Life filled with music

THE Barrier Industrial Union’s Band vice-president Ray Sayers has played at nearly 70 Anzac Day ceremonies over the years, and the sun hasn’t set on him yet.

Ray’s life has included music for 69 years, starting at age 13 when he joined the Police Boy’s Club Band.

Also known as the Citizens-Police Boy’s Club Band, it was first established in February 1946 as a 55-piece brass band, with the instruments shipped over from England.

The conductor for the band during Ray’s time with them was called Tom Nakivell, who Ray described as a good chap and conductor.

In the Boy’s Club Band he played second cornet, an instrument similar to a trumpet but more compact and with a mellow sound.

He said music has always been a part of his life.

“I just like music, it’s always been there in my life,” Ray said.

“At the time I was a member of the Police Boy’s Club so it made sense to join the band,” he said.

“My family wasn’t really interested in music so I picked it up on my own, brass band music was going out of fashion a bit at the stage but I enjoyed it.”

When the Boys’ Club Band finished Ray joined the BIU Band, which at the time enjoyed the support of the Barrier Industrial Council.

“As a union band everyone with the union was required to put in two shillings to support the band, a lot of them didn’t like it,” Ray said.

“At the time we never got paid holidays for Anzac Day, we had to ask permission to march,” he said.

“At the same time I was a boiler maker with the mines, Zinc and North Mine.

“I did an apprenticeship up at Zinc then I was employed up at the North Mine most of my life until they closed.

“I was about 59 then so it seemed the right time to retire, but I kept up with the band.”

Ray was president of the BIU Band for 17 years, stepping down about five years ago to take the role of vice-president and hand some of the responsibility over to younger band members.

He said his time with the band has included plenty of highlights, including marching and playing for the Queen during her 1954 visit, and playing with the Adelaide and Sydney Symphony Orchestras.

“Last year the Sydney Symphony Orchestra came to Broken Hill and played in the band hall, and it was a pleasure to play with them,” Ray said.

“We’ve played twice with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra too, when they came up here.”

During Ray’s time with the band the group has also won two Australian A Grade Championships, the first in 1961 and the second in 1963.

“We’ve been classed as one of the best bands in Australia,” Ray said.

“We were in Dubbo the first time, and we got a standing ovation that year,” he said.

“It was very hard practicing for it, you’d go to work in the morning and then come home, and then go out again and practice at night, and we did that for three months before each competition.”

The BIU Band doesn’t march anymore, but it continues to perform at various occasions throughout the year, such as the Anzac Day Ceremony.

Ray said that in previous years the band would march a significant portion of the city as part of their routine, which with the brass instruments and smart uniforms must have made quite a sight.

“We’d march down Argent Street to Oxide Street, around Oxide and up to Blende Street then down around to the memorial, now we only go about a block,” Ray said.

“We used to be on the ABC, a program called Band Parade on a Sunday afternoon, broadcast from the band room or sometimes the studio,” he said.

“I think there was a recorded program on 2DryFM on Mondays as well.”

Right now Ray is mostly focussed on keeping the band running.

There are about 15 band members in 2017, of which Ray is one of two from the 1950s.

“I stayed with the band because I love music and the BIU Band has terrific music, it’s not always appreciated though,” Ray said.

“We used to give concerts in the park every Sunday night in the summer, and we didn’t have cars so we’d walk to the park and back again,” he said.

“At the present time I’m focussing on keeping the band running, we desperately need players. There’s no age limit on players. 

“We could do up to 20 performances a year, but not right now since we’re down on numbers.”

The band lost the financial backing of the unions in the early 1990s, and for the last 20-plus years has relied on the willpower of its band members and community support and donations to continue.