By Shelby Brooks

SOUTH Gippsland Concert Band’s music librarian is filing away her last page of sheet music after 26 years.

At 86 years old, Em Barton is retiring from the band as a life member.

She has been an integral part of the band since her late husband Barry joined as a clarinet player when they first moved to the district.

Not only has Em printed, sorted and distributed sheet music for the band since 1994, she has also played percussion and timpani for the band for 20 years.

Em has been a timpani and percussion player for the band and her dog Kit has been a regular attendee of rehearsals and concerts over the years.

“It’s been such a big part of my life,” Em said.

Em took on the role as music librarian after having some experience in a similar role in Melbourne.

The South Gippsland Concert Band has a huge repertoire of music, meaning they have thousands of sheets of music for all instruments.

A lot of the music is part of an archival collection as a lot of the early music played by the band is out of print now.

It was a last-minute request by a conductor before a gig that led Em to become a percussionist.

“[The conductor] came to me and said, ‘Em would you play timpani?’,” she said.

“I had never played the timpani in my life!”

She went on to play other percussion instruments as well, including glockenspiel.

“Percussion was an easy step and somebody had to do it,” she said.

“Except drum kit, I draw the line at drum kit.”

Em has played many gigs with the band, such as the Cranbourne Lions Club Concert Band Festival, Carols at the Creek, Music at Mossvale Park and for the first time this year, the Inverloch Jazz Festival.

But it was the concerts at nursing homes that she remembers as being most special.

“The first time playing Christmas carols at one of the nursing homes we were playing Silent Night,” Em said.

“I thought, ‘Am I seeing things?’ I saw fingers and toes moving. We played it again and the residents had the same response.

“Somewhere deep in their memory, they knew it. Music is a big part of life.

“It was just humbling, it’s the only way to say it.”

Committee member Pam Sheehan said on behalf of the band, she wanted to thank Em for her dedication.

“She will be sorely missed,” Pam said.

Em encourages anyone with the smallest interest in music to consider joining the South Gippsland Concert Band, who rehearse at Coal Creek every week.

“If you can only play one note, that’s fine, you should come along because soon you’ll be able to play two notes, and then a whole bar of music,” she said.

The band has approximately 35 members but are yet to be allowed to rehearse due to COVID-19 restrictions.