Eighty-year-old John Hargreaves admits to geting a bit short of breath but it doesn't stop him blowing his cornet.

He's still very much in demand at funerals, Anzac services and other commemorations around Cambridge.

"It's not just blowing through it," he said. "You've got to pinch your lips. The higher pinch lips - the higher or lower the note."

On Wednesday, he celebrated his 80th birthday but it was also the date for an even more remarkable anniversary - 70 years in the Cambridge Brass Band.


On Monday, his life-long service to the community band was recognised by his bandmates with a celebration and framed photograph.

In turn, he has the band to thank for meeting his wife Jean.

"He was sitting in the quad-section and I eventually figured out who he was," Jean said.

During 70 years with the Cambridge Brass Band, John has been all over New Zealand.

"We went to Christchurch, Timaru, Dunedin, Invercargill by bus, we stopped in Queenstown, even played on the old steamer right across the lake.

"We got a free ride," he said. "That was really neat."

He also played for the Queen in 1953 - he was only a teenager at the time.

"The square was full of kids from other towns. She drove around the square to the town hall," he recalled.


Whennot playing music, he's on the farm which is just out of Cambridge. It's been in the family for four generations.

John has watched all the trees grow over the years, many he planted and stand as proof of his age.

"This big tree here, it's 65 years old. I planted it," John is pointing at a huge tree trunk which has grown around and over an old fence post.

He's planted more than 300 kauri trees plus macrocarpas, totara and an orchard of fruit and nut trees.

Jean is proud of her husband's achievements on the farm and playing the cornet.

"If the funeral directors ring up and ask for John to play, well he'll have to be lying on his bed nearly dead, before he will be able to say no."

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