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Keith took police band to its finest moment


NOOSA – In 1996, the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary Band was in the middle of its golden age.

It was a splendid band, frequently invited to at festivals in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and elsewhere.

But its performance at that year’s Adelaide International Tattoo has been described as sensational in every respect: playing, marching, dress, discipline - and the dancers of the Raun Raun Theatre.

Its performance repertoire included the songs Rocking in Paradise and King of the Road but it was the march, Papua Niugini (Wan Kantri), with which it entered the stadium that immediately captured the emotions of the audience that day and of all who have seen it since.

In the beautiful Aravali Hills of Haryana, two hours from the Indian capital New Delhi, set in a splendid garden landscape, is the Pathways School at Gurgaon.

The school’s director of music since 2014 has been Keith Terrett, now 65, a former Superintendent in the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary.

The London-born Terrett spent five years as director of music and chief instructor of the 150-strong RPNGC band.

And it was in that role in 1996, that occurred the highlight of Terrett’s career in music when his band march on to the oval at the Adelaide International Tattoo in South Australia, where the accompanying video was filmed.

Keith Terrett at the office
Keith Terrett enjoying a day at the office

Terrett is a composer, conductor, arranger, music educator, trumpeter, cornettist, flugelhornist and, as these skills connote, a multi-instrumentalist.

He began his career as a music recruit in the Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars at 18, where in addition to specialising in cornet and trumpet, he undertook a thorough education in music: teaching, orchestration, conducting, management and much else.

By 1985, when he left the band for four years further study at the Royal Military College of Music, he led the cornet section of the band and performed solo on the piccolo trumpet, cornet, flugelhorn, trumpet and posthorn.

At the college he also performed and managed a band of 40 young musicians.

He was aged 34 when he left the military after 16 years to begin a career as a musical director – first in the West Indies, then Kuwait, Norway, back in the UK, Malaysia and India.

Inserted in that journey between 1993 and 1999 was a year lecturing at the University of PNG and then five years, from 1994 to 1999, which he says were “the best days of my life with the one and only RPNGC Band, always in my heart.”

Watching the video and listening to that band play demonstrates just how talented was the then Superintendent Terrett.

It was such a great shame that amongst much that has been lost in Papua New Guinea over the years is its once great military band.

Link to YouTube here


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Keith Terrett

Dear Mr Jackson - Have read your article about the golden era of the RPNGC Band. There are a few errors, my I rewrite it with your permission?

Hi Keith - I have only now rescued your kind offer from the spam file. I would be delighted for you to provide a corrected version of the RPNGC Band article - KJ

Bernard Corden

A wonderful article that had me re-watching Mark Herman's fabulous comedy-drama movie, which was produced back in 1996 and featured the late Pete Postlethwaite:


It reinforces the significance and balance that a transdisciplinary approach offers. Indeed, every colliery in the pit villages of Wales and northern England had its beloved brass band and symbolic choir. Much like the RPNGC's outfit most have since been sadly disbanded.

My great-grandfather, Robert (Bob) Jackson, was the manager, bandmaster and, for three years, conductor of the Besses 'o' th' Barn Band based still based at Whitefield near Manchester, just behind the Red King pub where I have been known to share a few pints with parched bands men & women.

Originally a string band formed in 1818, the Besses became a reed band and, in 1853, a brass band based at Cleggs Cotton Mill. Jackson joined the band in 1869 aged 15, was a fine musician (cornet) and organiser, becoming the Besses bandmaster around 1870. He stepped down from band duties in 1908, stricken by ill health.

According to its biographer, the Besses was "one of the greatest bands of the late Victorian era". This was before football became a great spectator sport (its rules being laid down in 1863 when the Football Association was formed).

Competitive banding was the big crowd puller in those days (you could win $10,000 or more in an afternoon and the Besses won 74 contests between 1884 and 1892).

Bob was described as "a man of sterling worth; whether as a man or as an artist; a gentleman of Nature's own
making" who "in the centre of the band, coat and
hat off, sleeves rolled up, working like a man who meant business, for he never did let an error pass". He died around 1917 aged about 65 of a heart attack at the funeral of his youngest grandson who had died of diptheria. (My family was very bad at recording its history.)

I am inordinately proud of Bob - KJ

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