‘Honoured’ to play at national service

    Finn Cruickshank (left) and Connor Elder were proud to represent Southland at the National Anzac Day Service in Wellington on Sunday. Photos: Supplied

    TWO Southland youngsters described the experience of playing in the Anzac Day national service as a special moment – one to be proud of.

    Connor Elder and Finn Cruickshank (both 17) were the only two Southlanders among about 40 pipe band members who performed during the commemoration service in Wellington last Sunday.

    Members of the Invercargill Pipe Band – Finn played the drums, and Connor the bagpipes at the Pukeahu National War Memorial.

    “It was definitely an honour to be able to play in the national ceremony, so I was really excited,” Finn said.

    “I felt very proud to be able to be part of that and represent our region,” Connor said.

    Both learned about the invitation to take part a month ago and were thrilled.

    They intensified their training and travelled to the capital a couple days before to practise with the band.

    “It was a great experience. It was our first time playing with people from different regions during Anzac Day,” Finn said.

    Despite the pressure of playing in a national event with Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy attending, the youngsters said they were not too nervous.

    “I wasn’t too worried. I basically blocked out everything else and just played,” Connor said.

    His passion for piping came from his grandfather, who introduced him to the pipes about five years ago, he said.

    Since then, he had practised for at least 30 minutes each day.

    Finn started to play the drums about eight years ago after attending an Invercargill Pipe Band open day.

    “I just enjoyed it and kept playing… I’ve been playing drums ever since in school bands, Rockquest and the pipe band.”

    He believed the Anzac commemorations and the pipe band were the perfect combination as both were part of New Zealand’s history.

    “I think it is really good for pipe bands [to be part of Anzac services] because they are part of the heritage of New Zealand.

    “The Invercargill one, for example, has been around for about 125 years, so it is really important to have those two important parts of our heritage being showcased.”

    Invercargill Pipe Band musical director Alasdair MacKenzie also highlighted the importance of the date.

    He said it was important to have youngsters taking part in the services to acknowledge and remember New Zealanders who were killed in wars, while also honouring returned and serving men and women.

    He was proud of the two youngsters and what they achieved, he said.

    The event was also important to promote the Invercargill Pipe Band and its talents, he said.

    “They have the very best young people out in the country playing in a super band.

    “So, in that way, they were playing with the very best players among their age. That can only be a good thing for their future.”