Drumming with granddad

When Neville Corson learned to play the drums in Boy Scouts, World War II had just finished.

Seven decades later, his 15-year-old grandson was asked to start learning the musical instrument over dinner.

Neville joined the Royal New Zealand Navy at age 15 and was put into the Navy band.

“I think it was our third day… we were all parade on the parade grounds in our new uniforms and this man he came out the front and said, ‘How many of you can play a bugle or musical instrument?’

“A few put their hands up and he said, ‘Right report to the gunnery officer, you’re now in the band.”

Now the 79-year-old Katikati resident’s grandson is part of his drum corp for the 23rd Paeroa Highland Games and Tattoo at Paeroa Domain on Saturday, February 13.

After WWII, a teenage Neville went to Ionia, Greece, in 1953, when a tidal wave and large earthquakes battered the ancient region of central coastal Anatolia in present-day Turkey.

“I was sent there to go and do the dirty work. We had to clean up all the bodies and that sort of thing,” says Neville.

He feels lucky his teenage grandson only has to worry about the co-ordination of marching and drumming at the same time.

Neville has since taught drumming in the New Zealand Airforce Cadets NZ Army Cadets, City of Auckland Corp and joined the NZ Artillery Band for 15 years.

He has recently put together a drumming corp of drummers from Morinsville, Hamilton, Thames, Auckland and Papamoa for the annual Paeroa Highland Games and Tattoo on February 13.

“It’s a love for military music and what the military stands for,” says Neville. “I love drumming, I love everything about it and I was just so ever so grateful that somebody put me in the Navy band.”

The Papamoa drummers include his grandson Joshua Bennett and friend Ronan Soloman, 15.

“They’re very good,” says Neville. “They’re two boys who’ve put their heart and soul into it and they’re very, very, very good.

“I was in a military situation and the military system is probably the most the best disciplined system that you could ever hope to get young people in to. There’s an old saying: ‘If the leaner has not learned, the teacher has not taught’.”

What makes a good drummer? “You do what you’re told, you listen and behave,” says Neville.

Joshua and Ronan joined Neville’s drum corp about three months ago. “My grandad’s been playing drums since he was 15 and he asked me one day over dinner if I can read music,” says Joshua.

Granddad Neville asked Joshua if he’d like to start learning drums. “Sure, why not.”

The invitation extended to play at the Paeroa Highland Games and Tattoo. “Little did I know that we might have 40-odd people there, and I thought, ‘Okay, this is a big thing’.”

Joshua doesn’t mind having grandad Neville as his teacher. “He’s not that strict. He thinks if you growl someone, they’re just not going to want to do it anymore, which is actually sort of true. He’ll tell you off if you do something silly, but if you get it wrong he’ll help you through it.”

Joshua and Ronan are excited but a little nervous about performing on February 13. While Ronan is anxious about dropping his drumsticks in front of all the girls, Joshua hopes he won’t trip up.

“I hope there’s not a pothole at the end of the road that I end up stepping in and roll my ankle,” says Joshua with a laugh.

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