Vale Park Proms 2019

The annual “Proms” concert organised by Aylesbury Town Council took place this year on the Sunday of the bank holiday weekend on 25th August. As an outdoor event it’s very dependent on the weather, but this year the whole weekend coincided with a heatwave, with cloudless blue skies and temperatures climbing into the 30s celsius. In fact it broke the record for the warmest August bank holiday since it was moved to the end of the month in 1971. So it was in sweltering heat that band members arrived early at 3.30 for some publicity photos, which fortunately were taken in the shade of some trees.

However when we moved to the stage ready for a rehearsal at 5.00pm there was no such shade, especially for those at the front in direct sunlight. The heat and the glare made playing both difficult and unpleasant, but fortunately by the time the concert proper was due to start the sun had moved round and was lower in the sky. Nevertheless it was still so warm that we played the first half in shirtsleeves.

Naturally the good weather brought out a huge crowd and there was scarcely a blade of grass to be seen in the park, the council estimate that the audience numbered some 4000 people. The concert was conducted by Brendan Gudgeon, with some pieces taken by Chris Doyle, and we once again welcomed tenor Lawrence Thackeray and soprano Alison Langer as soloists. The compère this year was Erika Sanderson as Carl Quaif was unavailable. She was assisted by Marie Biswell, who interpreted the announcements in sign language.

Brendan kicked off the concert conducting a rousing performance of Liberty Bell by Sousa. The theme of the concert was “childhood”, and the next items were two movements from Tales from Andersen by Martin Ellerby, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and The Red Shoes. After A Grand Day Out (the Wallace & Gromit theme), Alison Langer joined the band to sing O Mio Babbino Caro by Puccini. The whole programme is listed below, but the first half finished with a selection from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music.

During the interval the crowd were entertained by students from the Vivo d’Arte School of Theatre Arts, who sung a number of songs from musical shows. When the band returned to open the second half, it was with Looney Tunes cartoon music. The soloists starred again with Lawrence Thackeray singing Nessun Dorma from Turandot by Puccini, and he and Alison Langer came together to sing Con Te Partiro by Sartori and Quarantotto.

It was almost time for the Proms finale, but not before Chris Doyle conducted a selection from The Greatest Showman. Then came the moment the crowd had been waiting for, ready to join Alison Langer and the band singing Rule Britannia at the climax of Henry Wood’s Fantasia on British Sea Songs. This was followed by Jerusalem, with the singing led by Lawrence Thackeray. Last but not least, was Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March no. 1. In a break with precedent we performed the complete march, with Alison and Lawrence leading the singing of Land of Hope and Glory with the reprise of the big tune, which of course had to be encored.

The Mayor, Cllr Mike Smith, came on stage to thank everyone involved for all their hard work organising the ParkLife weekend and the concert, and to thank everyone in the audience who contributed to a collection for the Mayor’s charity, which this year was Youth Concern. Then after a countdown from the audience they were treated to a magnificent firework display to round off the evening.

Here is a list of the complete programme:–

TitleComposer / Arranger
The Liberty BellJohn Philip Sousa
Tales from Andersen
1: The Steadfast Tin Soldier
4: The Red Shoes
Martin Ellerby
A Grand Day OutJulian Nott
O Mio Babbino Caro
(with Alison Langer)
Giacomo Puccini, arr. Dave Richards
ThunderbirdsBarry gray, arr. Philip Sparke
Stephenson’s RocketNigel Hess
Dancing Round the NurseryRob Wiffin
The Sound of MusicOscar Hammerstein and Richard Rogers, arr. W.J. Duthoit
Looney Tunes OvertureArr. Bill Holcombe
Sinatra!Arr. Stephen Bulla
Nessun Dorma
(with Lawrence Thackeray)
Giacomo Puccini
Con Te Partiro
(with Lawrence Thackeray and Alison Langer)
F. Sartori and L. Quarantotto, arr. Frank Bernaerts
The Greatest Showmanarr. Paul Murtha
Fantasia on British Sea SongsHenry J. Wood, arr. W.J. Duthoit
Rule BritanniaThomas Arne
JerusalemHubert Parry, arr. Rob Wiffin
Pomp & Circumstance March No. 1Edward Elgar, arr. C. Evans

RAF Summer Party

Exactly a year to the day after last year’s event, we were flattered to be invited back to the Officers’ Mess at RAF High Wycombe to play for their Summer Cocktail Party on 26th July. This year the weather wasn’t quite so kind, with occasional showers forecast for the evening, so the Band set up in a room indoors. Matching the “Hollywood” theme of the evening, much of the music we played was from films, plus well known popular music from several decades. So the first session started with Looney Tunes and included a selection from Chicago and music by Queen.

The second session opened with Thunderbirds (the children’s TV series from the 60s) and included New Hampshire Hornpipe (from On Golden Pond), Singing in the Rain and Lady Gaga Dance Mix. By the time the third session started the party was really getting going, and we played music by The Beatles, Sinatra!, Disco Lives, and finished with music from The Greatest Showman. At least that’s where we expected to finish, but unusually for such an event we were required to play an encore, finishing where we began with Looney Tunes.

“Leave them wanting more” as the saying has it. I wonder if this is going to turn into an annual event? Certainly it’s fun to play and be appreciated.

Fairford Leys Fair in the Square

Fairford Leys (a district of Aylesbury) always seems to be blessed with good weather for their annual Fair in the Square, and this year was no exception. Although not as sunny as some years, the day was pleasantly warm with some hazy sunshine from time to time, and only the lightest of breezes.

The band was asked to play from 1.15, when conductor Chris Doyle started the programme with music from the Looney Tunes cartoons. After this the programme continued with two movements from the English Folksong Suite by Vaughan Williams, New Hampshire Hornpipe from the film On Golden Pond, Disco Lives, Singing in the Rain, Queen in Concert, and finally Sinatra!.

After a half hour break, the Band played some more, starting with Thunderbirds, a selection from the musical Chicago, A Grand Day Out (the Wallace and Gromit theme), Dancing Round the Nursery by Rob Wiffin, two movements from the 2nd Suite in F by Gustav Holst, Lady Gaga Dance Mix, and to finish, music from The Greatest Showman.

At events like this a band is mainly background music, but we did get some applause from time to time, which is gratifying.

Stone Fête 2019

The Band returned to Stone (a village outside Aylesbury) on the spring bank holiday, Monday 27th May, to play at the Stone and Bishopstone Fête. The previous few days had been wet or showery, and the weather forecast was for showers in the afternoon, but apart from a few spots of rain as we were setting up it remained dry. Unfortunately a strong, gusty wind made playing difficult, blowing over music stands and necessitating the use of pegs to stop the music blowing away, which makes it difficult to turn the page. However, we coped!

The band played two sets, conducted by deputy conductor Chris Doyle, who opened the programme with Looney Tunes. The first half continued with a selection from Mary Poppins, Queen in Concert, and music from the cult TV series Game of Thrones.

After the interval, when a dog show took place in the arena, the Band played The Sound of Music, music from the show and film The Lion King, and a selection from The Greatest Showman.

Despite the unsettled weather there was a good crowd at the fête, and no doubt the Band’s efforts added to the holiday atmosphere.

Mayor’s Charity Concert

Aylesbury Band and Aylesbury Town Council put on a joint concert on the afternoon of 9th March in St Mary’s Church, Aylesbury. Entrance to the concert was free, but with a collection to raise money to be shared by the Band and the Mayor’s Charity, Carers Bucks. Unusually for our concerts the church was packed, and extra chairs had to be found for latecomers.

The programme consisted entirely of film and TV themes, even Queen in Concert had a film connection through the recent Best Motion Picture winner at the Golden Globes, Bohemian Rhapsody. But the concert started on a mysterious note with music from Jurassic Park by John Williams before breaking into the well known march theme from the film. After this came music from the blockbuster TV series Game of Thrones.

The 1990s BBC TV series about The Victorian Kitchen Garden had a gentle clarinet solo for its theme which became a chart topper for its performer, Emma Johnson. Clarinettist Julie-Marie James performed it here in an arrangement for clarinet and band made by the Band’s conductor for 10 years, Alan Mossford. After Queen in Concert, soloist Erica Miller played alto sax in the Love Theme from The Godfather. Following the foot-tapping Blues Brothers Revue, it was the turn of Alison Swindles to play the oboe solo Gabriel’s Oboe from the 1986 film The Mission, by Ennio Morricone. The first half then drew to a close with a selection from the evergreen Mary Poppins, including Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and A Spoonful of Sugar.

Everyone loves cartoons, so what better way to start the second half than with the Looney Tunes Overture. This and the next 4 pieces were conducted by the Band’s deputy conductor Chris Doyle. His next items were more music by John Williams, in a selection entitled John Williams Soundtrack Highlights, followed by Rey’s Theme from Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Then after the lively New Hampshire Hornpipe from On Golden Pond Chris finished his session with a selection from The Greatest Showman.

Robert Wicks then returned to conduct The Simpsons, followed by the grand finale, a selection from The Wizard of Oz. Of course the audience demanded an encore, so with the help of the audience clicking fingers and tapping knees to make the sound of raindrops, the band played Singin’ in the Rain.

In all the collection raised £676.20 for Carers Bucks and the Band. Thanks are due to Fr. Doug Zimmerman of St Mary’s for allowing the use of the church free of charge, and to Carl Quaif for acting as compère for the afternoon, and of course to Robert Wicks and Chris Doyle and all the members of the Band who give up their time to make entertaining music.

Eaton Bray 2019

The Band returned to Eaton Bray in Bedfordshire on 12th January for an afternoon concert marking the New Year. This has been an annual event since 2014, and the gratifyingly full church suggested our concert is still popular. This year our Musical Director Rob Wicks shared the conducting with our new assistant conductor Chris Doyle.

Rob Wicks directed the first half, opening with Strike up the Band by Gershwin. Music by Glenn Miller followed in Big Band Classics, then John Barry’s score for the film Out of Africa, and Finnegan’s Wake by A J Potter. A slow interlude was provided by Hymn Song of Lowell Mason before the jollity of Jupiter from The Planets by Gustav Holst. The next piece conjured up Argentina with the tango Por Una Cabeza, and the first half finished with the last part of Armenian Dances by Alfred Reed.

After the interval Chris Doyle took to the podium to conduct a selection from The Greatest Showman and music from the films Titanic and The Little Mermaid. Rob Wicks returned to take us to Spain with Malagueña, followed by Singin’ in the Rain complete with some sound effects from the audience making the sound of raindrops.

With the end of the concert approaching it was time for some music traditionally played at the New Year, starting with Tritsch Tratsch Polka by Johann Strauss, followed inevitably by The Blue Danube.

That was the end of the programme, but the enthusiastic applause from the audience meant we had to play an encore, so Rob Wicks conducted the Radetzky March by Johann Strauss Snr. So it looks like we may be invited back next year.

And Finally…

…for 2018, the band was invited to repeat their 2017 performance of Christmas carols on the local radio station, Mix 96. So, before dawn on the Friday before Christmas, Rob Wicks and a dozen members of the band squeezed into a tiny studio at the station, standing around the mixing desk with barely an inch to spare. We played two five minute sessions, several carols in one and White Christmas, Jingle Bells, and We Wish You a Merry Christmas in the other. A little different from the Breakfast Show’s usual mixture of pop music and chat, but maybe it helped whet people’s appetite for the Christmas festivities?

Fairford Leys Carol Service 2018

As darkness fell on Saturday 8th December the Band set up in Hampden Square, Aylesbury, for the annual Fairford Leys Carol service. It was a cold and windy evening, but not as cold as last year. However the event followed the same format, with an enactment of the Nativity story played by people in costume, including carols sung by everyone to the accompaniment of the Band. After this there was more community singing, including the perennial favourites White Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and The Twelve Days of Christmas. Finally, to guide Father Christmas to the right place, everyone sang Jingle Bells – but not loudly enough so they had to sing it again! After Father Christmas had arrived all that was left was to play We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

Mayor’s Carol Service 2018

Cover of the order of service

On 2nd December the Band returned to St Mary’s Church, Aylesbury, to take part in the annual Mayor’s Carol Service. The service was led by the rector, Reverend Doug Zimmerman, with readings by the Mayor of Aylesbury, Cllr Mark Willis, Mr Stephen Archibald, CEO of CarersBucks, David Lidington MP, and other community leaders.

Before the service, the Band played When a Child is Born by Ciro Damicco (“Zacar”) and Fred Jay, and Christmas Festival by Leroy Anderson. Then the arrival of the Mayor’s Procession was announced by Fanfare for Christmas by James Curnow. As well as the lessons and carols, in which the accompaniment was shared by the Band and the organist, there were musical contributions from several other groups. The Church choir sang Jesus Christ the Apple Tree by Elizabeth Poston, Bedgrove Junior School Choir sang Lo, a Rose E’er Blooming and The Song of the Magi, and Aylesbury Choral Society sang On Christmas Night All Christians Sing and Past Three O’Clock. The Band also provided a couple of musical interludes of its own, Midnight in Bethlehem (Away in a Manger and O Little Town of Bethlehem arranged by Warren Barker) and Mary’s Boy Child by Jester Hairston, arranged Philip Sparke. To round off the service Everyone sang We Wish You a Merry Christmas to the accompaniment of the Band.

One last tradition remained. While councillors from Aylesbury Town Council and members of Aylesbury Lions served mulled wine and mince pies to the congregation, the Band played The Proclamation of Christmas by Stephen Bulla and Jingle Bells.

Remembrance Sunday 2018

Remembrance Sunday this year occurred on 11th November, the exact 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, thus the day’s services and commemorations had even more significance than usual. Aylesbury Band was asked to play for two such services, first in Stone, a village outside Aylesbury, and later for the Mayor’s Remembrance Service at St Mary’s Church, Aylesbury.

The event at Stone was the conventional morning service outdoors at the recreation ground, encompassing the two minutes silence at 11.00am. Beforehand the band played the RAF March Past, and a medley of Songs of the Great War arranged by Rob Wiffin. The service included the hymns I vow to thee my Country, music by Gustav Holst, and Abide with Me. The start of two minutes silence was marked by a trumpet playing the Last Post, and at the end of the service the Band accompanied the singing of the National Anthem.

The Mayor’s service started at 5.30pm. Before the arrival of the Mayor the Band played part of The Sun will Rise Again by Philip Sparke, and then as the Mayoral party arrived, Nimrod from Elgar’s Enigma Variations. In a darkened church the band set the scene with Mars from The Planets by Gustav Holst. After a call to Remembrance by the Mayor, cllr Mark Willis, the congregation sang Abide with me accompanied by the band. After a reading of Moina Michael’s poem Keep the Faith by Sgt Joe McNicholas of the Air Cadets, the Band played the companion music for the poem written by Duncan Stubbs. Another poem followed, written and read by Cadet Edward Tagg of the Air Cadets, entitled Prima conclusio est infernum.

Following an address by the Vicar of Aylesbury, Fr. Doug Zimmerman, the band accompanied the congregation singing Jerusalem, and Mrs Barbara Grant of the Aylesbury British Legion read Perhaps by Vera Brittain.

A group of young people from Community Unity Projects in period costumes were led by Roisin Willetts in enacting readings of Diaries and Letters from the Trenches, many written by or to local people.

This was also a celebration of the ending of the war, however. Soprano Alison Langer sang Tell Your Heart to Beat Again by Danny Gorkey, and the Band played the middle and final sections of Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity from The Planets, with its noble tune later used as a hymn I Vow to Thee my Country. Following prayers led by Fr. Doug Zimmerman, the Blessing was said by the Bishop of Buckingham, Rt. Revd. Dr. Alan Wilson, and the congregation sang two verses of the National Anthem.

As the Mayor and guests left, the Band played Songs of the Great War, arranged by Rob Wiffin.

Afterwards we were honoured and delighted to receive a letter of thanks from the Mayor, in which he said

I would like to pass on my thanks and admiration on behalf of all who attended the Mayor’s Remembrance Service at St Marys Church on Sunday, for the beautiful, powerful and profoundly moving rendition of Holst’s Planets suite, Mars and Jupiter.

Sitting in the front row with the full power of the pieces you were playing, the music being forced into us was a remarkable experience. I found it deeply unsettling and moving, the whole atmosphere, the lighting and your excellent musicianship made it one of the most memorable and moving experiences of my life, truly unforgettable.