Few words are needed for Ted Shale and Ian Michie, who have let music do the talking for most of their lives. Their young days filled with notes, rhythms and beats, they were part of one band after another, including in times of war when music equalled hope for light at the end of the tunnel.
Eager to keep memories of those difficult days alive, they both ended up with the Vancouver Naval Veterans Band.
In recognition of their contribution to that unique group, the Vancouver Naval Veterans Association recently awarded the Richmond residents with Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medals.
Shale, 87, a trumpeter, co-founded the Naval Veterans Band with fellow men who served during the Second World War, while Michie, a month shy of turning 86, joined in at a later stage as a musical arranger.
"I heard they needed someone to arrange their music, and I could only think of three people, including myself. The others weren't really interested, so it fell on me," laughed Michie.
Younger naval veterans and civilian musicians were gradually added to the band to preserve its heritage, yet "if it wasn't for Ian, the band would be non-existing," said Shale.
"He transposed and arranged many tunes so we could play them, maybe not always to his liking," he joked.
Two decades of performing military songs later, the band currently unites 21 musical men of different backgrounds and ages; while the youngest member is a 32-year-old music teacher, the oldest is a veteran about to hit the age of 90.
"Never put an age to friendship," said Shale's son Glenn, who joined the band himself back in 1992, when he gave in to his father's persuasion. "We all seem to get along, because it's the love for music that pulls everyone together."
That passion has been a constant companion on the band members' journey through life. While Shale's love for music was fuelled by his father's knowledge of the melodeon, Michie taught himself a tune on the piano at the age of 13.
At the same young age they discovered the beauty of music, they were introduced to the harshness of war.
Shale joined the Winnipeg Grenadiers at barely 15, later served for the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, and eventually went on to sign up with the Royal Canadian Navy.
"When the first battalion of the Grenadiers was mobilized overseas, my dad didn't approve because of my age. It's ironic that I ended up in Hong Kong anyway, since I could have been a prisoner of war or dead a few years before," Shale said.
Michie on the other hand, served in the Royal Air Force from 1945 to 1948, and later became a chemist researcher.
In those times of war, music turned out to be an inviting remedy to lift their spirits. As such, Michie recalled playing small-sized, improvised concerts for his fellow RAF-members.
"I'm the sort of person, if there's any opportunity to play music, I play it," he said.
That trait led him to sign up for the Richmond Legion Community Band in 1973, right after he moved back to Canada from his native country England. Although he started off playing a flugelhorn, he ended up with a tuba.
"Then there's nowhere else to go, it's as big as you can get," he quipped.
Due to health issues, Michie left the Legion in 2011 and has not performed with the Naval Band for a couple of years, although he remains an honorary member.
As for Shale, he still attends practice twice a week and is a regular performer with the unit.
"I plan to do this for as long as I can," he said. "I really enjoy the comradeship." Moreover, moving around with the band has left him marvelling nostalgically at his past; he referred to a trip to Halifax a few years ago when recounting the memory he cherishes most.
"I hadn't been there since the war, and I had left on a troop ship. When I went back, I had been around the world. I felt quite nostalgic; a lot of things had changed since the first time I was there," he said.
It is also the music that allows the men to travel back in time.
"The music stimulates memories, because it's of my time. You start thinking and it brings back so much," explained Shale.
Michie agreed, adding, "In the music of our time, there's a message I can understand."
While they both believe the tunes remembering the World Wars mostly impress military groups or cadets, they said they hope their music "cheers people up", regardless of the audience.
When asked what effect their musical skills had on the women they came across, Michie laughingly brushed off the question. His wife Peggy, however, did admit music did the magic.
"We met at a tuba gig. I figured he was looking at me the whole time, but it turned out he was just staring into the crowd. He played a lot of piano too, I thought that was neat."
Yet music seemed to have left the greatest impression on themselves. Shale indicated the recent celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Navy as the highlight of his musical career; proud to participate in the gathering of mass bands, he was surrounded by other naval bands representing World War II.
For Michie, it was winning the Canadian Forces Millennium Parade Music Competition for a march he composed. "We were flown to Ottawa for the performance, it was one of the best experiences of my life too," said his wife Peggy.
Instead, Ian let the silence speak for itself, staring in the distance with a proud sparkle in his eyes.