Christmas for the Band began on 1st December playing Christmas carols in Wendover High Street to mark the turning on of the Christmas lights. The evening was bitterly cold, with lying snow, but that didn’t deter a large crowd gathering around the band to sing. However the weather was so cold that the organisers decided to finish a little early. There was little respite for the band, though, as being a Wednesday we still had to go on to a normal rehearsal afterwards to to prepare for the next concert two days later.
This took place at the St Mary’s Church, Haddenham, and was the final event in the 90th Anniversary celebrations of the Bucks Federation of Women’s Institutes. As we stepped gingerly across the ice and past the frozen pond to the church, we fervently hoped it would be warm inside. These hopes were soon to be dashed, however, when we discovered that repairs to the roof meant that upper parts of the tower were open to the elements, and an icy wind was blowing through the building. The audience sat huddled in their coats, but there was no such luxury for the band. But the show must go on! The programme opened with White Christmas, and included other Christmas favourites such as Troika by Prokofiev, and Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson. To leaven the mix, though, conductor Neil Chapman included items such as Gaelforce (an arrangement of three traditional Irish tunes by Peter Graham), and Robert Wicks conducted Les Halles from Paris Sketches by Martin Ellerby. Interspersed through the programme were readings and songs from some of the WI members, and the Haddenham Handbell Ringers showed off their skills. Despite the cold, the concert went well, and the audience appeared to enjoy it.
The following day it was the turn of Fairford Leys to stage their annual carol service in the village centre. Members of the band set up under the arcade at one side of the square and played carols to accompany the singing. Father Christmas arrived at the end with gifts for the children. Then on Sunday 5th the Band played for the Mayor’s Carol Service in St Mary’s Church, Aylesbury, conducted by deputy conductor Robert Wicks.
The following Sunday, 12th December, was the date for the Band’s own Christmas Concert, held like last year in Aylesbury Methodist Church. I’m delighted to report that this church was warm! The Band was joined again by the ladies’ choir from Rickmansworth Lemon Tuesday. The programme was similar to the Haddenham concert, interspersed by performances by the choir, and carols sung by the audience. It also included a first airing of Lull me Beyond Thee and Catching of Quails, two movements from Danceries by Kenneth Hesketh, which the Band had been working on for several months. Most of the concert was conducted by our Director of Music, Neil Chapman, but Robert Wicks again conducted Les Halles, The Wizard of Oz, and Good Swing Wenceslas.
The Band’s Christmas Dinner took place on 15th December, but that wasn’t the end of the season, as on the morning of Saturday 18th we returned to Wendover to play carols for the Christmas market. The day before had brought more heavy snow, and the Saturday dawned bitterly cold with further snow threatened. Nevertheless, the members turned out to fulfil the engagement. Or try to. The Band had played barely two carols before the valves of the brass instruments started freezing up. The rest of the band did their best to continue, but it soon became clear that the weather was making it impossible to play. At least we tried, and full marks to those in the band who turned out to perform in such awful conditions.
Now it’s time to put the Christmas music away, and start preparing for another year of concerts.