Without Ray Walker, the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra performance in Oamaru may not have happened.
Six years ago, the Oamaru Garrison Band manager received a call just hours before the performance, asking if the orchestra could borrow his trumpet.
“It was looking a bit worn and torn, and [was] hardly fit to go on the stage for an orchestra,” Mr Walker said.
Mr Walker was told if the orchestra could not borrow it, the performance would have to be cancelled.
“The lead trumpet player dropped his and dented it, and it was unplayable .. I gave him this one, and I’ve never heard such a lovely sound come out of it ever before – or since.”
Mr Walker was recently recognised by the Brass Band Association of New Zealand for 68 years of service, and that incident was just one of his many highlights.
“I just hope that I’ve put as much into bands over the years as I’ve got out of it , because I’ve certainly enjoyed playing brass band music.”
He started playing in Dunedin when he was 13 years old, sneaking out his father’s tenor horn, while his father was serving in World War 2.
It ignited the passion and, when his father returned, they played in the Green Island Municipal band together.
He described playing for Queen Elizabeth during her 1954 tour and travelling on the Lawrence excursion train to play as special memories.
Other instruments also called his name, and Mr Walker took up the cornet, B flat trumpet, and C trumpet, and his career as a teacher moved him from band to band.
He was part of the Waimate Silver Band, Gore Town and Country Club band, Roxburgh Pioneer Generation Brass, Oamaru Garrison Band, and several other bands and orchestras.
There was one tune he played more than most – the Last Post. Mr Walker has played at several Anzac and Armistice Day commemorations in North Otago.
“It’s personal because Dad was away at the war, and I had an uncle killed in Crete – they’re personal moments.”
He taught many children and adults to play and even taught his wife when she was aged 69 – and they played in the band together for the rest of her life.
It was the camaraderie, friendships and different arrangements of music that kept him involved.
“When you retire there’s not much to do – brass banding is one good hobby that people could take up.”
He did not plan to stop any time soon, either.