David Brookes - the 'Reel' story

My First Band!   The Adelaide Drum & Fife Band (That's me on the left)

  Wests Theatre Adelaide                      Photo        Brian Pearson

Wests Theatre Foyer                       Photo: Brian Pearson

Wests Theatre  External                 Photo:      Brian Pearson

Prince Alfred College  2009              140th anniversary year.                                     Photo: Festival City Photography

Personal recollections and  a photo collection.  

During the darkest days of World War Two, Albert Brookes (himself a veteran of the First World War) and his wife Veronica, huddled together for comfort at  Stirling  fearing for the worst.  All that huddling and comforting produced a child later that year. A shy, rather quiet child whom they named David………… 

Being raised in a small town in the picturesque Adelaide Hills was idyllic. I had a happy childhood doing all the usual boys stuff - like falling out of trees, jumping off  the woodshed roof wearing a tea towel cape, wanting to fly like superman, and trying my hand at engineering by building “bitsa” Billy carts to race downhill, forgetting minor details like adding brakes. 

 For family entertainment we had the radio. We used to listen to serials, the radio plays, the music, and the news. The “wireless” as it was called, was always on, that's  what people did in those days.

Primary school was fun. At the end of my primary school education, the family moved down to the  suburbs of Adelaide. I was one of the first students enrolled at the brand new Marion High School, which was co–educational. This proved to be a huge distraction. I did not work much at secondary school, the teachers  failed  to engage  my interest, so my academic achievements were less than spectacular.

It was while at High School that  I experienced the excitement of the clarion call to a new generation by the “Awop-Bop-a-Loo-Mop Alop Bam Boom” in Little Richard’s Tutti Frutti, and the arrival of Elvis Presley’s Heart Break Hotel and Hound Dog, along with the other  deluge of Rock n Roll hits. Even though it was really just a moment in popular music history, it certainly had an enduring, permanent effect.  It was  exciting  to be a teenager in  these times!

After leaving school at the minimum age, by accident and sheer luck I stumbled into a job which became a lifetime passion. I commenced training as a cinema projectionist in one of the “Picture Palaces” of the day, Wests Theatre in downtown Hindley Street Adelaide.

The music I was to hear  at the cinema in the extended seasons of movie blockbusters exposed me to the film score music of composers such as Miklós Rósa, David Raskin, Bernard Herrmann, Henry Mancini, Maurice Jarre, Lalo Schifrin, John Barry and Howard Shore. Of course music/film interaction has also included music from baroque to atonal by many of the great composers, and it was through the medium of my “reel life” that I was first introduced to their works.

It was during my projectionist training period, as a teenager that I  commenced  learning the saxophone, taking private lessons with Mr. Bill Piercey for  a couple of years. The saxophone was going really well, but I became distracted for  several  years  while  furthering my  education in the university of life, and unfortunately the saxophone became relegated to the top of the wardrobe !  

The saxophone returned to my life with a passion when I was in my  twenties. I was working in the Semaphore  Odeon Theatre as a projectionist. After the cinema closed each night I would practise from midnight till the wee small hours; that is until the neighbours adjacent to the cinema complained to the management about the strange sounds emanating at such ungodly times! During the summer months I reverted to practising on a sewerage outlet pipe at North Glenelg Beach, and in the winter months inside my car in various deserted car parks! 

After two years I auditioned as a saxophone player for the Australian Army Band Corps, was successful, and posted to the Army Band in Adelaide, and within six months became a flute player! I diligently studied this instrument for another  twelve  years, before becoming a music arranger and music librarian for the army. My  military band arrangements have since been played by service bands throughout Australia, and as far afield as Anzac Cove  Gallipoli. 

During my service career I was privileged to work  with many very talented musicians from whom I learnt so much. The fondest memories of my service  career include performing  concerts in Longreach, Alice Springs, Uluru, Mt Isa, Kununurra, Wyndham, Karratha, Mt Tom Price, Broome (where I visited the legendary Sun Picture Theatre) Kalgoorlie and Moomba  during  the Great Australian Outback Tour in 1988, and in the same year traveling Australia with  the Bi Centenary Military Tattoo (Army Tattoo 88). Other highlights included  a Royal Command Performance for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, performing at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games In Brisbane, and a tour to Greece for the 50th Anniversary Commemoration of The  Epic of 1941-41 & The Battle  of Crete.

I  eventually returned to playing the saxophone, studying with Mr. Wallis (Bill) MacKinnon, (a wonderful teacher who was always prepared to ‘go the extra mile’ for his students)  at the Adelaide College of TAFE, Flinders Street School of Music, where I completed the Advanced Performer Diploma, and most subjects from the Studio Teachers Diploma. 

After discharge from the Army, with a passion to share my love of the saxophone with others, I became  a saxophone teacher, over the years working hard at sharpening  my skills, to grow, create,  become more qualified and improve my teaching effectiveness. I  have found it to be  a most rewarding  and  immensely  satisfying vocation, striving  to make  a positive difference in the lives of my students with positive, productive attitudes,  to make saxophone playing fun for all my students regardless of their age or ambition. 

I was still consumed by the passion to write music and then completed a Bachelor of  Music degree at the Elder Conservatorium  of  Music, University of Adelaide.

I now teach saxophone at Prince Alfred College,  Concordia College and my own studio. I  have  lots of  fun playing in local blues bands, rock n roll bands, "big bands"and occasionally performing my own compositions in concerts. Until  the change over to digital movies in December 2012 I still found time to pursue my hobby of 35 mm  cinema projection at the magnificent, restored art deco style Capri Theatre Goodwood. 

I  plan never to retire, and never want to grow up!

Copyright © David Brookes 2017 ambiance@internode.on.net