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Ninety years old and still blowing his horn
Doug Howell is proof that once you’ve got the music in you, it stays for a lifetime.
Doug, an active musician who plays his euphonium in the Comox Valley Concert Band, was a guest performer at the HMCS Naden Band Concert in Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park on June 19 of this year.
This was a special event for two reasons.
First, Doug is one of the few remaining members of the original Naden Band that was formed in 1940.
Second, Doug recently celebrated his 90th birthday.
It was his son, Steve Howell, who first contacted Lieutenant Matthew Clark and suggested that Doug would be thrilled if invited to perform a number with the Naden Band during one of its summer concerts. The response was enthusiastic and the June date was set.
Doug’s relationship with music began at the age of eight. In 1932 he joined the Rowles Boys Band in Victoria where he played the trombone and euphonium until graduating to the Royal Canadian Artillery Band and later the Canadian Scottish Regiment Band.
Doug auditioned with the Naden band in 1942 soon after his 18th birthday. The 55-piece wind ensemble comprised some of the finest musicians from across Canada. Each day, Doug could be found marching the parade grounds, rehearsing three hours in the band room, playing a noon concert in the drill hall followed by sectionals and an afternoon public appearance.
Every other Sunday evening during winter months the band performed a concert in the Royal Victoria Theatre and twice a month the dance band played till the wee hours at the Hostess Club on Fort Street.
In 1943 the Naden band was split. Thirty-five members were shipped overseas to Glasgow to establish a musical presence at HMS Niobe The remaining 20, of which Doug was a member, were augmented and spent the war promoting the sale of victory bonds throughout the province.
Twice a year, spring and fall, the band toured the Kootenays and the Okanagan as well as the Lower Mainland.
It was on one of these tours that Doug was introduced to his future wife, Helen, in the mining town of Rossland. They met only three times in two years but corresponded weekly before settling down in Victoria following their marriage in 1946.
Upon moving to Comox in 1993, he quickly joined the Comox Valley Concert Band where he has been a mainstay in the lower brass section ever since.
While in Victoria last month, Doug was introduced to the audience and the entire band rose to welcome him to the stage.
“Once a member of the Naden Band, always a member of the Naden Band,” announced MC PO2 Ken Gibson as he related details of life in the Navy 70 years ago.
Leading bandsman Doug Howell performed one of his favourite Alfred marches, The Standard of St. George and closed the concert playing and singing The Heart of Oak.
Doug still stands tall while producing the sweet sounds that only a euphonium can create.
After 82 years, Doug Howell continues to blow his horn.