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RSVG Police Band celebrates 60 years of existence

RSVG Police Band celebrates 60 years of existence

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Any time the Royal SVG Police Force Band performs, it is glaringly obvious that its members take pride in their appearance and in their musical skills.{{more}} Now, they have something extra to be proud of.

Today, August 5, the band is celebrating 60 years since its inception – making it the oldest known musical band still functioning in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Given approval by then chief of police Lieutenant Colonel Randolph, the band was formed on June 6, 1951. With 19 original members, the band was led by Weston H. Lewis (a civilian), who had studied Music and March Band development in England. He was assisted by Sgt. R. J O’Garro.

The band had its first performace at a memorial parade in memory of King George VI on February 6, 1952.

Over the years, the band has progressed in leaps and bounds – recruiting more members (currently there are 38), and employing the use of a wider variety and more modern musical instruments.

According to band master Station Sargeant Bernard Haynes, despite the current presence of a public relations department, the band is considered the “most popular and interactive arm of the Police Force”.

The band performs at ceremonial parades, church parades, non-governmental organisation marches, Carnival shows, concerts, school sporting events, funerals, and any other events that “promote peace and justice”.

In 1998, then Commissioner of Police Randolph Toussaint took the initiative to recruit the first female officers to the band – Constable Cinda Bobb and Constable Helen Ralph.

Other achievements included a trip to St Lucia to perform at its 2004 independence parade, and the introduction of a children’s summer programme (spearheaded by C.O.P Keith Miller) in 2008.

Another remarkable achievement of the band lies with Station Sgt Bernard Haynes himself. He is currently the longest serving member of then band, and holds the accolade of having performed at every independence day parade since SVG gained its independence in 1979.

He joined as a band cadet in 1976; becoming a police officer in 1980. He took up his post as band master in March 2011.

Past band masters include: Station Sgt H. St Hilaire (1970 – 1972), Station Sgt A. Caesar (1972 – 1978), Sgt S. Harry (1978 – 1980), Sgt B. James (1980 – 1982), ASP D. Williams (1982 – 2006) and SOP Carlos Sampson (2006 – 2011).

Haynes said that he has enjoyed his tenure with the Police Band immensely and looks forward to whatever is in store for him with the band.

“The friendship with the men, and the togetherness helps you appreciate people,” he asserted.

“We feel like a family!” Haynes also said that he has had the opportunity to travel to places within SVG and regionally that he may never have ventured to had he not been in the band. Additionally, he has been fortunate to meet a wide variety of people.

Clearly proud of his achievements, he beamed: “I have achieved a lot musically… and developed a lot, too.”

Some of the highlights of his career include: completing a five-month course in conducting, band leadership, harmony and composition at a Venezuelan institute in 1986; travelling to Guyana in 1995 to play with a Caribbean orchestra; and more recently, organising last year’s lively independence performance, which had the crowd clapping and cheering.

However, it has not all been a bed of roses. Haynes said that one of the biggest challenges he and his band members face is not spending enough time with loved ones.

“Our families have to put up with us being away from them for many weekends,” he lamented.

Haynes said that he has high hopes for future improvement of the band and its members. He said that he hopes that by the time current members reach his age, they would have achieved as much as he has in terms of musical and academic skill because it can prove to be a rewarding and lucrative career.

He also added that he hopes to see more women join the band in the near future, as presently there are none.

“I hope that the authorities see fit to recruit more ladies so that it can add more variety to the band.”

The Police Band marked the occasion with a week of planned activities; some of which were cancelled due to inclement weather.

These included a cricket match and showcase of band instruments (both cancelled), church parade at the St George’s Cathedral, variety concert at the Central Station, and the honouring of past band masters at the Old Montrose station.

This evening the celebrations will conclude with an open air concert at Heritage Square.

Station Sgt Haynes thanked COP Keith Miller, SOP Joseph, ASP Jonathan Nichols, members of the committee, and past and present band member for their assistance and support during the week of activities.

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