FOR seven decades Jim Denmead’s music has soothed the souls of many, including the family of former prime minister Ben Chifley. In his decades as a master musician he has played three instruments – the tenor horn, soprano cornet and now the trumpet.
On Anzac Day, Mr Denmead played with the Bathurst City and RSL Concert Band for the final time.
His final concert, at the Citizen’s Anzac Day Commemoration Day Service in Kings Parade, was a tough moment for the musician.
“I started when I was just 10, on the tenor horn,” Mr Denmead said.
But it was only by chance that he even started playing an instrument.
He was a student at Bathurst Public School when bandmaster Harold Walmsley visited the school looking to form a new youth band.
“He asked for boys to form a junior band under his leadership,” Mr Denmead said.
“He brooked no nonsense from his young charges and had high expectations. Daily practise and high attendance was demanded and, if not complied with, you were out.
“As a result, we attained a high degree of proficiency in a short time.
“We [the newly-formed Bathurst Boys’ Band] were on the streets and playing within six weeks.”
This ignited a passion in Mr Denmead which has seen him playing in bands ever since.
Over the years, Mr Denmead has travelled far and wide to take part in range of state and national competitions.
“I love it. I’ve won a few competitions and played in the A Grade Brass Band in the Australian Championship when I was 12. I was in that within two years [of learning to play],” he said.
Mr Denmead won NSW State Championships, the Queensland Championships as a soloist playing soprano cornet, and was a Western Division Champion of Champions.
He was also runner up Soprano Cornet Champion (Open) in Sydney in 1953.
But one of the highlights of his 70-year career was playing in a band at the graveside funeral of Bathurst-born former prime minister Ben Chifley.
“I played tenor horn with Bathurst District Brass Band … it was a sad highlight,” he said.
“It was a very sombre occasion.”
Mr Chifley died on June 13, 1951, and was buried at Bathurst Cemetery.
At age 18, Mr Denmead said he was one of the “lucky ones” to be drawn out of the ballot for compulsory National Service and he was given the role of assistant bandmaster.
Mr Denmead said other highlights of his musical life included the opportunity to play at the induction of Bishop Thomas at the Cathedral of St Michael and St John, at a visit by the Archbishop of Canterbury and at many Carillon Theatrical Society productions.
In 1965 Bathurst celebrated its sesquicentenary and, as the youngest member of the organising committee, Mr Denmead co-ordinated the bands for the celebration.
Keen to share his love of music, he has taught music at All Saints’ College, Diocesan Girls’ High School and Charles Sturt University.
Mr Denmead also instigated the change of venue for Bathurst’s Carols by Candlelight from Mount Panorama to Machattie Park.
He said the Mount was an unsuitable venue compared to the city-centre park location, which was ideal for families.
Such is his passion for playing that when he and wife Margaret had children, four out of five of them took up playing an instrument.
Their son Peter not only played alongside Mr Denmead in the Bathurst City and RSL Concert Band at Monday’s Anzac Day ceremony, but he also took centre stage to play The Last Post and Reveille.
Son Geoff plays tuba, Rosemary took up the tenor horn and Tony (deceased) was a drummer.
Their other son, Michael, was keen on sport, rather than music, and plays soccer.
The sport-loving Mrs Denmead joked on Monday that she was glad at least one of her children inherited her passion for sport.
Four of the couple’s grandchildren have also taken up musical instruments, including Paul (son of Peter), who also played trumpet in the band on Anzac Day.
Also in the band were siblings Will and Kate (Rosemary’s children) on trombone and saxophone respectively, and Tula (Tony’s daughter) on clarinet and piano.
Speaking of his son’s performance of The Last Post and Reveille on Anzac Day, Mr Denmead said he knows only too well how much pressure a musician puts on himself during this day of national significance.
In years past, Mr Denmead also played The Last Post and Reveille and said the crowd’s silence can make the performer very nervous.
“The crowd there are waiting for you to crack a few notes or miss a few notes,” he said.
It is Mr Denmead’s failing eyesight that lead to him to retire from his official duties with the RSL band.
“I’ll miss them, but if my eyesight gets better I might be back,” he said.