Above: Barrier Industrial Unions' Band - Broken Hill 1959
Above: Barrier Industrial Unions' Band - Broken Hill 1963
Above: St Johns Ambulance Brigade Band 1972
Above: St Johns Band 1973, Graham Olds and Colin Martin
Above: BIU Band 1961, Dubbo Street March A Grade National Champs.
“Is D still first and third?”
This question was asked by Graham Olds on many occasions. The reassurance he sought was usually as a response to someone with less talent, but more ambition, than him trying to “Re-invent the wheel”.
Graham is Old School (pun intended!), everything he has achieved has been achieved through steady, consistent work. He has relentlessly addressed what he perceives are his deficiencies, he listens to quality music and produces quality music, he works at perfecting the fundamentals. Graham’s wheel rolls truly, and does not need to be aligned or balanced or interfered with in any way, shape or form!
I first heard Graham in 1972, when he ripped through a tenor horn solo in the State Solo Competitions, it was very impressive and delivered with composure and style, leaving me with that feeling you get when you hear someone who seems very unlikely to make a mistake. That feeling of being able to relax with confidence, secure in the knowledge that your emotions will not be called on to deal with any sort of cringe factor that may be a result of watching someone turning “O Lovely Night” into a nightmare!
In the mid-eighties I had the very good fortune to play in the SA State Opera Orchestra with Graham. The conductor of the orchestra had an unfortunate propensity for delivering long-winded pep talks pre-performance. One night, after a lengthy speech to the musicians by this gentleman, Graham turned to me and said,
“He means don’t make any mistakes”.
Graham Olds is not a man who likes to waste words. His words, like his deeds, are worthy of attention.
Geoff Meikle, 2020
SNAPSHOT PROFILE, Graham Olds
Name and place of birth; Graham Olds, Broken Hill
Parents names; Bill and Mary
Instrument(s); Mainly tenor horn – french horn, some trumpet – cornet
Who were your first influences and who gave you your first lesson?
Everybody that was better than me, which seemed to be everybody.
Peter Walmsley – amazingly talented – won open Australian Champion of Champion in Perth at 15 years old. Possibly still the youngest to do so – compared to him I was a slow learner.
What bands have you played in?
Barrier Industrial Unions Band
St Johns Ambulance SA
Guest – Kensington and Norwood, 1st State Band, Kadina and Wallaroo
Has there been a particular time in your life that has been important in shaping you as a musician? No
Contesting…………Is it worth the effort? Liked the challenge.
What awards, prizes and achievements have made you glad that you made the effort. None, other than best time is when “good notes coming out of bell”.
What are your preferred styles of music? The so-called heavy classics, mainly classical, romantic periods of 18th and 19th century.
Who are your favourite musicians, bands and musical associates? Everybody.
What effect has banding had on your family life? “Not another bloody Brass Band concert”
Has banding influenced your social life? No idea! Being a non-drinker and a bit quiet and reserved by nature – probably regarded as an unsociable B!
What are your other interests? At present, a bit of painting, mainly landscapes. Fishing and travelling.
What lies ahead for you? The end.
Anything else?................... Thoughts and opinions?
Two major factors,
Self-diagnosed as slightly dyslexic due to difficulty reading music and average spelling ability.
Diagnosed with anxiety disorder, solo work almost non-existent as I rarely performed to expectations.
It was all Dad’s idea. He came home from the local pub one day and announced that I was to have cornet lessons with Peter Walmsley next Saturday. He had just met Harold (Walmsley) at the pub, asked him to teach me, he said no, but Peter would. I was 11½, Peter 14, so I guess I was his first student. Condition was, “if he’s no good forget it”, two possibilities – no ability or no practise – either way we don’t care, wasting our time, your time and your money.
Dad said later that he always wanted to learn a brass instrument but never had the opportunity and assumed that I – who had never given it a thought – would like to. I had been learning piano for 18 months from Dad’s sister (Aunty Maude). Dad had a lot of recordings and was often playing them on the gramophone. Mum was a good pianist, having gained her A.Mus.A. and A.T.C.L. and did a lot of accompanying for me over the years.
Some months later I joined the Barrier Industrial Unions Band in 1958 on 3rd cornet. The local union body funded the band, 6d/head/year, hence the name. Other financial sources included the local council grant for local concerts, ceremonies etc. and raffles etc by the band, as it contested regularly in “A” grade.
We were National Champions in 1961 (Dubbo), I played first tenor horn. We won every section – Test, Own Choice, Hymn and March. We even won the diagram march – told at the time we were not that good, all the others were worse. Again in 1963 in Adelaide, I played solo horn, we won the aggregate, but came 2nd in all the sections. The playing was done in the middle of Norwood Oval, complete with wind blowing the music around. Little did I know that this was to be the peak of achievement in my brass banding days.
The band also recorded for the ABC for a radio program on Sunday afternoons (Band Roundabout??). Rehearsals were regularly 2x weekly on Thursday night and Sunday morning (yippee, no Sunday School). Nearer to competitions a Tuesday rehearsal was added, and the last couple of weeks just about every day was used. At its best the band was probably the tightest group, musically, I’ve ever experienced and Harold one of the best conductors. My first experience with S.A.S.O. (now A.S.O.) was with the band as a 13 year old on 3rd cornet playing Light Cavalry with the orchestra on their annual visit to Broken Hill, Henry Kripps conducting. When Harold left Peter took over as conductor until he joined the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
I left Broken Hill at the end of 1971 to take up a teaching position with T.A.F.E., with no musical intention. However, Harold had moved to Adelaide and taken over the Richmond Hotel in Rundle St. and was conducting the St John Ambulance Brigade Band. I joined the Band in 1972. It is the only band I know that requires qualifications to be a member – ie a first aid certificate, “as you wear a uniform, people will expect first aid help”. During the next couple of years I won a couple of state titles on tenor horn and one national title in 1973.
Harold was replaced at St. Johns and while attending Western Teachers College I had the opportunity to try a French horn, which I was keen to do as most of the recordings I listened to were orchestral. In 1974 I took up French horn, played in everything but brass bands for the next 20 years.
A couple of years later in 1976, I transferred to the Ed. Dept. as an instrumental music teacher of brass – orchestral only – which I dutifully ignored! I spent the next 30 years there until retirement.
While living in Clare in the early 90s a fellow teacher in the department, John Pettigrew, had taken over conducting Tanunda Town Band. So, in the mid-nineties I was back in the fold travelling with Terry Tresize and Stephen John every Thursday from Clare to Tanunda.
The first trip with the band was a pleasure trip up through the centre as far as Tennant Creek with some pipers from an Adelaide Regiment (not sure which one). Some people seem to be indestructible on band trips, but not me! Thankfully, I could sleep on the bus – sorry, coach! I wonder if the locals appreciated the bagpipes being played halfway up Uluru, or at the constabulary in Coober Pedy at 5.00 am! A couple of trips to Dimboola were undertaken and at one of them our regular conductor David Polain was unavailable and replaced by Geoff Meikle.
A few years later, having returned to Adelaide, I found the travelling to Tanunda to be too much. The office at work moved again, this time to Salisbury East High School, where Geoff taught. So the last years of playing were at Salisbury City.
My participation in solo and party competitions was minimal as I never initiated anything. I was always “volunteered” by someone else! I only competed once as a junior. That was 1960 in Sydney at the NSW state titles, and won the under 16 Tenor Torn and Flugel section as a 14 year old. The next was in Adelaide in 1967 at the SA state titles and won the Open Tenor Horn, open duet (with Roly Lower on Eupho) and the open trio (with Roly Lower and Peter Walmsley on Eupho and cornet respectively). Then once in 1972 and 1973 as previously mentioned. Lastly was as a veteran in the Salisbury Slow Melody Competition 200?, so five times in all.
Graham Olds, 2019