RAF Summer Dinner

The band had an unscheduled outing on Thursday 26th July when we were engaged to play for the Officers’ Mess Summer Dinner at RAF High Wycombe. Whatever the reason, with less than three weeks to go the organisers had found themselves without a band to provide music for the occasion. This was when they contacted Aylesbury Concert Band. Fortunately we were able to oblige, though not without the help of a number of deps. At this time of year we have a lot of light music in the pad from playing at fêtes, which are ideal for accompanying a dinner like this, so conductor Rob Wicks was able to put together and rehearse a programme very quickly.

The dinner was planned to be held on the lawn outside the Officers’ Mess, which might have been risky given British weather, but the 2018 heatwave was still going strong and it was another sweltering hot day. As the band set up ready to play from 7.00pm the temperature was still nearly 30°C so we began the evening in shirtsleeves. We played for a while as the diners were enjoying aperitifs, and then played two sessions during the dinner with a break between. It was actually quite enjoyable to be playing outside on such a warm evening.

An evening such as this always ends with a loyal toast, to which the band plays the National Anthem. On this occasion one of the guests was from Holland, so a second toast to the king of the Netherlands was called for, requiring the Band to play the Dutch National Anthem.

The whole evening was a little outside the band’s normal experience, so all credit to the members for coming out at such short notice and playing well. One of the organisers emailed the next day to say Thanks from the Officers’ Mess at RAF High Wycombe to … the whole of the band for a superb performance last night. The music was outstanding and was commented on by so many people last night and this morning.

Summer Fêtes 2018

June this year was the driest on record, and as the days passed the weather grew warmer and warmer, staying hot and sunny as June faded into July. As I write, some places in south east England have had no rain for 7 weeks, and the forecasters see very little change on the horizon. So on Saturday 7th July we plastered on sun cream and dug out our summer hats ready for our annual visit to Fairford Leys Summer Fair. We play on the bandstand in Hampden square, which affords some of the band some shade, but not for everyone.

This year was a little different from normal, as the date coincided with the England / Sweden football match in the 2018 World Cup, due to begin at 3.00pm. Our second session was brought forward to finish then, as the organisers had organised a large screen TV in the community centre to show the match. To get into the spirit of things conductor Rob Wicks had added Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home) and Rule Britannia to the programme.

In other respects this was a normal fête. In the first session we played West Side Story, A Grand Day Out, a selection from South Pacific, Caravan and music from the film Frozen. The second half opened with Strike Up the Band, then Disney at the Movies, A Walk in the Black Forest, the Muppet theme, and a selection from My Fair Lady, as well as Three Lions and Rule Britannia already mentioned.

One week later, on 14th July, the band was asked to play for a street party in Kingsbrook, a very new housing estate being built to the south east of Aylesbury. The builders were putting this on for the first new residents, and although intended to be a street party, for whatever reason it was moved to the car park of the nearby pub The Dog House. The gravel car park wasn’t the ideal place for the event, but they had laid on a burger bar, free soft drinks and ice creams (the pub was open for anything stronger), and face painting and a balloon modeller to entertain the children. And Aylesbury Concert Band to provide music!

Again the day was hot and sunny, but we were sheltered by a wide gazebo. We played a very similar programme to Fairford Leys the week before. England were involved in a World Cup match again, but this time it was the third-place play-off against Belgium so there was considerably less excitement (unfortunately England lost as well, but at least something is normal this summer).

The organizers were impressed by the Band’s performance, and if it’s not too presumptuous to say so, it would have been a very dull event without us.

This was our last engagement before the Vale Park Proms on 26th August, now it’s time to start rehearsing for that.

Stone Fête 2018

The morning of the Spring Bank holiday on 28th May was overcast and showery, which wasn’t promising for the fête that afternoon in Stone (a large village outside Aylesbury). However the day brightened, and just as the fête was officially opened the sun began to shine, and the weather stayed pleasantly warm and sunny for the rest of the afternoon. The band was shaded by a marquee, as playing in the direct heat of the sun can be as difficult as playing in wind or cold.

The Band played two sets. The first opened with a selection from My Fair Lady, followed by A Grand Day Out (the Wallace & Gromit theme). After music from South Pacific came Caravan by Duke Ellington, and the set finished with music from the Disney film Frozen.

Five band members in front of a large gorilla

Some of the woodwind with a friend.

Later the second set began with Disney at the Movies, and the sixties easy listening hit A Walk in the Black Forest by Horst Jankowski. Then after Chitty Chitty Bang Bang the set finished with music from West Side Story.

It was quite a pleasant afternoon’s music making, let’s hope the weather is as kind for the other fêtes we’ll be playing at this summer.

Spring Concert 2018

On 28th April we tried a new venue for our Spring Concert, the church at Fairford Leys, Aylesbury. Being a relatively new housing estate this is a small church in a modern building, and at first sight seemed quite promising. Inside the building is divided into two, the church proper and an area with tables and chairs and a small kitchen behind a counter in the corner. This is separated from the church by a glass screen which folds and slides to the sides to open the two areas into one. The church itself is wider than it is long, with no pillars, so the audience has good views of the band, and being quite small it is ideal for the typical size of our audience. However the light was quite bright, and together with the white painted walls gave a rather harsh effect. Of more concern was the large dome built in the ceiling into the roof space. During the concert this had the effect of reflecting the sound and dampening any contrast between loud music and soft.

The concert began with the Olympic Fanfare and Theme written by John Williams for the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. This was followed by The Hounds of Spring by Alfred Reed, inspired by Swinburne’s line “When the hounds of spring are on winter’s traces”, a magical picture of young love in springtime. A selection from the musical My Fair Lady came next, and The Girl with the Flaxen Hair by Debussy, arranged by Michael Brand. Then Robin Jarvis, euphonium, played Song of India by Rimsky-Korsakov in an arrangement by Eric Wilson. who is a friend of both Robin and our conductor, Rob wicks. For this the Band was conducted by Eric Wilson himself, who was our guest at the concert. The first half ended with Festive Overture by Shostakovich.

The second half began with A Copland Tribute, music by Aaron Copland adapted by Clare Grundman. Next we played Finnegan’s Wake, by A.J. Potter, and Disney at the Movies, an arrangement of well know songs from Disney films. This was followed by a moment of quiet reflection as we played The Sun Will Rise Again, written by Philip Sparke in response to the devastating tsunami that struck Japan in 2011. The concert ended with an arrangement of music from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein. As an encore the Band played A Walk in the Black Forest, the 60s hit by Horst Jankowski.

The concert was quite successful, the band played well and the audience seemed to enjoy it despite the problems with the acoustics. It’s a shame that we don’t seem to be able to attract a larger audience, but that is a perennial problem for us it seems.

New Year Concert 2018

On the afternoon of Saturday 13th January Aylesbury Band travelled again to St Mary’s Church, Eaton Bray for a New Year Concert. By the time the concert was due to start a gratifyingly large audience nearly filled the church, indeed the organiser had to put out extra seats for latecomers.

Conductor Robert Wicks had chosen Flourish for Wind Band to announce that the concert had begun, followed by the lively overture Light Cavalry by Franz von Suppé. Two items from films followed, Beauty and the Beast from the Disney cartoon version, and Hallelujah from Shrek by Leonard Cohen. Then the band played 5 movements from A Silent Movie Suite, an original work for band by Martin Ellerby which evokes the early days of the cinema. This was accompanied by suitable “subtitles” held up by a volunteer to announce the titles of each movement. The first half ended with a selection from the musical Les Misérables.

After the interval, the second half opened with Celtic Carol arranged by Robert W. Smith, and a selection of music from recent episodes of Dr Who, complete with the well known title theme. The slightly nostalgic Waltz no. 2 from a “Jazz” suite by Shostakovich was followed by the manic LOL (Laugh Out Loud) by Robert Buckley. To slow the pace, but staying with TV themes, Band of Brothers came next, followed by music from Mary Poppins.

This was a New Year concert, however, so we couldn’t finish without playing The Beautiful Blue Danube by Johann Strauss II, arranged by Rob Wiffin. The enthusiastic applause merited an encore, which was inevitably the Radetzky March by Johann Strauss I.

How nice it is to play to such an appreciative audience. It’s even nicer to know we’ve been invited back to play again next year.

Radio Stars!

Early on Friday 22nd December 10 members of the Band squeezed into a tiny studio at Mix96, Aylesbury’s local radio station, to perform Christmas carols on the breakfast show. Amazingly this was organised in less than two days, as we only received the invitation from presenter Ben Moseby on Wednesday morning. The band members who took part are to be congratulated on their willingness to get to the studio early at such short notice ready to play. Conductor Robert Wicks and clarinettist Rimini Dick-Carr were interviewed by Ben on air, which was a wonderful opportunity to publicise the band and tell the listeners what we do, as well as demonstrating the skills of our musicians and (we hope) entertaining the listeners with seasonal music.

Fairford Leys Carols

The annual outdoor Carol Service in Hampden Square, Aylesbury, had a different format this year. The first part consisted of an enactment of the Nativity story, interspersed with carols for the audience to join in accompanied by the Band. Then following a short interval, the Band led community singing, with such well known songs as White Christmas, Let it Snow, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and The Twelve Days of Christmas, among others, finishing with Jingle Bells to welcome Father Christmas.

Rod Wynne-Powell was there to take photographs again. It was a bitterly cold evening, as can be seen by the way the band is huddled into their scarves and hats against the cold.

Mayor’s Carol Service 2017

The annual Mayor’s Carol Service in Aylesbury took place this year at St Mary’s Church on 3rd December. Aylesbury Concert Band again played a major part in providing the music, together with the Aylesbury Choral Society, the church choir, and Bedgrove Junior School choir.

Before the arrival of the Mayor’s procession and the start of the service, the Band entertained the waiting guests with Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen (from the film Shrek), The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, and A Christmas Mambo (God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen in latin style by David Edmonds, arranged by Barrie Hingley). Then to announce the arrival of the Mayor, Flourish for Wind Band by Vaughan Williams, and the fanfare opening of Festive Overture by Shostakovich. During the service, as well as accompanying the Christmas carols, the band played Deck the Hall by Barrie Gott, arranged by Brian Bowen and The Manger Scene by Leslie Condon, arranged by Richard Phillips. The Aylesbury Choral Society sang O Holy Night by Adolphe Adam, accompanied by the Band, and the Bedgrove School choir gave a spirited performance of The Twelve Days of Christmas complete with actions to illustrate the song.

The Band rounded off the service with We Wish You a Merry Christmas after which the Mayor and councillors handed round mince pies and mulled wine to the accompaniment of music from the Band: Jingle Bells, A Celtic Carol (arranged by Robert W. Smith) and A Christmas Overture by Nigel Hess. Luckily there were still some mince pies and mulled wine left for the band to enjoy by the time we’d finished playing!

Rod Wynne-Powell has posted a gallery of photographs he took before and during the service. The church was very dimly lit so the quality of the photos is remarkable.

Autumn Concert 2017

The church of St Peter and St Paul in Great Missenden is located some distance from the village along a lane that narrows to a single track road for the last quarter mile. On a dark and damp November evening it wasn’t the easiest place to reach for our autumn concert on November 18th, and there wasn’t a lot of space for parking when we got there. However by 5.30 everyone was there and set up ready for a quick rehearsal before the concert.

Despite these difficulties a modestly sized audience had arrived by the time the concert was due to start. Conductor Robert Wicks had chosen Flourish for Wind Band by Vaughan Williams to open the first half, and this was followed by music from the film Beauty and the Beast. After the Overture to Light Cavalry by Suppé and a selection from Les Misérables. Alison Swindles played Reflections, a piece for solo oboe and band written specially for her by Craig Hallatt. The first half ended with music from Mary Poppins.

The second half began with several movements from A ‘Silent Movie’ Suite written by Martin Ellerby to evoke the early years of the cinema. In more reflective mood, this was followed by Band of Brothers. Then after an arrangement of Gershwin’s American in Paris the trumpet section featured in Bugler’s Holiday by Leroy Anderson. Three movements from the 2nd Suite in F by Gustav Holst followed, and the concert finished with Moment for Morricone, some of the film music by Ennio Morricone arranged for band by Johan de Mey.

From the warm applause I think the audience enjoyed the concert. Photographer Rod Wynne-Powell was there and has written about it on his blog, together with a gallery of photos.

Vale Park Proms 2017

According to the statistics, south east England had nearly 20% more rain in August this year than average. Certainly it seemed as if it rained every day for the first three weeks of the month, so we had good cause to be apprehensive about the weather for the annual Vale Park Proms on 27th August. This is the concert the Band performs each year in Vale Park, Aylesbury as part of the Parklife Weekend organised by Aylesbury Town Council. Fortunately as the day approached the weather grew more settled, and the afternoon of the 27th was quite warm and partly sunny. By the time in the evening the concert was due to start there was barely a blade of grass to be seen as people poured into the park ready to enjoy the concert. This year we welcomed back soprano Alison Langer and tenor Lawrence Thackeray as soloists. Alison and Lawrence are due to marry soon, so it was very appropriate that they sung People will say we’re in love from Oklahoma in the second half.

The theme of the concert was “stage and screen”, and it began with the opening “sunrise” fanfare from Also sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss, better known to most people from its use in the soundtrack of Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey. This was followed by music from the Disney film Beauty and the Beast by Alan Menken. The first solo item featured Lawrence Thackeray singing Dein ist mein Ganzes Herz by Franz Lehár, and later in the first half Alison Langer sang the aria Sempre Libera from La Traviata by Verdi. The first half ended with music from the original Star Wars films by John Williams.

After the interval the second half opened with music from TV – Doctor Who: Through Time and Space, followed by film music from The Incredibles. As already mentioned, Alison and Lawrence came together to sing People will say we’re in love, and the the last piece before the “Proms” finale was from the first film in the Pirates of the Caribbean series by Klaus Badelt.

Of course the highlight of the evening for most of the audience is the finale, when they can join in singing and waving their flags and glow sticks. Following Jerusalem the Band played the Fantasia on British Sea Songs by Henry Wood, including Rule Britannia, and finally Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March no. 1 with which the audience joined in singing Land of Hope and Glory. After its inevitable encore a fireworks display rounded off the proceedings.

So ended another highly successful Proms concert by the Band. Now it’s time to start thinking about our next concert in November.

Here is a complete list of all the music played.

Programme – Vale Park Proms 2017

Conducted by Robert Wicks

Title Composer / Arranger
Also sprach Zarathustra (fanfare) Richard Strauss, arr. Robert Longfield
Beauty and the Beast Alan Menken, arr. John Moss
Dien ist mein Ganzes Herz from The Land of Smiles
Soloist Lawrence Thackeray
Franz Lehár, arr. Niese
Hallelujah Leonard Cohen, arr. Michael Brown
Moment for Morricone Ennio Morricone, arr. Johan De Meij
Sempre Libera from La Traviata
Soloist Alison Langer
G. Verdi, arr. Braak
Star Wars Saga John Williams, arr. Johan De Meij
Doctor Who: Through Time and Space Murray Gold, arr. Robert Buckley
The Incredibles Michael Giancchino, arr. Jay Bocook
Band of Brothers Michael Kamen, arr. Colin Hales
People will say we’re in love
Soloists Lawrence Thackeray and Alison Langer
Richard Rogers, arr. Robert Wicks
Writing’s on the Wall (from the James Bond Film Spectre) Sam Smith, arr. Craig Hallatt
Pirates of the Caribbean Klaus Badelt, arr. John Wasson
Jerusalem Hubert Parry, arr. Rob Wiffin
Fantasia on British Sea Songs Henry Wood, arr. W J Duthoit
Pomp and Circumstance March no. 1 Edward Elgar