In 2018 Aylesbury Town Council held a special service before Remembrance Sunday at the parish church to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. It was such a moving occasion that the Mayor, Cllr Mike Smith, decided to hold a similar service again this year in conjunction with the Royal British Legion. It took place on the evening of 7th November and was led by the vicar of St Mary’s, Fr. Doug Zimmerman.
Once again the Band played a large part in providing the music, starting with Nimrod from Elgar’s Enigma Variations as the Mayoral party processed down the church. As well as accompanying the hymns, the Band played Keep the Faith by Duncan Stubbs, David of the White Rock, arranged by David Cresswell, and Band of Brothers by Michael Kamen. At points during the service the names of local people who died in the world wars were read out by young people from the Police Cadets, the Sea Cadets and the Army Cadet Force. As well as other readings, music was also provided by the Church choir, who sang My Soul, There is a Country by Hubert Parry, and the Aylesbury Youth Choir, who sang Peace Song. The Band finished the service with the National anthem, and then played Songs of the Great War, a medley arranged by Rob Wiffin.
Then on Remembrance Sunday itself the Band again provided music for the ceremony at the War Memorial in Stone, a village near Aylesbury. Luckily the day was dry and sunny, though cold, but the ground in the park where the band set up was quite muddy after the amount of rain we’d had recently. Prior to the service the Band played to set the scene, including Keep the Faith by Duncan Stubbs, David of the White Rock, and Band of Brothers. The Band played for the hymns during the service, and afterwards played Songs of the Great War.
The exact date is lost in the mist of time, but it’s generally agreed that Aylesbury Band came into being in 1994, meaning this year the Band is 25 years old. So on the afternoon of 12th October we held a Gala Concert at Holy Trinity Church celebrating the highlights of the Band’s history, welcoming back some previous Musical Directors, and featuring the premiere of a new work for band specially commissioned for the occasion. Among the audience were several special guests, including Sir Henry Aubrey-Fletcher, Lord Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire, and Judy Brandis, chairman of Aylesbury Vale District Council. We also welcomed members of Alan Mossford’s family. Alan played a major role in the Band’s development for 10 years and would have been our guest of honour had he not died earlier this year .
Some of the concert was conducted by Brendan Gudgeon and Chris Doyle, but we were delighted to have previous Directors of music come and conduct us as well. Duncan Stubbs was our conductor from 2006 to 2009, when he was appointed Principal Director of Music for the Royal Air Force, and Claire Lawrence led the Band from 2011 to 2014. She is now Bandmaster of the Coldstream Guards, clearly conducting Aylesbury Band does no harm to anyone’s career!
The programme included several pieces that we had played at the National Concert Band Festival over the years, but the highlight of the first half was the first performance of Aylesbury Dances, commissioned for the occasion from Rob Wiffin. Rob is a previous Principal DoM of the RAF, and is now professor of conducting at Kneller Hall, the Army music college. He has conducted Aylesbury Band a number of times on development weekends and playdays, so knows us well. Aylesbury Dances consists of three linked movements entitled
Pavane: The Town
Frolic: Ducks in a Row
The first is in ceremonial style inspired by the town’s connection with royalty, particular Henry VIII. The second is a quiet interlude, imagine strolling along the canal towpath early on a Sunday morning. The third movement… Well, Rob Wiffin seems to like fast movements to be very fast, and the music conjures up the idea of a slapstick movie of people trying to herd ducks! It’s witty and entertaining, but something of a challenge to play.
I’m pleased to say we had a good sized audience, including several ex-members of the band who have moved away. At the end of the concert we were treated to an impromptu speech by one such member, Roger Pethers, who now lives in Kent. He and his wife Carole were founder members of the band, and Roger briefly recounted how the Band was formed, along with some anecdotes about the early years.
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:–
Composer / Arranger
The Liberty Bell
John Philip Sousa
Tales from Andersen 1: The Steadfast Tin Soldier 4: The Red Shoes
A Grand Day Out
O Mio Babbino Caro (with Alison Langer)
Giacomo Puccini, arr. Dave Richards
Barry gray, arr. Philip Sparke
Dancing Round the Nursery
The Sound of Music
Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rogers, arr. W.J. Duthoit
Looney Tunes Overture
Arr. Bill Holcombe
Arr. Stephen Bulla
Nessun Dorma (with Lawrence Thackeray)
Con Te Partiro (with Lawrence Thackeray and Alison Langer)
F. Sartori and L. Quarantotto, arr. Frank Bernaerts
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 (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.
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.
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.
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.
…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?
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.