Former busker ‘honoured’ by invitation to sing for her country at Dawn Service.

Rebecca Nelson was busking on a Devonport street when a man approached her with a curious proposition.

Would the classical crossover singer like to tour as the singer for the Royal New Zealand Navy Band?

The answer was yes. Three months later, the answer was the same when she was invited to officially enlist in the Navy as a reservist to serve New Zealand as the band's official singer.

Listen to Rebecca Nelson here


This year Nelson, 26, will perform the New Zealand national anthem at the Dawn Service at Gallipoli on Anzac Day. And she has just released her second album - a collection of Anzac and war songs.

The sparse-yet-challenging terrain of the Gallipoli Peninsula is a far cry from her usual stage and her nerves are already building when we meet for a chat about her once-in-a-lifetime gig.

But the Christchurch-born star says being asked to sing for her country at such a sacred event is a huge honour.

"I [sang at Gallipoli] last year and from that my name was put in the hat for the centenary. Then I got the call-up to see if I was available," she said.

"Obviously I would turn down everything else to do this.

"Standing there singing the national anthem at dawn last year was an amazing, incredible and very surreal feeling. It was beautiful."

Nelson has been rehearsing for the commemoration for months and will also perform during the reflective programme that will run throughout the night at the Dawn Service site, where 10,500 people will gather to mark the centenary.

She will perform in Navy uniform and wear the service medals of her great uncle Thomas Nelson, a New Zealand teamster in the Armed Allied Forces who died age 26 in Belgium in 1918.


"I feel very powerful in my uniform. There is a lot of pride in it," she said. "I just belt it out."

Nelson expects the day to be emotional and solemn, but also a beautiful way to remember the Anzacs. To be asked to go back again and sing at the centenary of Anzac Day commemorations is incredible.

"It's definitely something I'm going to tell my grandchildren."

The experience of performing at Gallipoli in 2014 also inspired Nelson's latest CD, Reflection, a self-produced album financed through a crowd-funding website.

"It has a strong military feel with old war songs from the likes of Vera Lynn and other traditional New Zealand stuff," she said.

"It's so people can have a reminder of the past."

Reflections features guest performances by the Royal New Zealand Navy Band and the Christchurch Boys' Choir.

A portion of all album sales will be donated to the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association (RSA).

Rebecca Nelson has sung everywhere, from the streets to stadiums.
Rebecca Nelson has sung everywhere, from the streets to stadiums.