociable, resilient and has a well-founded sense of fun. His early training with Wayne Kershaw, as part of the Salisbury Bands’ lovable larrikin duo, prepared him for antics such as, bursting out of the bathroom wearing Kathy Cameron’s nightie or proclaiming to the shoppers at Parabanks waiting for his taxi that he would only take those who had Tim Tams!
Eric has also done the hard yards, 4.00 am starts, long days and nights, copping a few knocks along the way, his slim frame has gone the distance. These days he wears a happy-to-be-alive smile, maintains a cheery disposition and works from the positive side in all his dealings with people, musical and otherwise.
His banding story is complete as he presents it.
Geoff Meikle, 2019
Born: 06/07/1966 Adelaide, South Australia.
Age: 53 years
I grew up in the 70’s listening to records on the old stereogram we had in our lounge room, you know that great big cabinet with the built in Kreisler black and white TV. My parents were into Elvis, The Beatles, Andy Williams, Englebert Humperdinck, Roy Orbison, Johnny O’ Keefe, anyway you get the idea. I remember the ad for the Hooked on Classics LP and I just had to get it, I seemed to love Classical music and was frowned upon by my whole family, but I just thought it was ace. I reckon I was about 10.
I did very well in school and was a good student, which was a plus growing up in Salisbury North. (Until I met Wayne Kershaw!). I went to Salisbury North Technical High School which is now known as Paralowie R-12 and that is the place where I first experienced learning an instrument in year 8, aged 13. Music class was cool because it was a “Bludge” lesson, it was easy and fun, the music teacher Mrs. Hartjes was really cool. I marvelled at her prowess on the piano while we all honked into our recorders. After a while on recorder I sort of got the hang of reading music, you know, Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit and FACE. We were asked if we would like to try a different instrument.
There was a boy there called Wayne Kershaw, a great mate and partner in crime for many years to come, who was playing a trombone, so I thought it would be good to try one of those. Alas, Mrs Hartjes gave me a trumpet instead and said “try this first it’s more suited to your size”. I was such a big and muscly boy…….Not! Anyway I took this trumpet home very proudly and could sort of make a noise out of it, but it wasn’t good. My mum was horrified when I said they gave me a trumpet. I would practice for an hour a day to my parents dismay, my mum used to do the vacuuming with industrial ear muffs on so she could dull the racket coming from my bedroom. It was a hard slog but I was so proud when I could finally play Twinkle twinkle little star, or as I prefer to know it, “A tune from Mozart”.
Remember my mate Wayne Kershaw, we were now thick as thieves. We would often go to each-others houses for a blow, as we called it, and purposely drive our respective parents mad with the noises coming from our bedrooms. (Brass Instrument Playing!). We would play simple duets and be very proud of our achievements. You see my mate Wayne was a member of the Salisbury City Band and he said it would be a good idea for me to join. So the following Sunday morning Wayne’s dad piled us into the car and off we went to the Ol’ Bug House as it was known, the Salisbury Institute.
As I was new to this brass gig, I was introduced to a man by the name of Ken McMahon who had the task of turning me into a brass player, but first downstairs for theory on the blackboard. After what felt like an eternity in the dungeon downstairs doing theory we finally got the chance to play some long tones. I was given a cornet, which was a short trumpet I guess, and so there it started. Mr. McMahon became Mr. Mac and from then to now has played a huge part in my life as a mentor, counsellor and a truly great friend, who I still respect and admire to this very day.
After a few months of theory and long notes I progressed to the learners class, which was taught by Rosalie Keen. Rosie was a great teacher, she taught upstairs in the big hall. After a while there, I progressed to the junior band, under the directorship of Adrienne Meikle. Wayne on trombone, me on cornet, life was pretty good. We had a really good junior band in those days and won a few contests in Hahndorf.
Being a member of the Salisbury Band put me in great stead for my music lessons at school, as Wayne and I were miles in front of anybody else thanks to the community band. Then the day came when Mr. Mac asked if I would like to come to Senior Band on a Tuesday night and sit in with the 3rd cornets. This was great, musicians young and old played as an ensemble, making amazing music.
I’ll never forget my first night. I sat next to Mr. Mac’s wife Bette. She was the most wonderful lady to have as your wing woman, we would laugh and joke during our bars rest, she would even light up a cigarette and have a puff if she got the chance. She was always helping me and didn’t ever get cross when I honked in the wrong place.
There were some absolutely amazing players in the band, many of whom are still lifelong friends of mine. John Price was our principle solo cornet someone who I looked up to and wanted to be like as a player. I’d never seen any ones fingers move as fast as his, he was certainly an idol of mine growing up in the band. Adrienne Meikle was principal Euphonium and was equally talented as John, she became a real inspiration to me later when I changed to a bigger instrument, she was my greatest teacher and friend.
Mr. Mac and Rosie would come to my house and give me a lesson every week and I somehow got a little better each time. I progressed to second cornet with the occasional guest appearance on repiano, but began to struggle with the higher register and that’s when my world came crashing down.
Mr. Mac suggested that I change instrument and was given a baritone. I went home and cried because it just wasn’t a cool instrument. Still I persevered sitting next to Mrs. Hockey and a fella called Smokey. I was soon making progress but after about a year I was changed to trombone.
This trombone thing was a new world of pain, where do you put your finger down when there’s no valves. My brain was converting fingering patterns to slide positions, but hey this was a very cool instrument. Ironically, my mate Wayne got moved from trombone to cornet. I’m sure they didn’t want us to sit near each other, it was a ploy for sure.
Anyway, trombone I liked and still play today. I have had some really great mates, like Bob Smith who was a great dance band player. He taught me to always look confident, even if you can’t get every note, just fake it. I’ve been doing that for 40 years now! So Bob on first, me on second and Cliff Amor on bass. Cliff was always telling dirty jokes and always had me laughing, but certainly one of the nicest blokes you will ever meet. We went from a D grade band to a C grade band and worked hard to become a very good B grade band, thanks to Adrienne Meikle’s drive and belief that we could do it. Our main rival in those days was Ron Arthur’s Enfield band and we had great respect for those guys and gals but we just wanted to beat them at the comps.
We would have many sectional rehearsals coming up to a competition and would even sneak down to Enfield’s band room and listen outside while they were rehearsing just to hear how they were tackling certain parts. The rivalry was great and I have many friends there and are still to this day but I wonder if they knew we used to spy on them. I’m sure they did the same. All is fair in love and band.
So there it was, and for 19 years had a great time at Salisbury City Band.
So many friendships were made and life events were shared. Engagements, weddings, having children and even tragic deaths. Mrs Pam Pickett, who was taken from us way to soon by some low life. Mrs P was an amazing lady, always there to record a band event or a solo and party competition. She was always kind to me and even had her own spot on the radio with Bob Smith, presenting brass music. Rest in Peace dear lady.
So to this day I am grateful for my banding time in Salisbury and the many friends I have made. The ones I want to mention have a special place in my heart and I guess helped mold me into the person I am today. I would just like to say thank you to them all. Wayne Kershaw and his amazing parents, Alan and Nina who we put through hell. Ken and Bette McMahon, Adrienne and Geoff Meikle, Rosalie Keen, Jeffrey Wescombe, Cliff Amor, Stuart Pickett and all the other members that came and went in my time at the Band.
I’d like to mention here that Jeff Wescombe and I hold the record for how many beers can you fit in a bar fridge at the Nationals in Melbourne. 63 cans!
After a time I lost my way in life and and gave up banding for a while, but did get the urge to play again. Robert Kavanagh asked me to come to Tanunda band for a blow under the Musical Directorship of David Polain.
I went quite hesitantly and sat in the trombone section as “second” 2nd trombone. The trombone line up was Bill Polain, Stephen John, Tarryn Rudiger, me and Terry Tresize on bass. WOW what a section to be in. We played a hymn as the first piece and, I swear to God, every hair on the back of my neck stood up. It was the most amazing big fat round sound I had ever heard or played in. It was amazing and I was hooked from there on. I am still a member of Tanunda Town Band today. Dave Polain is such a talent and, of course, has a soft spot for trombone players. He was so helpful with my playing and taught me a few tricks, it was Dave who suggested I go to a large bore instrument. I did struggle for a while with filling the instrument, but that is just a memory now. I moved from second 2nd trombone to 2nd trombone then moved to second 1st trombone and finally to principle trombone, where I sat for a good many years, not because I was good. Other folk had just left the band and someone had to do it.
The gigs us bandies play in are amazing and an honour for sure.
The Anzac Dawn Service and March, Christmas Pageants, Australia Day ceremonies, Remembrance Day to name a few, as well as entertaining the public and competitions at a State and National level. I’ve played some very difficult music and have performed at 21 Melodienachts. I have played solos and sectional features at these concerts and accompanied some great artists, Rachel Beck, Rhonda Burchmore, Kirsty Harmms and the amazing James Morrison.
How lucky as an amateur musician to be able to perform on stage with these truly remarkable artists with our community band. A great lifetime experience for sure and it all goes back to Mr. Mac, Rosie and Adrienne at the SCB.
My greatest achievement in Banding, as a Player and President of the Tanunda Town Band, was getting our Band to travel to the United Kingdom in 2017 to take part in the Whit Friday Marches, perform concerts at Leeds town hall with the famous Black Dyke Band, as well as putting on concerts in the north of England.
So that’s a glimpse into my story, I am very proud to be a Life Member of the Salisbury City Band, I also served as a committee member and Vice President for SABA for 4 years and have many, many banding friends.
I’d like to thank for the second half of my banding career my Musical Directors at TTB. David Polain, Jim Dempsey, Bob Hower and Bruce Raymond for all their words of support and friendship over the years.
In closing, to me anyway, it’s not just a band practice once a week, it’s a community of like-minded people (a second family) who share a passion for a very unique craft that is brass banding. The sound, when it’s right, is so special and unique and it fills the spirit with….. well you all know what I’m talking about. But yes we are in trouble, the numbers are dwindling, the Ken McMahons and Ron Arthurs of the band world are so hard to find. The youth of today have many other options fighting for their attention and time, it’s up to us to take up the baton and rekindle our craft and make it more appealing to future generations.