Naden Band joins forces with prolific composer


Bob Buckley

Seated far back in the crowd at the bustling Ladner Band Festival last June, Bob Buckley was entranced by the perfectly played music of the Naden Band of the Royal Canadian Navy.

“They were unbelievable that day,” says Buckley. “They are probably one of the best wind ensembles I’ve ever heard in the world.”

Buckley, a Canadian composer who has written hundreds of scores for television shows and movies, approached Director of Music for the Naden Band, Lieutenant (Navy) Matthew Clark after the show, proposing the two collaborate on a musical project.

“When Bob came up to me, I told him, ‘we have played your music before’,” says Lt(N) Clark. “From there we started a conversation about working together.”

Lt(N) Clark wound up commissioning Buckley to write a piece for their 2014 Christmas concert. From there, the two agreed to pair their individual experience to record and produce a CD.

“It was always my dream to be a serious composer,” says Buckley, who studied composition at the University of Washington and the University of British Columbia. “But then I got seduced by rock and roll for 20 years.”

He has conducted and arranged for major artists such as Michael Bublé, Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, Our Lady Peace, Simple Plan and Aerosmith, to name a few.

His musical genius has led him to play in more than a few rock bands, and even a wind ensemble in Holland. Buckley has published at least 60 different wind band compositions with North American and Dutch music publishers.

For the CD, he agreed to compose a number of original pieces, and Lt(N) Clark worked with the band to rehearse and polish Buckley’s music.

The CD, “Undercurrents”, is comprised of 15 tracks of contemporary wind music. It features a range of tones and styles, from jazz and classical to songs with more upbeat, funky tempos.

One suite of music, “Portraits of the North”, was inspired by paintings of the Group of Seven.

“It’s expansive,” says Buckley. “I wanted to capture the idea of how, being up North, the sound echoes outwards and never seems to come back to you. I tried for that effect.”

“Free Running” was composed entirely of short staccato eighth notes, giving the song high energy and a quick pace, and making it an especially tricky piece to play.

Buckley says that the piece was influenced by pointillistic painting, a style requiring artists to use tiny dots of paint on the canvas to create large images.  

But both Buckley and Lt(N) Clark agree that “Undercurrents”, a piece written by Buckley especially for the Band and bearing the CD’s title, is their favourite piece.

“Bob came and visited us and had a serious listen to the sound of the Band before he wrote it,” says Lt(N) Clark.

“He composed it specifically with certain musicians and sections in mind. Because he is such a master of his art, he was able to capture the complete character of the Band.”

“We don’t have to work to make it sound like us,” he adds. “It is us.”

For Buckley, the piece represents his image of Victoria. He says the wildlife and surrounding natural landscape of the island are translated directly into the undercurrents of music played by soloists throughout the piece.

The composer started work on the CD months ago, taking walks outside in Vancouver or down by the ocean to seek inspiration for the music.

His working knowledge of all wind instruments allowed him to write for every instrument in the band, anything from the xylophone and bass drums to the piccolo.

The Naden Band recorded the CD over four intense days during the last week of July.

They worked in the Royal Theatre in downtown Victoria, with Lt(N) Clark conducting and Dr. Gerald King from the University of Victoria helping to produce.

The renowned sound engineer, Rob Vermeulen, brought his remote recording gear into the theatre to digitally capture the music.

Buckley says he sat close to the Band with his musical scores in hand, listening for anything out of tune.

“As we were recording, I listened for overall performance and to make sure it had the emotional impact we wanted,” he says.

“I had to listen from the point of view of being in a recording session, where time is tight. But every once in a while I sat back, let go of that role and just enjoyed the music.”

Lt(N) Clark says his role when recording was to channel Buckley’s voice through the music of his Band.

“Without the musicians, notes are simply dots on a page,” he says.

“It’s up to the players to take that secret language and turn it into the music we know.”

For up to eight hours a day, the Band brought Buckley’s notes to life, giving them musicality, shape, and form. But performing at a top-notch quality for extended periods of time is challenging for any musician.

“That’s why being in the recording studio is incumbent on leadership,” says Lt(N) Clark. “The conductor, producer, and engineer all have the responsibility to make the musicians feel as comfortable as possible.”

With the music recorded, Buckley will take the digital files back to his studio in Vancouver to build the CD.

He says he’ll be focusing on developing an arc of undercurrents that make the listener feel as though they are literally sitting in a concert.

Lookout graphic designer Carmel Ecker is currently designing the CD cover art.

Both Lt(N) Clark and Buckley are aiming to produce between 3,000 and 5,000 copies for both military members and civilians at no cost. Buckley anticipates the CD will be ready for dissemination by October of this year.

“This is unprecedented work,” says Buckley. “I don’t think that any military band in Canada or North America has taken on playing the music of one composer to release a CD.”

For Lt(N) Clark, the project is an example of how his Band can do anything they set their minds to.

“I wanted to firmly support activities that break new ground and result in shining a positive light on the Navy,” he says. “This project is allowing the Naden Band of the Royal Canadian Navy to be reintroduced to the world.”

Staff Writer
Rachel Lallouz

Filed Under: Top Stories


About the Author:

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Leave a Reply

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a Gravatar.