Back in the band

By Deniliquin Pastoral Times

December marked the end of an era for Deniliquin’s Ian Bathgate, and for the Edward River Concert Band.

After 32 years as bandmaster of the town band — which has had a few different names in that time — Mr Bathgate retired from the top job.

He has been succeeded by Richard Sievers.

But Mr Bathgate said he’s not ready to leave the band behind just yet, and will remain an active member ‘‘for as long as I can possibly play’’.

‘‘There is satisfaction in being a part of a group with common interests, working towards common goals,’’ Mr Bathgate said.

‘‘I have enjoyed the fellowship of working with the large range of the band (members).

‘‘There are people in their 90s and people in their teens. It’s been particularly rewarding to see the cooperation between the (age) groups.’’

It was a gradual transition leading up to Mr Bathgate’s retirement as band master at the end of 2018, having shared the role with his successor over the last 12 months.

‘‘Because we spent the last year sharing rehearsals, I think people have become comfortable with the changeover,’’ he said.

‘‘I have seen bandmasters retire after being in the position for a long time, and the band falls apart.

‘‘I don’t think it will happen here because everyone I have spoken to seems content.’’

Mr Bathgate became involved in the Deniliquin Municipal Band after he took a teaching job at Deniliquin High School in 1986.

He was invited to ‘‘come along and join the band’’ by member Richard Davies.

‘‘I discovered that they needed a bandmaster, and with my previous seven years of bandmaster experience and conducting a combined school choir eisteddfod in Gunnedah, I gave it a go,’’ Mr Bathgate said.

And so started a legacy that would span several decades.

Mr Bathgate had been involved in bands since he was 21. He was a member at Cobar in 1961, Bourke in 1962 and Gunnedah from 1966 to 1985 before relocating to Deniliquin.

His love of music transferred to he and wife Bronwyn’s three children — Natasha, David and Sarah — and he was proud to have shared time in the band with Natasha and David.

David went on to study music and is now a music teacher at a Melbourne high school.

Natasha, a former Pastoral Times journalist, and Sarah took different paths. Sarah studied science and arts and is now a librarian at a Catholic college in Cairns. Natasha continued in communication.

Mr Bathgate said he was also proud to have helped other local young people explore their love of music through the band.

Some were his students at Deniliquin High School.

He said one notable example is Michael Ladson, who joined the band as a teenager and is still a member today.

‘‘It is one of the most satisfying things I have done in my life; working with amateur musicians to produce something that is beyond their expectations,’’ Mr Bathgate said.

‘‘It is great to see kids from the band grow and pursue careers in music.’’

Mr Bathgate retired from Deniliquin High School in 2000 to concentrate his time on the band, and that dedication was rewarded when in 2016 he received the Deniliquin Council Australia Day Community Service Award.

Having led the band for more than 30 years, Mr Bathgate said his fond memories are too many to recall.

He said one of the most recent defining highlights was in the month before his retirement.

‘‘The highlight of my music career was in November 2018 where the band joined with Sing Australia (for a performance).

‘‘The band provided a lovely accompaniment and the choir sang as well as I have heard them sing.

‘‘The three bugles sounded as one. It was the most thrilling experiences conducting in my musical career.

‘‘It was an emotional performance. We played the ‘Evening Hymn’ and the ‘Last Post’, which meant something to me.

‘‘I looked around the audience and was astonished to see so many people in tears. It’s so rewarding when you can help people express their emotions through music.’’