Autumn Charity Concert

Rupert Johnston first came to the band nearly two years ago in 2015. Rupert was on the verge of a promising career as a professional horn player when in 1997 he nearly died in a serious car accident. He suffered severe head injuries which required brain surgery to save his life. He now lives in Kent House in Aylesbury, a specialist home and rehabilitation centre for people who have suffered brain injuries. Incredibly, despite his injuries he still retains the ability to play the French horn, and comes to play regularly at our rehearsals and for at least part of our concerts. So when we planned our autumn concert we decided it should be in aid of a charity, and should feature Rupert as a soloist. The charity chosen was the Oxford branch of Silverlining, whose aim is to give help to anyone affected by brain injury and their families and community.

The concert took place on 19th November at Holy Trinity Church, Aylesbury. The third item on the programme featured Rupert playing the last movement of Mozart’s horn concerto no. 2, accompanied by the band. He played superbly, and at the end he was rewarded by loud applause from audience and band alike. Clearly he was overjoyed by the response and laughed and smiled as he acknowledged the applause and our conductor, Robert Wicks.

The concert had opened with The Grenadiers by Rob Wiffin, based on The British Grenadiers and Scipio, the quick and slow marches of the Grenadier Guards. This was followed by music from West Side Story. After the horn concerto the band played the Toccata in D Minor by J.S. Bach, arranged by Ray Farr and Kevin Lamb. Next was three movements from Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saëns, Introduction and Royal March of the Lions, The Elephant, and the Finale. Erica Miller played Romance from The Gadfly by Shostakovitch, arranged for alto saxophone and band by Ed Keeley. The first half ended with Gaelforce by Peter Graham.

The second half opened with Finlandia by Sibelius, and an arrangement of Pure Imagination. Then Norman Bartlett and Victoria Paulding, trumpets, were featured in Mexican Hat Dance accompanied by the band. After music from the Disney film of Aladdin came Holiday in Rio, a nod to this year’s Olympics, and the whole trumpet section featured in Bill Bailey. The concert came to a rousing conclusion with part of Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes from Saint-Saëns 3rd Symphony (known as the “Organ” symphony).

The concert raised £483 for the charity, well done to Rupert and the Band.

You can find out more about Rupert from this video made by members of his family to promote the Eyes Alight appeal…

Vale Park Proms 2016

The Band’s major event of the summer each year is the Vale Park Proms, part of the annual Park Life festival organised by Aylesbury Town Council. Aylesbury Band’s contribution took place on Sunday evening 28th August this year. The day had been a mixture of sunshine and showers, and a gusty breeze was blowing as the band set up on the stage in Vale Park. But although there were some ominous looking clouds around and more showers were forecast, in fact the weather stayed dry for the whole of the concert. The band was conducted by Director of Music Robert Wicks, and were joined by the vocal soloists Alexandra Lowe, soprano, and James Liu, tenor.

As the 7.15 start time approached a large crowd, possiby a thousand people, assembled in the park to hear the band, ready with their flags to wave in the Grand Finale. The 2016 Olympics in Brazil had just ended, so conductor Robert Wicks chose for the first item Olympic Fanfare and Theme written by John Williams for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. After music from the Disney film Aladdin the first of the soloists, Alexandra Lowe, sang Quando me’n vo from La Bohème by Puccini. Then it was back to Brazil with Holiday in Rio.

The author Roald Dahl lived not far from Aylesbury in Great Missenden, and the next item was Pure Imagination from the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory which was based on one of his books for children. In complete contrast the band then played the Toccata in D Minor by J.S. Bach, in the distinctive arrangement for band by Ray Farr and Kevin Lamb. After Scarborough Fair by Duncan Stubbs, James Liu sang the well known Italian song O Sole Mio, and the band played Light-Walk by Barrie Gott. The first half ended with the Apotheosis, the last section of the grandly named Symphonic Metamorphosis on themes from Saint-Saëns 3rd Symphony. This is a paraphrase of the last movement of the symphony, known as the Organ Symphony because of the prominent part played by the organ, which brought the first half to a suitably grand conclusion.

Part 2 opened with Grenadiers! by Rob Wiffin. This is a fast and vigorous piece built on the Grenadier Guards’ quick and slow regimental marches (The British Grenadiers and Scipio by Handel). Then the band played a medley of songs from Frank Sinatra, arranged by Stephen Bulla. The two soloists returned to the stage to sing Brindisi (drinking song) from La Traviata by Verdi, after which the Band played Gaelforce by Peter Graham, which is based on three well known Irish folksongs.

Now it was time for the “Proms” finale. The audience were led by the band and soloists in singing Jerusalem by Hubert Parry, and the band played the Fantasia on British Sea Songs by Henry Wood, which ends with Rule Britannia sung by Alexandra Lowe. Finally in Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 the audience joined in enthusiastically singing Land of Hope and Glory. This, of course, had to be repeated.

Before these last items the Mayor, Cllr Barbara Russel, came on stage to thank everybody who had helped organise the weekend. She also thanked the Band and soloists for the Proms concert, and Carl Quaif who had once again acted as compêre for the evening. Then once the music was all over, there was a spectacular (and noisy!) firework display.

And then it rained, heavily. How lucky we were that until then the evening had remained dry.

UPDATE: The Bucks Herald has a report about the ParkLife weekend in which they say…

And on Sunday the Aylesbury Concert Band were out in force for Proms In The Park, attracting a huge crowd for classical and not so classical standards.

Speaking about Proms, a spokesman for organisers Aylesbury Town Council said: “Aylesbury Concert Band along with soloists Alex Lowe and James Liu performed a truly spectacular Proms concert for the 2,000-plus strong crowd at Proms in the Park on Sunday evening. With more families attending the event than ever before, bringing picnics, glow sticks, flags and their singing voices, this traditional English concert was shared by so many people. In typical English style, luckily the rain held off until the very last firework lit the night sky.”

Here is a complete listing of all the music played.

Programme – Vale Park Proms 2016

Conducted by Robert Wicks

Title Composer / Arranger
Olympic Fanfare and Theme John Williams, arr. James Curnow
Aladdin (from the Walt Disney film) Arr. Paul Jennings
Quando me’n Vo (from La Boheme, act 2)
Soloist Alexandra Lowe
Puccini, arr. Mark Armstrong.
Holiday in Rio Andreas Ludwig Schulte
Pure Imagination (from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, arr. Douglas E. Wagner
Toccata in D Minor J.S. Bach, arr. Ray Farr and Kevin Lamb
Scarborough Fair (2nd movement from The Fun of the Fair) Duncan Stubbs
O Sole Mio
Soloist James Liu
Words by Giovanni Capurro, music by Eduardo di Capua, arr. Mark Armstrong
Light-Walk Barrie Gott
Apotheosis, (final section of Symphonic Metamorphosis on themes from Saint-Saëns 3rd Symphony) Philip Sparke
Grenadiers Rob Wiffin
Sinatra! Arr. Stephen Bulla
Brindisi (from La Traviata)
Soloists Alexandra Lowe and James Liu
Verdi, arr. Geoffrey Brand
Gaelforce Peter Graham
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

Fairford Leys Fête 2016

On 9th July this year Aylesbury Concert Band performed at Fairford Leys Summer Fayre again, which took place as usual in Hampden Square, Aylesbury. The organisers reported that there were a record number of stalls, and a large crowd of people attended throughout the afternoon. The weather was overcast, and a few spots of rain fell as the band was setting up, but luckily it didn’t amount to much, and the sky brightened as the day wore on. Unfortunately it was quite windy, which threatened to blow music stands over and made page turns difficult.

The band played two sessions. The first opened with Bright Lights by Robert Sheldon followed by music from Disney’s film of Aladdin and two themes from recent James Bond films, Live and Let Die and Writing’s on the Wall from Spectre. After music from the film Rocky the first session ended with Queen in Concert.

The second session opened with more music from older James Bond films arranged by Johan de Meij. The march Liberty Bell and a selection of music by Henry Mancini was followed by Instant Concert by Harold Waters. The Band finished with a selection of well known songs by Frank Sinatra, and Dancing Round the Nursery by Rob Wiffin.

The Queen’s Birthday Concert in Amersham

The Band provided the climax to a concert to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday, which took place in the Memorial Gardens in Amersham on 12th June. Though the skies threatened rain, the weather stayed dry as a large crowd gathered in the Gardens. The concert began with performers from the Amersham Music Centre, then Vanessa Bowers, accompanied by pianist Sheila Cornall sang songs describing the Queen’s life, from her parents falling in love, her childhood and resilience during the Second World War, her coronation and more. Then after a Royal British Legion service it was the turn of Aylesbury Concert Band.

The Band’s programme began with Bright Lights by Robert Sheldon, followed by a medley of Frank Sinatra’s hits, arranged by Stephen Bulla. Writing’s on the Wall from the James Bond film Spectre by Sam Smith was followed by an arrangement of songs by Queen, and then Dancing Round the Nursery by Rob Wiffin.

Then it was time for the audience to join in, singing Jerusalem, which was followed by Henry Wood’s Fantasia on British Sea Songs. Finally the Band played Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 and the audience joined in singing Land of Hope and Glory and waved their flags enthusiastically.

Or not quite finally, for the Band led the crowd in singing Happy Birthday to You to round off a happy afternoon.

Spring Concert 2016

The Band presented its Spring concert on 14th May at Holy Trinity Church, Aylesbury, where we were delighted to welcome back Lemon Tuesday Ladies’ Choir from Rickmansworth to share the platform. The band opened and closed the concert, while the choir entertained the audience in two sessions either side of the interval.

The concert opened with Bright Lights! by Robert Sheldon, and the first half included The Fun of the Fair by Duncan Stubbs, Writing’s on the Wall (by Sam Smith, from the James Bond Film “Spectre”) and Sinatra!, an arrangement of classic Frank Sinatra numbers by Stephen Bulla. John Dablin (clarinet) played Viktor’s Tale, the theme from the film The Terminal by John Williams.

In the second half, the band played Mancini Magic, arranged by Trevor Sharpe, Afterlife by Rossano Galante, and, to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, Via Appia from SPQR by Guy Woolfenden, based on music he wrote for the play Julius Caesar. The concert ended with a selection from the musical Guys and Dolls by Frank Loesser, arranged by W J Duthoit, though this was followed by an encore, Liberty Bell by John Philip Sousa.

In complete contrast to the sound of the band, the choir demonstrated their versatility with a variety of music in contrasting styles, some humorous. Unfortunately I don’t have a note of their programme, but their singing is always entertaining and highly enjoyed by the audience.

New Year Concerts 2016

The Band had a busy start to the New Year, with two concerts on successive Saturdays. On the afternoon of 9th January we travelled to Eaton Bray in Bedfordshire for a New Year Concert at St Mary’s Church. It was a very cold and damp day, and when we arrived there was no heating on in the church, which was bitterly cold, and even when the heating had been turned on it could do little to warm such a large space. Nevertheless a pleasingly large audience nearly filled the church ready to enjoy our music.

Conductor Robert Wicks opened the programme with The Ancient and Honourable Artillery Company March by Sousa, which he wrote for the the oldest military organisation in North America, dating back to 1638 in Massachusetts. This was curiously relevant to a New Year concert as Sousa incorporated the Company’s marching song, Auld Lang Syne, into the march. This was followed by the well known Funiculi Funicula by Denza, After which Julie-Marie James (clarinet) and Catherine Dawson (bassoon) stepped up to play Brindisi (Drinking Song) from La Traviata by Verdi. Then after An American in Paris by Gershwin, arranged by John Krance, the band played part of El Camino Real by Alfred Reed. The first half ended with Rhapsody on an Old English Sea Song by Stuart Johnson, an amusing arrangement of What shall we do with a drunken sailor?, and music from Star Wars arranged by Johan de Meij.

The second half opened with Lord of the Dance by Ronan Hardiman, followed by Thames Journey by Nigel Hess. Nimrod from the Enigma Variations by Elgar was followed by two movements from Tales from Andersen by Martin Ellerby: The Steadfast Tin Soldier and The Emperor’s New Clothes. After James Bond 007 arranged by Johan de Meij, we returned to the New Year theme for the finale with The Blue Danube in the arrangement by Rob Wiffin. The audience didn’t let us go without an encore, though, so continuing the New Year theme we played The Radetzky March.

One week later we played a similar programme for our New Year Concert at Aylesbury Methodist Church. The evening was very cold, with sleet and snow showers, which probably contributed to the disappointingly small size of the audience. Instead of Star Wars we played the whole of El Camino Real by Alfred Reed, and three movements from Puszta by Jan Van der Roost, which are original pieces in the style of Hungarian gypsy music. Rob Wiffin’s arrangement of The Blue Danube opened the second half, which also included the Fanfare and Romance from Fanfare, Romance and finale by Philip Sparke, which feature the brass and woodwind sections respectively. The second half finished with An American in Paris by George Gershwin. The audience may have been small, but they were enthusiastic enough for the Band to play Radetzky March as an encore.

Christmas 2015

The Band had just two engagements this Christmas, Fairford Leys Carols and the Mayor’s Carol Service.

Late in the afternoon of Saturday 5th December the Band set up in the arcade that runs along one side of Hampden Square in Fairford Leys, a large housing estate on the western side of Aylesbury, ready to play for the annual carol service. The evening was dry and not too cold, but a strong wind made it feel colder and threatened to blow over music stands and blow music away. Fires burnt in a couple of large braziers to give some warmth to the crowd, though the wind blew dangerous looking embers across the square. Before the service we played White Christmas, Let it Snow, and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, but there seemed to be some confusion over the start time as there was a long hiatus after we finished, so we played White Christmas again! When the service did start, the band accompanied the crowd in a number of Christmas carols, and then played Jingle Bells to let Santa Claus know where to go. The band and the crowd singing obviously weren’t loud enough, so we played and sung it again, and this time Santa arrived in his sleigh to distribute sweets to the children, while the band finished with We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

The following day, 6th December, the Band took part in the annual Mayor’s Carol Service in St Mary’s Church, Aylesbury. We were joined by members of the Aylesbury Choral Society, and the church choir and organist. Before the service started we played Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Troika by Prokofiev, and Christmas Recollections, a medley of Christmas songs including Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. A fanfare from the band announced the arrival of the Mayor’s procession, and then we accompanied the Aylesbury Choral Society who sang O Holy Night by Adolphe Adam. During the service, which was led by the Rector, the Reverend Doug Zimmerman, the congregation sang carols led by the Choral Society and the choir, accompanied by the band and the organist. Then at the end, the band played We Wish You a Merry Christmas, and as the Aylesbury Lions served mulled wine to everyone we played Mary’s Boy Child, White Christmas, and Christmas Festival by Leroy Anderson.

So now we can put the carol books away for another year, but we can’t rest on our laurels as we have two New Year concerts to do in January.

2015 Autumn Concert

The Band put on its autumn concert on 3rd October at Holy Trinity Church, Aylesbury, to a disappointingly small audience. Unfortunately we’d manage to choose a date that coincided with the England – Australia match in the Rugby World Cup, not to mention Strictly Come Dancing on television, so perhaps the reduced audience wasn’t a reflection on the merits of the Band.

The programme was a mixture of some pieces played at the Vale Park Proms in August, and some new pieces. It opened with the music from the film Back to the Future, which was followed by the Looney Tunes Overture. In complete contrast this was followed by the Fantasia on the Alleluia Hymn by Gordon Jacob. In the Vale Park Proms we had only played the final section of El Camino Real by Alfred Reed, but this time we played the complete work. This was followed by an arrangement of the classic song Autumn Leaves by Joseph Kosma, and the first half ended with Star Wars Saga by John Williams, arranged by Johan de Meij.

The second half opened with three pieces to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the second world war, The Dambusters by Eric Coates, the theme music from the film Schindler’s List by John Williams, arranged for clarinet solo and played by Julie-Marie James, and Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy by Don Ray and Hughie Prince, which featured the trumpet section. This was followed by a new piece, Thames Journey by Nigel Hess, which pictures in music the River Thames from its source, flowing through the English countryside and London, to the Thames Estuary. Following that, because there’s a new James Bond film coming out this month the band played a selection of James Bond theme music.

The Vale Park Proms ended with the traditional flag-waving finale, but this concert ended with a more subdued version, comprising the Henry Wood Sea Songs (without a singer for Rule Britannia) and Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1.

The audience may have been small, but we enjoyed playing for them, and I think they enjoyed the music. Now it’s time to start thinking about music for Christmas and New Year.

Vale Park Proms 2015

Sunday 30th August dawned grey and overcast with occasional showers, and more forecast for the evening – this didn’t bode well for the Vale Park Proms in Aylesbury that evening. The show must go on as there are always some people willing to sit under their umbrellas and cheer the Band, but it’s much more satisfying to play to a decent sized audience. However the rain had moved away by the time we were setting up, and much to my surprise by the time the concert was due to begin at least 500 people, possibly more, had arrived, despite it being cool and cloudy.

The Band was conducted by Robert Wicks, and we were delighted to welcome back two talented soloists, soprano Alison Langer and tenor Lawrence Thackeray, not to mention Carl Quaif, who ably assisted Robert by acting as compère. There was no single theme to this year’s concert, but among pieces simply to entertain there were others to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Ⅱ, and another to mark the Queen becoming the longest reigning monarch in British History on 9th September. And of course the concert had to conclude with the usual “last night of the Proms” finale.

You can read the complete programme here, but these are some of the highlights. After the National Anthem, the concert opened with Trailblaze by Goff Richards. In complete contrast Looney Tunes which followed celebrated the music from popular cartoons. Alison Langer and Lawrence Thackeray then sang two numbers from Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin, Summertime and Bess, You is my Woman Now. After this in tribute to the Queen’s long reign the Band played Elizabeth of England by Haydn Wood. The first half ended in anticipation of the release of Star Wars: Episode Ⅶ – The Force Awakens with a performance of music from the original Star Wars film by John Williams.

During the interval the audience were entertained by The LuLaLas; unfortunately at this point it started to rain a little, but undeterred the audience enthusiastically welcomed the return of the Band as part 2 opened with The Dambusters. During this some children (and others not so young!) ran around in front of the stage pretending to be aircraft. On a more sombre note, this was followed by the theme from the 1993 film Schindler’s List, arranged as a clarinet solo, and ably played by principal clarinet Julie-Marie James. The Second World War theme continued with The War Years, an arrangement of two songs of the time Run Rabbit Run and The White Cliffs of Dover, in which the Band was joined by Alison Langer and James Thackeray. Then the trumpet section were the stars in Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.

The last two pieces before the finale were the last part of El Camino Real by Alfred Reed, and The Lord of the Dance. Then it was time for the audience to join in and sing, as the soloists and the Band joined in playing Jerusalem, Sea Songs (including, of course, the Sailor’s Hornpipe and Rule Britannia), and Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1, also known as Land of Hope and Glory.

Finally the Mayor of Aylesbury, Cllr Allison Harrison, came on stage to thank everyone who took part, and the organisers of all the events of the weekend. She thanked everyone who came to enjoy the events and contribute to raising money for this year’s Mayor’s Charity, Community Unity Projects. The evening ended with a grand fireworks display which delighted the crowd, though one wonders how popular it was with people living near the park!

Programme – Vale Park Proms 2015

Conducted by Robert Wicks

Title Composer / Arranger
Trailblaze Goff Richards
Looney Tunes Overture Arr. Bill Holcombe
Summertime George Gershwin
Bess, You is my Woman Now George Gershwin
Elizabeth of England Haydn Wood
Fantasia on the Alleluia Hymn Gordon Jacob, arr. Douglas E Wagner
Puffin’ Billy Edward White, arr. John Holland
Star Wars Saga John Williams, arr. Johan de Meij
The Dambusters Eric Coates, arr. W J Duthoit
Theme from Schindler’s List
(soloist Julie-Marie James, clarinet)
John Williams, arr. Calvin Custer
The War Years arr. Barrie Hingley
Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy Kaye/Prince, arr. Ray Woodfield
El Camino Real (final section) Alfred Reed
The Lord of the Dance Ronan Hardiman, arr. Richard Saucedo
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

Fairford Leys Summer Fayre

Saturday 11th July was the date for the Fairford Leys Summer Fayre, when the Band once again provided music for the occasion from the bandstand in Hampden Square. The day was warm and sunny, with passing clouds to temper the heat, though a gusty wind sometimes threatened to blow the music away.

The Band played a similar programme to the last engagement in Amersham, but including Caravan by Duke Ellington and The Stars and Stripes by John Philip Sousa. Meanwhile a large crowd enjoyed visiting the stalls and sideshows, eating ice creams, and cakes from the cake stall.

This was the only fête we played for this year, now it’s time to work hard preparing for the Vale Park Proms concert at the end of August.