On Saturday 21st June the Band squeezed onto the relatively small stage of the Hazlemere Community Centre near High Wycombe for a concert in aid of the Grange Area Trust Widmer Fields appeal. This is a campaign to raise money to buy an area of land popular with dog walkers and nature lovers to preserve it from developers. This would seem to be a popular cause judging by the good sized audience it attracted. The concert was shared between the Band and The Royal Harmonics, but more about them in a moment.
The stage in the hall is fairly high, and the size of the band meant that our conductor, Claire Lawrence, and the frontmost players were uncomfortably close to the edge, but luckily there were no accidents. The Band opened the concert with Gershwin’s Strike Up the Band, followed by three movements from the new Divertimento by Rob Wiffin, Ostinato, Dreaming, and Easy Does It. This was followed by a selection from the musical Miss Saigon, which is currently playing in a revival in London.
After this the band shuffled back (and some left the stage) to make room for the Royal Harmonics, an a cappella male voice choir from Windsor. The full choir numbers over 50 members, but because of the small stage there were only around 16 of them that evening. They sang a variety of songs: ballads, love songs and humorous songs, all presented with expressive actions and gestures. This kind of unaccompanied close harmony singing is very difficult, but the quality of their singing proved they deserved the medals they have won in several competitions.
After the interval the Band opened the second half with Soul Bossa Nova by Quincy Jones, followed by Dixieland Festival arranged by Bernard Green, and Swing, Swing, Swing, which cleverly combines Sing, Sing, Sing by Louis Prima with It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t got that Swing by Duke Ellington. Then the choir came back on stage to sing again.
This year is the centenary of the start of the Great War. To mark the anniversary the Band played the march Great Little Army by Kenneth Alford, and Keep the Faith by Duncan Stubbs. They then brought the programme to a rousing conclusion with Farandole by Bizet, arranged by Rob Wiffin. Or not quite, as the audience were happy to have as an encore Puttin’ on the Ritz.
We’ve heard that the concert raised a fair amount of money for the appeal, so we’re glad to have helped.