Stadacona Band forging connections with Kiwi colleagues

Stadacona band members participating in the latest exchange with the RNZN Band at Devonport Naval Base in Auckland, New Zealand. From left, MS Matthew Henry, S1 Chelsea Alexi, PO2 Christian Navrátil, and MS Tony Taylor.

Stadacona Band forging connections with Kiwi colleagues

Chief Petty Officer Spriggs of the Royal New Zealand Navy Band is seen prior to this year’s “Home for the Holidays” concert alongside three members of the Stadacona Band who participated in a 2023 exchange program to New Zealand – PO1 Charmaine Chaddock, PO2 Anna Sprange, and MS Emily Bellman.

By Ryan Melanson,
Trident staff

Originally scuttled in 2020 due to pandemic concerns, a long-planned CANZEX exchange program between the Stadacona Band of the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) Band is now in full swing.

Successful exchanges were completed in 2023 in both directions, and the next chapter of the ongoing partnership is currently underway – four Stad Band members left Halifax in mid-January and are now wrapping up a five-week exchange with their RNZN counterparts.

Petty Officer 1st Class Charmaine Chaddock, who travelled to Auckland in early 2023, said the trips have been fruitful as both a cultural exchange and a training/learning opportunity for those involved. She was part of the group planning an initial trip that was cancelled in 2020, bringing a lot of disappointment for members, who had bags packed and ready to go. The bands stayed in touch and continued seeking opportunities until it finally became possible.

PO1 Chaddock was joined by PO2 Anna Sprange and MS Emily Bellman on that exchange in New Zealand. RNZN Chief Petty Officer Philip Spriggs, who was also involved in planning the programs from the beginning, saw things come to fruition on his side when he joined the Stadacona Band in Halifax for some of the final weeks of 2023 through its holiday concert season.

“The relationship between the two bands has been growing and has been maintained ever since that first group was supposed to go over. It was so nice to finally make it happen in 2023, after a long period where we were hoping and crossing our fingers that it could work out,” PO1 Chaddock said.

Those trips were successful in a number of ways, as members learned about differences in the way each band operates, both administratively and in musical performance. Cultural experiences also stood out on both sides. Highlights for CPO Spriggs during his time in Canada included his first time on a curling sheet, his first live hockey game, and visits to local landmarks like Peggy’s Cove. For the Canadians on exchange, the influence of the Māori culture stood out – they were moved by a welcome ceremony on the marae (Māori meeting grounds) upon their arrival, and said the influence of the Māori culture on the country and its military was evident in the music they performed and the communities they visited.

The Stad Band members currently in Auckland spoke to Trident before leaving, and some pointed to that Māori influence as one of the factors that made the exchange so attractive.

“They are so close with the Indigenous cultures, which is exciting and something we could probably learn from,” said Sailor 1st Class Chelsea Alexi, who is on the exchange along with Master Sailor Matthew Henry, Petty Officer 2nd Class Christian Navrátil, and Master Sailor Tony Taylor.

“I’m looking forward to being a part of it and learning more about that.”

PO2 Navrátil, a drum major, said he was eyeing the performance challenges that may come from different drill and marching styles, noting with a laugh that “We’ve heard some interesting stories about backwards slow marches and things like that.”

MS Bellman, PO1 Chaddock and PO2 Sprange are seen with New Zealand Navy Band colleagues at the famous Tongariro Crossing on New Zealand’s North Island in 2023.

“So I’m very curious to see how the drill is going to go. That might be something fun and a little different for us.”

Members said both bands are keen to keep the partnership and exchanges rolling. Though the RNZN Band is a smaller outfit with fewer musicians to spare, the Stad Band hopes to welcome more New Zealanders to Halifax in the near future, and vice versa, leading to an even closer relationship and continued mutual benefits.

“We have people who can really gain and glean something from the experience, who are dedicated to the band and a vision for the music branch going forward. It’s a great opportunity,” said MS Taylor.