News & Events

Music, marching and military mates

Wednesday December 18 2019

Murray Mansfield and Tim Cook are preparing to take centre stage along with more than 600 other performers at the New Zealand Military Tattoo in Palmerston North on 4 April. We chatted with them about living in Palmy, music, and the military.

There’s a friendly battle of ‘screaming cats’ versus ‘spit and dribble’ in the Palmy Harcourts office.

The jesting is between sales agents Tim Cook and Murray Mansfield who are colleagues, acclaimed musicians, and friends. ‘Screaming cats’ is about Murray’s bagpipes and the ‘spit and dribble’ to Tim’s cornet and bugle.

While they now work full time as sales agents, their musical prowess has seen them both enjoy amazing opportunities for international travel and performing in front of world leaders because of their military links.

Both served in the Defence Force. Tim as a full-time musician in the Army Band’s Regular Force from 1984 to 1988. He continued his military service as a territorial in the Air Force Band at Ohakea and as a Reservist for the New Zealand Army Band.

Murray served with the New Zealand Air Force for 27 years as an Aircraft Technician at Ohakea, and during this time performed with the Air Force Band. He continues to play for them as a musician reservist and the band’s lone piper.

Murray Mansfield shares why he's looking forward to the New Zealand Military Tattoo in April 2020.

Murray, what makes you Palmy Proud?

I’ve lived in Palmy for 30 years now and love the place. It’s been a fantastic place to raise my family and now I’m loving selling homes to others who choose to live here.

What are your highlights from your time with Defence Force Bands?

As a solo piper, I’ve played a lot of laments at major events around the world including Anzac Day in Gallipoli for the 100th anniversary. Performing around the world and representing New Zealand at many auspicious occasions are always memorable events - I’ve only just returned from my second performance in China.

However, my two highlights are playing for the Queen at Government House and composing the lament for the repatriation of the Unknown Warrior of New Zealand. I’ve also had the honour of playing at Sir Edmund Hilary’s funeral. These were special moments.

What keeps you performing?

My parents played the pipes, so I started really young. A big part of my playing has been in competitions both here and internationally. Performing with the New Zealand Air Force band has given me fantastic opportunities and experiences because of the Defence connection. The connection with Defence is huge and I will be doing this for a while.

While I’m enjoying my new career in real estate, being part of the Defence Force is in your blood. It’s not something you do – it’s who you are.

What achievement are you most proud of?

It was humbling to receive a Queen’s Service Medal for services to pipe bands in 2015, the year of the Anzac centenary commemorations.

What’s so special about the bagpipes?

Not many people realise the Scottish bagpipe is an instrument of war. Their link to the military is significant. The history of pipe bands in New Zealand is also lengthy, some of our pipe bands date back more than 100 years.

The 2020 New Zealand Military Tattoo is in Palmerston North – what are you looking forward to most?

It’s fantastic to have something on the scale of this on my doorstep. With Palmy being the Defence Hub of New Zealand, it’s right that it’s being held here.

I’m honoured to be directing the five pipe bands performing – they are some of the best in New Zealand. Collectively it will be a band of 100 pipers and for something unique, a Police dog show is incorporated into the Auckland Police Pipe Band's performance.

They’re putting in many hours of their own time to show the country their best performance. It’s going to be a slick show by quality bands who are on top of their game.
People have this rare opportunity to see a Military Tattoo. It’s going to be quite magical, a little bit emotional and uniquely New Zealand entertainment in a fantastic facility. People won’t regret coming – they may, however, regret not coming.

Tim Cook playing at the Armistice Day service.

Tim, what makes you Palmy Proud?

I love Palmy! I’m fourth-generation Palmy-born and have raised my children here. There are great people here, fantastic schools and some of the best cycling tracks in New Zealand.

What are your highlights from your time with Defence Force Bands?

The Army Band’s private performance for the Queen and Prince Philip on their front lawn at Windsor Castle for her 90th birthday was pretty special. Performing at the Edinburgh Tattoo had been on my bucket list and this year we performed 21 shows there to a live audience of 200,000 and tens of millions through broadcasts.

Murray and I were both with the Auckland Air Force Band that travelled to China for the Nanchang Tattoo in 2013. We were possibly one of the first military groups to ever go to China. I’ve also played for the King of Thailand’s 60th birthday and attended numerous significant commemorative events around the world.

How much work is it to be part of the New Zealand Army Band as a reservist?

This year I’ve been away a lot with musical commitments, so there are repercussions, but it’s worth it. The New Zealand Army Band is recognised as the leading military marching band in the world. You have to be performance fit – both musically and physically, such as your facial muscles and diaphragm. There is a challenge holding a note steady while you’re doing high knee leg raises – it takes discipline.

What keeps you performing?

I love it. The comradery, the music and in particular, I love working with the younger guys. They’re all world-class musicians/soldiers. I’m also proud to be in the Army and representing New Zealand on the world stage. Being part of the Defence Force is being part of a big family, it’s a connection I’ll have for life.

The 2020 New Zealand Military Tattoo is in Palmerston North – what are you looking forward to most?

It will be wonderful to perform with my Army mates and my fellow Harcourts agent, Murray, in my home town. Tattoos are a rare event and I’d encourage people to bring their children/grandchildren along, as children don’t get to see many live performances these days. There are more than 600 performers – when else to you get to see that? As well as the Army Band having awesome musicians, we have outstanding vocalists who get the crowd singing and clapping along to well-known songs. It will be a memorable night.

This story was originally published in the summer 2019 issue of PalmyProud. Read the latest issue.