Home' Advance In Review : Advance in Review August 2013 Contents Approximately 18 months ago, we at the
Air Force Band lost one of our finest ever
clarinetists. He held the rank of Leading
Aircraftman, stood at 6' 6", and was loved
and admired by pretty well everyone in the
unit. It was with a mix of pride and sadness
that we farewelled him from our shores, and
his presence is still missed.
Here is a brief interview with Australia's
very own Ben Williams.
Ian: We know that the life of a service
musician is similar throughout the world,
but can you name any major differences
between the RAAF and RAF bands?
Ben: Apart from a different shade of blue,
different band drill, different music and
very different accents the job is very similar.
Being a large organisation of three bands
and a headquarters that manages those
bands, there is certainly no shortage of
parades and concerts to keep us busy. A lot
of that work is ceremonial playing, there
seems to be a parade for every occasion
over here! With last year being the Diamond
Jubilee, playing for Her Majesty the Queen
and other Royals is something I've had to
get used to. It is certainly not something
that I had to do in Australia.
Ben's timing for enlistment showed either
great courage or poor planning in that
he underwent his recruit training during
England's notoriously inhospitable winter.
Ian: How did your RAF basic training
compare with that of the RAAF?
Ben: The basic training component was
challenging at times, however most of
those challenges involved me having to
live in close proximity with 17 and 18 year
olds. Having to learn very quickly about the
cultural differences between myself and
fellow recruits also proved a challenge,
often resulting in my amusement. The
fitness side of things was not an issue I'd
even say that it seemed easier than the
original RAAF basic training. One aspect of
training that I did find difficult however was
the chemical, biological, radiological and
nuclear training. Decontamination is the
Royal Air Force Music Service's primary war
role. Marching, running and generally living
in a respirator is not something I'd be keen
to do again any time soon.
Ian: Within 12 months of you playing in the
Central Band you were headhunted to the
College Band in Sleaford. How have you
found that? Are the jobs similar?
Ben: I wouldn't go as far as 'headhunted'
however I was asked if I would like to move
up to the Band of the Royal Air Force College
to fill the role of principal clarinet. It is quite
an honour as there are no other principal
players in any of the bands at my rank. The
lifestyle of living in Sleaford is very different
to London. Being surrounded by fields
instead of traffic is a good thing. Also, the
pace of the country life is very relaxing. A
negative side however is travelling a good
25 minutes to find a decent coffee!
Ben is not only extremely adept at making
fine music, but also consuming it; for
instance, his CD collection would rival that
of most radio stations.
Ian: Living in the UK, you have immediate
access to the world's finest musical
organisations. What are some of the best
you've been to see?
Ben: It is true that London has a vast
amount of quality music being played
throughout the year by local and touring
ensembles. Some highlights have been the
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Los
Angeles Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic,
Berlin Philharmonic and of course the
London Symphony. Quite conveniently all
in the same place too! Even being up north
it only takes a bit over an hour on the train
to see them play.
Culturally, Ben seems to have it covered but
he is also a great lover of sports.
Ian: As an Australian in England, how easy
is life for you during The Ashes series? Is
the sporting culture similar to ours?
Ben: It's taken some getting used to the
football (soccer) saturation over here. I'm
coming around to the sport, not willingly
though. As to be expected I'm coping some
Ashes heat at the moment, I'm hoping that
we can come through with some wins soon
so I can give it back to them!
Ian: Just to finish off, you acquired many
nicknames during your time with the RAAF
- most of which were endearing. Have your
new workmates furnished you with any
Ben: Strangely, I don't have many
nicknames over here. Everyone does call
me Bruce though - probably owing to Monty
Python. Could be worse I suppose!
Ian: Could be worse indeed. Ben, we thank
you for your time and follow your progress
with great interest. You are probably the
best ambassador we've ever sent over
there, so continue doing us proud and come
Corporal Ian Haines
The Air Force Band's Greatest Export
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