Home' Advance In Review : advance in Review December 2013 Contents Oboist, Leading Aircraftman Ales Rajch
(pronounced Alesh Rike) joined the Air
Command Band in 2005 and elected to
remain in the RAAF upon the formation of
the Air Force Band in 2008 and made the
move down to Melbourne. He was recently
married to Alexandra. His energy and
enthusiasm for not just making music but
also his involvement in many areas of the
band’s operations make him an invaluable
member of Air Force Band.
Clarinettist SGT Andrew Boyle, who
interviewed Ales for this edition of Advance
In Review, plays in one of the two Air Force
Wind Quintets with him.
Andrew: Ales, tell us a bit about your
Ales: Initially I studied oboe with Jiri
Tancibudek in Adelaide at the Elder
Conservatorium of music as a 15 year old.
I was there on a single study scholarship
while attending Marryatville High School.
Andrew: That’s got a great reputation as
a music school...
Ales: Yes, it has a renowned history
of nurturing classical musicians to
professional careers all over the world. I
went from there to the Prague Conservatoire
where my studies focussed on the oboe
and chamber music before returning to
Australia four years later to play with the
Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. Once I
joined the Air Force I completed a Graduate
Diploma in Performance at the University of
Melbourne’s Faculty of Music.
Andrew: Why did you go to study music
Ales: I felt that immersing myself in the
culture of music in Europe would help me
absorb the musical style and feeling of
centuries of tradition. While in Prague, I
also attended master classes with many top
oboists of the present day all over Europe,
including Spain, Paris, Switzerland and
Andrew: So, Ales, why the Oboe?
Ales: I first heard the oboe at the age of 11
in a performance of the Concerto for Oboe
by Bohuslav Martinu, composed for Jiri
Tancibudek, who was to become my teacher
and close friend. I loved the expressive
qualities of the sound and the agility of the
instrument in virtuosic passages. I can still
hear that first performance in my head.
That was the first time I met Jiri, a very
warm, insightful and gently spoken man
who had been living in Adelaide since the
1960’s. Tancibudek is a fellow countryman,
and brought the oboe to Australia in 1950.
He has influenced and taught all the major
players of the previous generation in
Andrew: Both Martinu and Jiri are fellow
countrymen of yours, is that right?
Ales: Yes, Martinu is one of the Czech
Republic’s most well-known modern and
original composers. His music is folk
influenced, utilising whole tone tonality and
traditional rhythms. He composed from
a fire bell tower 100 feet in the air which
was basically a room just big enough for
a piano. He wrote the concerto for Jiri by
correspondence when Martinu was exiled
in Paris in the early 1950s. This concerto
has become one of the masterpieces of
the oboe repertoire. I had the pleasure of
being alongside Jiri, corresponding with
the French publisher, to complete the latest
edition of the work before he died about 10
years ago. I would say that I’m one of the
few lucky people to know exactly how Jiri
intended this work to be played. There are
still some misprints in the latest edition!!
Andrew: Apart from the Air Force Band,
which other ensembles have you played
Ales: I played with the Melbourne and
Adelaide Symphony Orchestras, The
Queensland Orchestra, the Adelaide and
the Melbourne Chamber Orchestras and
Melbourne Opera. I have also played with
a number of smaller ensembles, including
the Melbourne Philharmonia, playing
baroque works like the Messiah. I’ve also
performed in smaller chamber groups, both
classical and pop, including The Whitlams
and with Olivia Newton John.
Andrew: Moving onto your Air Force career,
what have been some of the highlights?
Ales: Playing with the Air Force Wind
Quintet in both Sydney and Melbourne
has been excellent. I believe that the wind
quintet is the best chamber ensemble to
showcase the oboe’s expressive qualities. A
major highlight occurred early in my career
when the Sydney band’s quintet was invited
to participate in the Australian Festival of
Chamber music in Townsville, where we
were fortunate to be tutored by one of my
favourite Australian oboists, Diana Doherty,
in music by the Australian composer Ross
I have also enjoyed being deployed as a
sound engineer to locations such as Timor
L’este, the Solomon Islands and the Middle
East. Playing in the Dawn Service in Gallipoli
has also been a great privilege.
Andrew: What quintets have you been
Ales: Ross Edward’s Incantations is a very
original work by a very humble composer.
The work is based around Maninyas or
“Australian dance chant”. I’m looking
forward to performing this work again
with the Air Force Wind Quintet at St Paul’s
Andrew: Thank you, Ales.
In addition to his fine oboe playing, Ales
has a Diploma in sound engineering
and has made a valuable contribution in
the important area of managing noise
exposure in the Air Force Band. He has
begun competing in long distance and
adventure events, and completed his
first Half-Ironman earlier this year. He
is also passionate about gliding and has
completed several cross country flights of
Sergeant Andrew Boyle
Merv Keenan was a long time supporter
of the Air Command Band, so it was no
surprise when we performed at St Andrews
Cathedral in Sydney for our 90th Anniversary
Concert, that he was one the first people to
As we are always keen to stay connected
with our supportive audience, we seized the
opportunity to find out more about Merv,
and his experiences with the Air Force
Brendon: How did you first become
interested in the Air Force Band?
Merv: Well I was interested in bands from
childhood actually. It was in 1970, during
the James Cook Bicentennial Celebrations, I
was in Wynyard Park and saw the RAAF No.1
Regional Band play under Mike Butcher. I
liked the sound they made and approached
Mike to ask what band they were and he
introduced them as the Air Force Band from
Richmond. He explained that there were
two Air Force Bands; the No.1 Regional
Band from Richmond Air Base in Sydney
and the Central Band from Laverton Air
Base in Melbourne.
Brendon: When did you first hear the Air
Merv: I attended an Air Training Corps
parade at the Bexley Technical High School
in Forest Road. One of the parents must
have had some influence as he was able
to have the bands of the three services;
Army, Navy and Air Force perform at the
celebration. The Air Force Band (Richmond)
was a little smaller. That was in 1969. I
would go and hear all the bands, but would
prefer the Air Force Band (Richmond).
Brendon: Which Musical Directors have
you heard conduct the Air Force Band
Merv: I heard the band under Archie Burt,
Mike Butcher, Tom Cooper, David Worrall,
John Buckley and Mathew Shelley. I
thought it was Tom Cooper that really put
the band on the map. I often saw them
play outside the steps of the Sydney Opera
House, and at Sunday evening concerts at
Sydney Town Hall and Wednesday/Thursday
night concerts at the old Methodist Church
in Burwood. Tom was very good at talking
to the public.
Brendon: So would you say that Mike
Butcher’s role was to build the band and
Tom Cooper’s was to promote the band?
Merv: Yes. From 1973-1989, I was working
in the city and was able to rush up to Martin
Place to hear the band play at lunch time.
It was two 45 minute sets with a break in
the middle. The first set would be a serious
program, whilst the second set would be
lighter music. The Martin Place Concerts
were initially conducted by Tom Cooper and
then David Worrall took over and started
the Band Call Concerts at St Andrew’s
Cathedral. I believe I heard the very first
of these concerts. Talking of David Worrall,
I also heard his farewell concert at Angel
Place, Sydney where I heard the Enigma
Variations in its entirety for Concert Band.
Brendon: What was the contribution of
Merv: John Buckley introduced audiences
to a whole new world of new creative
repertoire for Military Band. I was
encouraged to buy recordings and developed
a love of the music of Martin Ellerby.
Brendon: Did you ever hear the RAAF
Merv: Yes, I first heard the RAAF Central
Band in 1966 on a Sunday Evening Battle of
Britain Concert at Sydney Town Hall. They
were playing with the Grand Organ playing
William Walton’s “Crown Imperial” and
Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance No.1”. It
was a fabulous concert, a fabulous band.
Another thing I thought was impressive
with the Central Band was how quickly they
could change uniforms. Minutes before the
concert, I would see Laurie Hicks in civilian
attire and then five minutes later, he was
in full uniform!
Brendon: So before the Richmond Band
was established as a full time band, did the
Central Band come to Sydney?
Merv: Very occasionally. I only remember
them coming three other times, such as
Sunday afternoon concerts. At the time I
thought military bands only played marches,
but the quality of the presentation converted
me straight away to a much more diverse
world of military band music. What also
impressed me was that they had a harpist.
This poor bloke was placed in front of the
band but didn’t play until the end of the
concert but all of a sudden came to life for
his big moment at the end of the concert.
Brendon: Did you ever get the chance to
see the RAAF Richmond Band on Parade?
Merv: I did see them a number of times on
Anzac Day, the 1st Sydney-based Edinburgh
Military Tattoo, as well as regular parades
at the Cenotaph at Martin Place.
Brendon: What do you enjoy the most
about the Air Force Band Concerts?
Merv: The professionalism, enthusiasm
displayed by the people in the band and I
like the look of the uniforms. Programming
has a big impact on my impression of the
concerts. I love Eric Coates, English Folk
Song Suites and Vaughan Williams. I love
Brendon: Merv thank you for your time and
your unwavering support over these many
years. We look forward to seeing you again
soon at one of our future performances.
Leading Aircraftman Brendon Lukin
Ales Rajch recently married to Alexandra
in Prague, Czech Republic.
Merv Keenan with Commanding Officer
Squadron Leader Mathew Shelley.
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