Simon Plumb is a journalist for the Herald on Sunday

Kiwis get royal summons

NZ Army Band to entertain at Queen's 90th birthday bash.
The NZ Army Band's unique style has led to them being invited to entertain the Queen. Photo / Brett Phibbs
The NZ Army Band's unique style has led to them being invited to entertain the Queen. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The New Zealand Army Band will perform at the Queen's 90th birthday party - at the request of the monarch herself.

On April 21, Queen Elizabeth II will become the first reigning British monarch to reach a 90th birthday.

Among a raft of events to be held in the UK during April, May and June will be a four-day event between May 12-15 in the grounds of Windsor Castle. Those shows will be held every evening to a sold-out stadium, and the Queen will attend on the final night.

The invitation-only evenings, featuring some of the world's biggest names in music and entertainment, will include a group of 38 New Zealanders by appointment of Her Majesty the Queen.

"The Queen has asked for us personally, which is pretty special," Major Graham Hickman, the band's director of music said.

Hickman, who has been part of the band for 30 years, said the Kiwis' twist on a traditional marching band has made them one of the most popular bands in the world.

The NZ Army Band's entertainment-driven act incorporates pop music, dancing and usually a haka, a recipe which has seen them described as one of the world's best. They were previously invited by the Queen four years ago as part of her Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

"We are unique. We don't have 300 or 400 years of heritage and, as a relatively young country and military, it's given us a fair amount of freedom to create our own style of marching display," Hickman said.

"It's quite different from what people would expect. A lot of military bands are restricted by tradition. They march up and down in a straight line and play music for troops. We've had the luxury of evolving an entertainment-based display.

"It's partly a bit of Kiwi ingenuity and innovation that reflects our national character. We always try to put a bit of humour in there because Kiwis are so good at laughing at themselves and we often put a haka in, which goes down well with the crowds."

"In 2012, four of us were selected for a meet and greet at an afternoon tea with Her Majesty. That was a great honour. She came across as a lovely person," Hickman said.

"We're looking forward to the whole thing. It takes a lot of concentration to move and play at the same time - and get it right.

"We'll get our own segment, which is normally 10-12 minutes, and then we'll be involved with other groups where there will probably be some kind of Australasian act."

The band will also perform at the Royal Windsor Horse Show, which runs from May 11-15.

- Herald on Sunday

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