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News about the Band
Following the move to this new website, the news on this page finishes with October 2009. You can find more recent news on our blog.
NEWSLETTER: October 2009
On 3rd October the Band travelled to Dr Challoner's High School for Girls in Little Chalfont for a joint concert with the Lemon Tuesday ladies choir from Rickmansworth. Joint concerts are a good way of adding variety to the programme for both groups.
As this was our first concert together, we didn't risk combining to perform a work for choir and band, instead the choir performed some of their own pieces in each half of the concert. Some of the pieces the band played were familiar from recent concerts such as the Vale Park Proms, but Little Chalfont is far enough away from Aylesbury that few of the audience would have heard them before. So, the concert opened with Strike up the Band and the first half included Broadway Showstoppers by Warren Barker, and New York by Nigel Hess. However, there were some new items, such as Jubilee Overture by Philip Sparke, Black and White Rag, and two movements from Puszta. This is a set of four pieces in Hungarian gypsy style written by the Dutch composer Jan Van der Roost. The choir sung two pieces in the first half, The Rose by Amanda McBroom, and Day by Day from Godspell.
The second half of the concert included Bones in the Store, a novelty arrangement by Rob Wiffin of The Quartermaster's Store for trombones and tuba. The choir sang Lean on Me, It was almost like a song, and Something Inside So Strong, and the sax. section were featured in In the Miller Mood. Again, by popular request, the concert ended with a "Proms" finale: Jerusalem, Fantasia on British Sea Songs, and Land of Hope and Glory.
The audience wasn't as big as we would have liked, which was a shame, as we were treated to some fine singing by the choir. However I'm sure there will will be more occasions in the future for us to come together to make music.
Sadly this was the last concert Duncan Stubbs will be able to conduct this year due to pressure of work with the RAF, so leading the Christmas season will fall to deputy conductor Robert Wicks, starting as soon as 29th November at Waddesdon Manor.
NEWSLETTER: September 2009
The Proms concert in Vale Park, Aylesbury, is the Band's most important event of the year, and it took place this year on 5th September. Because Duncan Stubbs had been away during August directing the Massed Bands of the Royal Air Force at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the responsibility for conducting the concert fell upon deputy conductor Robert Wicks. Fortunately Duncan was able to be present on the day to act as compère so that Robert didn't have to worry about that as well.
The good news this year is that the weather was dry. The bad news is that a strong, gusty wind was blowing which made the evening unpleasantly cold for band and audience alike. Music has to be clipped to music stands, and the wind makes page turns difficult. However, despite the chill a crowd of around 800 people heard the band open the concert with Strike Up the Band, followed by Festive Overture by Alfred Reed. Once again the band was joined by singers Jill Neenan and Richard Stark, Jill sang Wishing You Were Somehow Here again , and Richard sang Music of the Night by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Later they joined the band to sing some of the numbers in a medley from the musical Les Miserables.
Other highlights from the concert included Broadway Showstoppers, arranged by Warren Barker, the trumpet feature Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, and In the Miller Mood, music by Glen Miller, naturally featuring the sax section. Last but not least, the concert wouldn't be a "Proms" concert without the traditional finale, Jerusalem, Fantasia on British Sea Songs, and Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March no 1, where the audience joined in enthusiastically singing Land of Hope and Glory.
In a thank you speech at the end, the organiser, councillor Ray Ghent, said he thought the band had played better than ever, and it was the best Vale Park Proms concert yet. Next year will be the tenth such concert, and he has plans to make it even bigger and better.
Two weeks later the weather could not have been more different. A lovely September day, warm and sunny with no wind, was the perfect setting for Monks Risborough Church fête in the rectory garden. The band provided just 45 minutes of music chosen from the pieces we have been playing this year, and the crowd seemed to be enjoying it, applauding from time to time. At one point a Spitfire aircraft doing a flying display for a private party nearby threatened to drown the music, but needless to say, the band played on!
NEWSLETTER: July 2009
Back in February the Band's development weekend at Knuston Hall was cancelled at the last minute because of bad weather, much to everyone's disappointment. As a consolation we organised a Development Day on 4th July at Ellesborough village hall, Butler's Cross. Once again we were honoured to welcome Rob Wiffin as guest conductor, assisted by Music Director Duncan Stubbs. The day provided an opportunity for some intensive work on music harder and more advanced than our usual repertoire, including Invictus by Philip Sparke, and Armenian Dances by Alfred Reed. The point of the day was to stretch the Band, and Rob Wiffin certainly did that, setting off at the marked tempo whether we could play it or not – nothing like being chucked in the deep end! However, with Rob and Duncan's expert instruction we came close to a passable performance when we played a concert to ourselves at the end of the day. The whole day was quite exhilarating, and undoubtedly achieved the aim of helping the Band improve.
The following Saturday, 11th July, dawned grey and showery, but brightened up in the afternoon in time for Fairford Leys Summer Fair. Members of the Band squeezed onto the bandstand to provide music for the occasion, in between the children's fancy dress competition and sessions of entertainment for the children. The proceedings were enlivened this year by the pigeons nesting in the roof, who expressed their opinion of the band in the way only pigeons can, much to the chagrin of the 3rd clarinets and saxophones underneath! Fortunately most of their efforts succeeded only in hitting the music on the stand, maybe they just wanted to add extra notes?
That was our last performance of the season, summer holidays mean that a lot of the Band members are away during late July and August. The next engagement is the Vale Park Proms on 5th September.
NEWSLETTER: June 2009
The annual Mayor Making ceremony took place on 22nd May, and once again the Band was invited to play for the occasion. This year the band provided incidental music while the assembled guests enjoyed a meal after the ceremony was over. Although the Band wasn't there to be listened to attentively, most of the pieces played did evoke some applause. Conductor Duncan Stubbs half jokingly suggested that the evening was an excellent rehearsal, and he even risked playing New York by Nigel Hess, a work which is quite difficult for the Band. Happily all went well, and at the end Councillor Ray Ghent came onto the stage to publicly thank the band and call for applause.
Then on 6th June the Band presented its delayed spring concert, which was now entitled "Salute the Kings of Swing". Instead of St Mary's Church, the concert was held at Aylesbury High School in the hope that it might prove a better venue. Although the stage is a little small, the audience has a better view, and car parking is available in the school grounds. A straw poll of the audience suggested that many actually preferred the church, but that may have been due in part to our being unable to find out how to dim the lights in the hall while keeping them on over the stage.
As the title suggested, the concert included arrangements of well known numbers made popular by the big bands of the 20th century, ranging from Alexander's Ragtime Band by Irving Berlin to Caravan by Duke Ellington. The concert opened with Strike up the Band by George Gershwin, and included Broadway Showstoppers Overture arranged by Warren Barker, and The Beatles: ‘Echoes of an Era’ , arranged by John Higgins. By way of contrast, the trombones and tuba were featured in a whimsical arrangement of The Quartermaster's Store by Rob Wiffin, entitled Bones in the Store. The grand finale returned to the big band theme with In the Miller Mood, an extended arrangement of Glen Miller tunes, specially featuring the saxophone section.
The concert was more successful than we had hoped, with a relatively large audience. Clearly the Big Band theme was a popular one, something to bear in mind when planning future programmes.
A week later, on 13th June, the Band returned to Cublington, a village north of Aylesbury, to play at their summer fête. The band had played here once before in July 2000, in glorious sunny weather shaded by the branches of a spreading tree. This year was also blessed with warm, sunny weather, and the band set up under the same tree! Deputy conductor Robert Wicks chose a suitable programme from Band's current repertoire, and all in all it was a perfect summer's afternoon at a quintessentially English event.
NEWSLETTER: February 2009
The evening of 17th January was dark and rainy as the Band made their way to Penn Street, a village the other side of Amersham, to give a concert at Holy Trinity Church. The welcoming glow of lights in the church could be seen across a field, but the entrance proved a little difficult to find. However everyone in the Band got there eventually.
The brief was to play music to "lighten the gloom of winter", and by the end of the evening the audience made no secret that we had achieved that aim, so much so that the Band has already been booked to do another concert in 2010. Much of the programme consisted of pieces the Band knew well from previous concerts in 2008, but Penn Street is far enough away from Aylesbury for it to be fresh to the audience. Much of the music had a dance theme, such as Blue Tango, Dancing Round the Nursery, Sweet Carolina Charleston, and Dance Away. Also popular were "big band" type numbers, such as It Don't Mean a Thing (if it ain't got that swing) by Duke Ellington, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy featuring the trumpet section, and Blues Brothers Revue. John Dablin, clarinet, repeated his performance Golden Wedding, and the concert ended with the ever popular Sea Songs by Henry Wood.
The band shared the stage with the Burnham Handbell Society, who gave demonstrations of their skills playing music on handbells before and after the interval.
On Friday 6th February members of the Band should have been making their way to Knuston Hall in Northamptonshire for a weekend of intense rehearsal and music making, like last year. Unfortunately widespread snow that day not only made the grounds at Knuston Hall icy and dangerous, but also prevented them getting their deliveries of food, and the weekend was cancelled at the last minute, much to everyone's disappointment.
Fortunately the weather was kinder on Sunday 15th February, when the Band gave a concert to help raise money for the HeartScan Appeal for Stoke Mandeville Hospital. The appeal's aim is to raise money to buy additional scanners for the hospital to help in the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease. The concert took place at Aylesbury High School, and a good sized audience were treated to a similar programme to Penn Street. The clarinet section featured in Clarinet Candy by Leroy Anderson, and the second half included Bill Bailey in an arrangement by Bill Geldard. The audience seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves, and the organisers thought the evening had been a great success.
NEWSLETTER: Christmas 2008
The Band's main Christmas concert this year was on 13th December at St. Mary's Church. As well as the Band, the concert featured soprano Jill Neenan and her choir (though severely depleted by colds and 'flu) and a choir of children.
Conductor Duncan Stubbs had endeavoured to find some new Christmas music and avoid some of the pieces which have become a Christmas cliché, so no Sleighride this year. Instead, the concert featured pieces like Christmas Carillon by James Curnow, Sleigh Bells by Derek Bourgeois, and Celtic Carol. The audience were enchanted by the children processing up the aisle singing Away in a Manger and then joining the band to sing Walking in the Air. The children had fun afterwards as they shook and rattled percussion instruments in time to Christmas Cha-cha.
The concerts always feature soloists from the band, and this time the audience were treated to a virtuso display of xylophone playing from veteran percussionist Ron Pettie, who played 'Tween Heather and Sea with a vigour which belied his 80 years. Also, clarinettist John Dablin played Golden Wedding, based on the swing version of an old French tune popularised by the great American jazz clarinettist Woody Herman. Then in the finale soprano Jill Neenan sang Alan Mossford's arrangement of O Holy Night by Adolphe Adam, and the Jill Neenan Singers performed The Angel's Carol by John Rutter. After the audience voted which of several carols to sing, the concert ended with Leroy Anderson's Christmas Festival, with the choir joining in some of the carols it features.
A gratifyingly large audience visibly enjoyed the concert, and we hope they will return to support the Band during the New Year.
The Band had been busy the previous weekend, too. On 6th December, as darkness fell, a small band squeezed onto the bandstand in Fairford Leys, and battled the cold and the poor light to play for a Christmas Carol service. Afterwards the band moved indoors to entertain people attending the Fairford Leys Christmas Fayre – and had to compete with a Salvation Army Band! Then on Sunday 7th the band once again provided incidental music before and after the Mayor's Carol Service in St. Mary's Church, and shared the accompaniment for the carols with the organist.
For the last job of the year, the Band was invited to play in the Stables at Waddesdon Manor on 21st December. Part of the old stables have been converted into a shop and a café, but those on the other side of a courtyard form an empty space for exibitions. Even as the band set up here, under cover but with the doors open to the outside, a crowd began to gather, which rapidly swelled as the Band played. Deputy conductor Robert Wicks selected a mixture of Christmas carols and Christmas music from the concert programme, to enthusiastic applause from the audience.
The season wasn't all work for the Band, though. On 17th December many of the members and their families enjoyed a Christmas dinner at Hardings Restaurant in Aylesbury College, which is run by the catering students under the supervision of a professional chef, and very good it was too.
NEWSLETTER: November 2008
Aylesbury Community Concert Band competed in the regional round of the National Concert Band Festival in Northampton on 16th November, and were awarded a silver medal in their class. A range of bands were competing from across the Midlands, and the size and number of the bands, plus the age of the players, is an indication of how community music is thriving across the region. Those competing were a wide cross-section of all ages and abilities from schools, music centres and towns.
The adjudicators told the bands that they were looking for good tone, sections playing sympathetically together to demonstrate cohesion, and a good quality performance. The choice of pieces, they said, was very important in order to showcase a band's strengths.
Aylesbury Band, under the baton of Duncan Stubbs, played three pieces – Finnegan’s Wake, by A.J. Potter, the Entr’acte from Theatre Music, by Philip Sparke (who coincidentally was one of the adjudicators!) and Eine Kleine Yiddishe Ragmusik by Adam Gorb. The band was praised for the way that they handled the pieces stylistically and brought the music to life. The adjudicators commented that there was some fine playing by the soloists, with good support from the rest of the band. It was, they said, a very enjoyable programme.
In previous years, Aylesbury Band has been awarded bronze, silver, and the much coveted gold. This year, however, none of the bands competing in the Community Class were awarded gold, an indication of just how difficult it is to attain that standard. Conductor Duncan Stubbs said he was pleased with the silver award and the adjudicators’ comments, and Chairman of the Band, John Ibison, commented “It is the culmination of a lot of hard work and commitment from the band members; it is a well deserved result.”
NEWSLETTER: October 2008
A disappointingly small audience turned out to hear the Band's concert in Buckingham Parish Church on 4th October, especially compared to last year. This was a shame, as the Band played particularly well, and the audience who were there definitely seemed to enjoy it.
The programme was a mixture of pieces performed in the Vale Park Proms last month and some new music. Sousa's march Semper Fidelis opened the evening, followed by A Yorkshire Overture by Philip Sparke. Next the Band evoked the 1920s with Sweet Carolina Charleston by Jef Penders. Another new item was three movements from Tales from Andersen, a suite by Martin Ellerby inspired by the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen. After the march Folk Songs from Somerset by Vaughan Williams the trumpet section were soloists in Alexander's Ragtime Band, and the first half finished with Lord Tullamore.
The second half opened with Pantomime, the second movement of Partita for Band by the American Jim Curnow, and Eine Kleine Yiddishe Ragmusik by Adam Gorb. Then the band played It don't mean a thing by Duke Ellington, and Bill Bailey. The concert also included a tribute to Leroy Anderson (born 1908) with Forgotten Dreams, Clarinet Candy (which needless to say, showed off the clarinet section) and Sandpaper Ballet.
The concert finished with The Dambusters by Eric Coates to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Air Force, and for an encore the Band played Pomp and Circumstance March no. 1 by Elgar, with the ever popular Land of Hope and Glory.
Let's hope the audience told their friends what a good evening they'd had, and that we can attract a bigger audience when we return next year.
NEWSLETTER: September 2008
“Now I’m convinced; the English are truly mad!”. Such was the reaction of one of the Band members who was born and brought up in Germany, as we returned to the stage 15 minutes before the start of the Vale Park Proms concert on 6th September. There, huddled under umbrellas and wrapped in rugs, were half a dozen English stalwarts ready to enjoy the concert, whatever the weather!
Following a dismal August, the weather this year hadn't improved, and as the Band set up for sound checks and a final rehearsal (on a stage with a roof, luckily) the rain had poured steadily. However, by 7.30 it had actually stopped, and the audience had grown to 80 or more.
As usual, the programme offered something for all tastes, including vocal numbers from Jill Neenan and Richard Stark. After the rousing march Semper Fidelis the Band played the overture to Light Cavalry by Suppé. The first half also included Dancing Round the Nursery by Rob Wiffin, Pié Jesu by Andrew Lloyd Webber, sung by Jill Neenan, and This is the Moment from Jeckyll and Hyde, sung by Richard Stark. For the last item before the interval, conductor Duncan Stubbs and the band performed Lord Tullamore by Dutch composer Carl Wittrock, a lively piece based on Irish folk tunes.
In the second half, Richard Stark sang Anthem from the musical Chess, Jill Neenan sang O Mio Babbino Cara by Puccini, and they came together to sing All I Ask of You from Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
As the Proms Grand Finale began with Henry Wood's British Sea Songs Fantasia, the rain had started again, but undaunted the crowd waved their flags and joined in enthusiastially singing Rule Britannia!, Jerusalem and Land of Hope and Glory (to Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March no. 1).
This was the third year running that the weather for this concert has been poor, let's hope it will be better next year. In the meantime, our grateful thanks go to all those hardy people who, undeterred by the rain, turned out to hear the Band and contribute to the Mayor's charities.
NEWSLETTER: July 2008
Every year the Band is asked to play at the Mayor Making evening, when the new Mayor of Aylesbury for the year is inaugurated. This year it took place on 21st May. Then On 12th July the band returned to Fairford Leys to play on the bandstand for the Fairford Leys Summer Fair. The weather that day turned out to be typical of a British summer – showers and sunny intervals – but although the clouds between the sunny intervals looked threatening, it only rained once, very lightly, for a minute or two. The wind was a bit of a nuisance, though.
Conductor Robert Wicks had chosen a varied programme of music to entertain the crowds. The first session kicked off with the march Semper Fidelis, followed by Dance Away by Rob Wiffin. Other pieces played during the afternoon included the Duke Ellington classic It Don't Mean a thing if it Ain't Got That Swing, Mary Poppins, the March Folk Songs from Somerset by Vaughan Williams, another piece by Rob Wiffin, Dancing Round the Nursery, and the Dam Busters by Eric Coates. The show ended with the foot tapping Blues Brothers Revue.
The next Saturday, 19th July, the Band went to Wendover to provide Music for a Summer Day, organised by Wendover Parish Council. The Band set up under a large gazebo on the Manor Waste, a wide area between the High Street and the shops. The weather was similar to the previous Saturday but sunnier, and still windy, which caused a fright at one point when the gazebo nearly blew over as the legs had not been fixed down.
Robert Wicks conducted a similar programme to Fairford Leys, starting with Semper Fidelis. The original request was to play two sessions with an interval, but as a small audience had gathered in spite of a heavy shower, we decided to play on. The afternoon ended with the Dam Busters, in recognition of the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Air Force, and at the request of the Parish Council, Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March no. 1, which includes the well know Land of Hope and Glory.
This was the last engagement before the summer holidays. The next outing for the band will be the Vale Park Proms in Aylesbury on 6th September.
NEWSLETTER: March 2008
The Band's spring concert this year was on 9th March in St. Mary's Church, Aylesbury. The concert got off to a rousing start with Sousa's march Semper Fidelis, followed by A Yorkshire Overture by Philip Sparke. One of the first fruits of the Band's development weekend followed, Un Poco Cinco by John Fluck, a lively latin American piece made complicated to play because most of it has five beats in a bar. After this came a selection from Mary Poppins.
The English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams died 50 years ago this year, so the next item was the third movement Folk Songs From Somerset from his popular English Folk Song Suite. Then after The Lonely Shepherd played by oboe soloist Annalie Thorndike, the first half finished with The Cowboys, written by John Williams for the film of that name. The music vividly evokes the wide open spaces and cattle ranchers in the wild west. Not easy to play, it again showed off the results of the Band's weekend.
The second half opened with Duke Ellington's It Don't Mean a Thing and Duncan Stubbs' quirky arrangement of Li'l Liza Jane. The woodwind section showed off the results of their work at the Band Development weekend by performing Overture for Woodwinds by Philip Sparke. Then not to be outdone, a quintet from the brass showed off their skills, playing Love is Here to Stay.
The great American composer of popular music, Leroy Anderson, was born 100 years ago in 1908. As a tribute the band played three of his best known compositions, Forgotten Dreams, Trumpeter's Lullaby, with soloist John Ibison, and Sandpaper Ballet, featuring the Band's indomitable percussionist, Ron Pettie, who is still going strong despite being 80 later this year.
The concert finished with more film music by John Williams from Jurassic Park, and to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Air Force, The Dam Busters by Eric Coates.
This was a long and tiring concert to play, but it went well, and the audience enjoyed it. Congratulations are due to everyone in the band for providing such an evening's entertainment.
NEWSLETTER: February 2008
On the evening of 8th February the band met at Knuston Hall near Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, for the start of a Band Development weekend. Briefly, this was a weekend of intensive rehearsals under the baton of distinguished guest conductor Rob Wiffin, with the aim of improving the skills of the band in all areas, and preparing for the concerts and engagements during the coming year.
Anyone who thought they were there for a relaxing weekend had a rude shock after dinner when the Band's chief conductor Duncan Stubbs ordered us to set up in the rehearsal room, and then spent an hour playing through some of the pieces we were due to study. The following day Rob Wiffin arrived, and very quickly justified his reputation as a fine conductor and band trainer. While his good humour quickly set the band at ease, this in no way compromised his expectations and high standards, and we were keen to rise to the challenge. As well as full band rehearsals, the woodwind and brass separated during some sessions for sectional rehearsals, where each could concentrate on their own particular problems.
Rob Wiffin began his musical career playing trombone, he was a member of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain before entering the Royal College of Music. On completion of his studies he joined the RAF Music Services and became principal trombone of RAF Central Band. After seven years as a player he decided to concentrate his energies on conducting, and was commissioned as a Director of Music for the RAF. In 1998 he was appointed Principal Director of Music for the Royal Air Force, and in 2002 he was awarded the OBE for services to Royal Air Force music.
Away from the RAF, Rob Wiffin has built a reputation by conducting orchestras, wind ensembles, and many of the country's finest brass bands. He has now left the RAF, and in June 2007 he was appointed Professor of Conducting at the Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall.
A whole day's playing proved quite tiring, so it was a relief to relax in the evening and enjoy the excellent food in Knuston Hall's restaurant. After dinner some people played board games, others indulged in a Karaoke session, while some were happy just to relax in the bar.
Sunday morning followed the same pattern of full and sectional rehearsals, then in the afternoon we played a "concert" of the pieces we had been working on. As well as music which will feature in concerts later in the year, we also worked on some harder pieces specially for the occasion, such as SPQR by Guy Woolfenden, and Rob Wiffin's own Dance Away.
By Sunday afternoon the value of the weekend was plain, not only was the band playing better than before, but the enthusiasm was palpable. Without exception everyone was saying what a great weekend it had been, and how we must do it again next year.
NEWSLETTER: December 2007
The Christmas season for the Band started on 1st December, with a concert in St Mary's Church, Aylesbury. The programme was interspersed with Christmas carols for the audience to sing, and started with Troika by Prokofiev, and O Holy Night by Adolphe Adam. For contrast, the band played Eine Kleine Yiddishe Ragmusik, an amusing mixture of ragtime and Klezmer by Adam Gorb. Then there were two traditional carols, Personnet Hodie and the Coventry Carol arranged by the band's conductor, Duncan Stubbs. A Fireside Christmas medley, arranged by Sammy Nestico, was followed by music from films you might watch at Christmas, Out of Africa and Jungle Book.
The second half opened with the perennial favourite Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson, and the music from the TV series Last of the Summer Wine by Ronnie Hazlehurst, the gifted writer of countless theme tunes who sadly died earlier this year. Then it was time for some audience participation, as Duncan Stubbs encouraged them to perform silly actions while singing Twelve Days of Christmas, resulting in much hilarity. The lively Scherzo Variation from A Christmas Suite by David Barker followed, then it was time for a Christmas Party: Anything Goes by Cole Porter, Trumpet Party, and West Side Story, before the grand finale: Christmas Festival by Leroy Anderson.
It rained heavily on the morning of 8th December, but the worst of the rain had subsided by the time the Band arrived to play for Carols in the village centre at Fairford Leys, where they found shelter under a shopping arcade. Then the following day it was back to St Mary's Church for the annual Mayor's Carol Service, where the band provided incidental music before and after the service, and shared the accompaniment for the carols with the church organist. Then on the 14th three clarinet players from the band formed a trio to perform as part of the Mayor's Christmas Charity Concert at Mandeville school.
Another regular engagement is the Carol Service in Watermead, Aylesbury, which took place this year on 15th December. Then on the following Thursday the Band provided the music for the Town Centre Carols in Market Square, where a large crowd sang carols, ate mince pies, and welcomed Santa Claus, all to raise money for the Rotary Club charities.
With six engagements in three weeks, this Christmas was exceptionally busy for the Band. Grateful thanks are due to all those musicians who freely give of their time to bring musical cheer to the people of Aylesbury.
NEWSLETTER: November 2007
On Saturday 10th November the band was invited to give a concert in St Mary's Church in Weston Turville, a village south east of Aylesbury. This is a small church dating back to the 13th century, with immovable pews, so even though only half the band were present it was still quite a squeeze to get everybody in. On top of that, the heating had broken down, and 4 fan heaters were struggling to take away the chill. Once the audience arrived, however, the temperature improved slightly, and didn't detract from the warmth of the welcome they gave to the band.
The concert opened with Entry of the Gladiators, followed by the 2nd movement of Theatre Music by Philip Sparke. Once again the fine soloists in the band were featured, with Analie Thorndike (oboe) playing Reverie by Debussy, Jon Pyefinch (trombone) Touch of Your Lips, and Erica Miller (alto saxophone) Harlem Nocturne. The trumpet section were featured in Trumpet Party, a lively samba by Markku Johansson. The programme also featured music from shows and films, including Out of Africa by John Barry, Jungle Book, and West Side Story.
The audience certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves, and the band played well, so we are looking forward to being invited back some time, perhaps on a warm summer evening!
NEWSLETTER: October 2007
The Band received a warm welcome in Buckingham for their concert on 6th October. This was a very special occasion, as the Band had invited well known local musician Bram Wiggins to be guest conductor for two of his own works. Mr Wiggins is well known in the town, having for many years held the position of Head of Brass and Woodwind at nearby Stowe School, but he has also enjoyed a successful career as a professional trumpet player, conductor, and composer.
The first item Bram Wiggins chose to conduct was an original composition, the 3rd movement Stampede from the suite Big Sky Country. This is an energetic piece conjuring up pictures of cowboys in the old West herding cattle, relaxing by the camp fire, and competing in the rodeo. Then in the second half of the concert, Trumpeter Norman Bartlett performed Bram Wiggins' arrangement of Trumpet Tune by the blind 18th century composer and Master of the Kings Musick John Stanley.
The other works in the concert were conducted by the band's regular conductor Duncan Stubbs. Much of the programme was the same as the previous month's Vale Park Proms, including contributions from soprano Jill Neenan and principal trombone Jon Pyefinch, and oboist Analie Thorndike playing Reverie by Debussy. The concert ended with the traditional "Proms" finale, the Sea Songs (including Rule Britannia sung by Jill Neenan, with enthusiastic help from the audience), Jerusulam, and Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March no. 1.
NEWSLETTER: September 2007
Saturday 1st September was grey and overcast, and it looked as if the annual Vale Park Proms were about to suffer a repeat of last year's weather. However, despite the cloud and a cool breeze, the evening was still dry at 7.30, by which time a crowd of over 700 people had assembled in the park to hear the band.
This was the first year that the "Proms" were conducted by the band's new Director of Music Duncan Stubbs, and he had designed a programme featuring American music in the first half and British music in the second. So it was that the band opened with Sousa's famous march The Stars and Stripes, followed by the lively Overture Candide by Leonard Bernstein, and Summertime from Porgy and Bess, sung by regular soloist Jill Neenan. Among the other pieces in the first half was a selection from West Side Story, also by Leonard Bernstein, and Pirates of the Caribbean by Klaus Badelt.
Part 2 opened with A Grand Day Out, otherwise known as the Wallace and Gromit theme! Jill Neenan returned to sing Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again by Andrew Lloyd Webber, then Wales was represented by Men of Harlech arranged by Robert Farnon. The 3rd and 4th English Dances by Malcolm Arnold were followed by a touch of the Irish in Finnegan's Wake by A.J. Potter.
Finally it was time for the traditional "Last Night of the Proms" finale, Henry Wood's Sea Songs, Jerusulam, and Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March no. 1. This year, however, the audience were treated to a surprise in the finale, as a Scots bagpiper struck up Highland Cathedral and walked to the front of the band.
Despite a few drops of rain on the breeze, the audience joined in enthusiastically with Land of Hope and Glory, which as usual had to be repeated. The band's previous conductor, Alan Mossford, later told the band that he thought they had never played better, and how proud he was of them.
You can also read a report of the concert in the Bucks Herald, which includes a link to a slideshow of the event.
NEWSLETTER: July 2007
July 2007 looks set to become the wettest July in living memory, so the organisers of the Fairford Leys Annual Fair must have breathed a sigh of relief on the 14th when the day turned out to be sunny and dry, if not windless. Fairford Leys is the newest housing estate in Aylesbury, and the fair took place in The Square near the centre, where there is a small bandstand. Because of its size it was quite a squeeze to get all the band onto it, but we managed, as only a small band was there on the day, conducted by deputy conductor Robert Wicks.
Immediately after the awards of prizes for the children's fancy dress competion, the band struck up with Entry of the Gladiators. Other items in the first half included a selection from West Side Story, A Walk in the Black Forest, Buglers' Holiday (featuring the trumpet section), and Pirates of the Caribbean. Then after the break, during which a children's entertainer put on a show, the band played Hooray for Hollywood. Other items in the second half included A Grand Day Out (the Wallace & Gromit theme), a selection from the musical Chicago, and the band finished with the rousing march The Stars and Stripes Forever by Sousa.
The music provided a background while people browsed the stalls around the square, and the children enjoyed puppet shows, face painting, and fairground rides. A band adds so much to the atmosphere of such a day, and we hope we helped to make the day a success.
NEWSLETTER: March 2007
Saturday 10th March was the occasion for the Band's first concert with Duncan Stubbs as Director of Music. The advertised theme of the concert was Holidays, but as it turned out, with a little bit of ingenuity almost any piece of music can be made to fit that idea!
So, your holiday might be in Paris, cue the Can-can from Orpheus in the Underworld by Offenbach, or in Germany, time for A Walk in the Black Forest. Anyone who's ever been on holiday by car will at some time or another have been stuck behind a Caravan (Duke Ellington). Then while on holiday you might go to the circus (Entry of the Gladiators by Fučík) or the cinema (Hooray for Hollywood, a selection of film themes arranged by Warren Barker). The Caribbean is a popular holiday destination, hence Jamaican Folk Suite by Harold Waters, and the final item, the music from the film Pirates of the Caribbean by Klaus Badelt.
As usual, members of the band had opportunities to shine as soloists. Erica Miller on alto saxophone took a trip to New York with Harlem Nocturne by Earl Hagen, Jon Pyefinch (trombone) had a holiday romance with Touch of Your Lips by Ray Noble, and the trumpet section went away together on Leroy Anderson's Bugler's Holiday.
Whatever their taste in holidays, there was something for everyone in the audience to enjoy.
NEWSLETTER: December 2006
The Christmas Concert on 3rd December looked backwards as well as forwards, for it was the occasion for Alan Mossford to announce publicly his intention to retire as Director of Music, and to introduce his successor. But first he took the opportunity to tell the audience of the Band's success in winning a Gold Medal at the NCBF Festival just a week earlier, and show off the certificate.
Alan Mossford (right) hands over to Duncan Stubbs
The concert took place in St Mary's Church, Aylesbury, and Alan conducted the first half. It opened with Christmas Festival by Leroy Anderson, and was followed by other seasonal music interspersed by carols sung by the audience. A quartet of three clarinets and a bass clarinet performed A Christmas Jazz Suite by Bill Holcombe, and Martin Brown performed a cornet solo, Panis Angelicus by César Franck.
After the interval, Alan introduced his successor, Duncan Stubbs, to the audience, and then Duncan took up the baton to conduct the second half, which opened with Ye Merry Gentlemen, a movement from his own arrangement Three Carols from Olde England. Then in memory of the English composer Malcolm Arnold who died recently, the band performed the March from his Little Suite. Finally, after more festive music and carol singing, and to say farewell to Alan, the concert ended with Sayonara, an arrangement by Jan Van der Roost of the traditional song Auld Lang Syne.
You can also read what the Bucks Herald said about the band's Gold Medal and the Christmas concert (link opens in a new window).
This concert was only the start of a busy December for the Band. On Sunday the 10th they returned to St Mary's Church to provide music for The Mayor's Carol Service. The following Saturday was the Carol Service at Watermead, on the outskirts of Aylesbury, then on Tuesday 19th the Band travelled to Monks Risborough to perform a Christmas Concert in St Dunstan's Church. The following evening a small band visited Cherry Trees old people's Home in Wendover, then on the Thursday it was time for the Town Centre carol concert in Aylesbury. All these engagements were ably conducted by the Band's deputy conductor, Robert Wicks. We must say an especial thank you not only to him, but also to all the members of the band who turned out for 6 engagements in three weeks to bring Christmas cheer to the people of Aylesbury.
NEWSLETTER: November 2006
On Sunday 26th November the band entered the NCBF Midlands regional festival in Northampton, and were awarded a gold medal. The programme consisted of Fanfare, Romance and Finale by Philip Sparke, and Cartoon by Paul Hart. Of course, not everything was perfect, but the adjudicators had praise for all sections of the band, and awarded an 'A' for Programme Balance & Choice and an 'A' for Presentation & Deportment.
NEWSLETTER: September 2006
This summer has been unusually quiet for Aylesbury Band. On 2nd July the band starred in a Family Concert organised by Aylesbury Town Council in Kingsbury, Aylesbury. It was a gloriously hot and sunny day as the band set up in the square, partly on an open sided lorry forming a stage. Despite some shade from a tree it was far too warm to play wearing anything other than shirt sleeves.
Being a family concert, most of the programme was aimed at children, starting with the theme from the TV series Thunderbirds, music from The Incredibles and that old favourite Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Jill Neenan was supposed to have been singing too, but on the day she had laryngitis, and several of her pupils performed instead, to great acclaim.
Other items in the programme included Disney at the Movies, and Matt Manning singing (Is this the way to) Amarillo. For the younger listeners the second half included The Teddy Bear's Picnic. The concert finished with a selection from The Wizard of Oz and Hootenanny.
A good crowd of 100 or more formed an enthusiastic audience, augmented by people sitting at tables outside the cafés in the square and passing shoppers attracted by the sound of the music.
This year's Vale Park Proms on 2nd September was not so lucky with the weather, unfortunately. Wind and rain all day had given way to blustery showers by the evening. Despite this almost 200 people arrived in Vale Park, Aylesbury, to enjoy the concert.
This was Alan Mossford's last Proms concert as conductor of the band, and the programme consisted of many pieces that the band and audiences have particularly enjoyed during the last 10 years. These included Strike Up The Band by George Gershwin, in a whimsical arrangement by Warren Barker, Doyen by Goff Richards, The Padstow Lifeboat by Malcolm Arnold, Bach’s Toccata in D minor in a swing arrangement by Ray Farr and Kevin Lamb, Trumpets Wild, and The Lord of the Dance. Jill Neenan sang O Mio Babbino Caro by Puccini, and she and some of her pupils joined with the band singing well know songs from The Sound of Music.
As the band started the Grand Finale with The Fantasia on Sea Songs by Henry Wood, the rain started again. Despite the roof over the stage, the front row of players began to get wet, but the band played on heroically, and equally heroically the audience stayed to sing Jerusalem and Land of Hope and Glory.
Despite the disappointing weather, the concert was a great success. Let’s hope for better luck next year.
NEWSLETTER: April 2006
"From Stage and Screen" was the theme of the Band's first concert of 2006, which took place on 23rd April in St Mary's Church, Aylesbury under the direction of conductor Alan Mossford. As well as the band, the concert featured soprano Jill Neenan and four of her students, Rebecca Holly, Claudia Mills, Lucy Webster and Phillip Bland.
It being St George's day, however, the concert opened with Kenneth Alford's march The Standard of St George, after which the programme acknowledged two of this year's anniversaries. The 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth was celebrated with a lively performance of The Marriage of Figaro, and then to mark the Queen's 80th birthday, the band played Elizabeth of England by Haydn Wood.
After this the music returned to the Stage and Screen theme when the band were joined by the singers for a medley of numbers by Henry Mancini, including that evergreen favourite Moon River. Then it was time to present Cartoon by Paul Hart, which evokes all the fun of cartoons with inventive music in the style of cartoon sound tracks. It includes spectacular parts for percussion intended for four players, so it says much for their skills that Ron Pettie and Simon White achieved all the required sound effects between them. The band is going to enter the National Concert Band Festival with this piece in the autumn, in the hope of winning a gold medal.
Following the Theme from Schindler's List played as a solo by clarinettist Ruth Holiday, part one finished with a selection from Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Part two included music by Paul Anka for the film The Longest Day, The Beatles: Echoes of an Era arranged by John Higgins, and Big Band Classics, favourite Glenn Miller numbers arranged by Eric Osterling. Rebecca Holly, Claudia Mills and Lucy Webster sang Three Little Maids from School from The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan and Jill Neenan and Rebecca Holly sang A Boy Like That from West Side Story. The final selection presented well known James Bond tunes arranged by John de Mey, in which Claudia Mills joined with a stylish rendition of Goldfinger.
The last item returned to St George's Day, when the audience, one of the largest ever for concerts organised by the Band itself, enthusiastically joined Jill Neenan in singing There'll Always be an England.
So ended another successful concert, a success due in no small part to the hard work of Alan Mossford rehearsing the band and selecting the programme. Several people commented on how much they enjoyed it, and how they were looking forward to the next one, and wished the band well for the Concert Band Festival in November.
NEWSLETTER: December 2005
This year the Aylesbury Rotary Club reverted to the traditional open-air carol concert on 8th December, in a joint effort with the Aylesbury Hundreds Club. Unlike previous years, however, the concert was held in the recently reconstructed Kingsbury Square, rather than the more central Market Square. Whether or not this was the reason, the crowd seemed smaller than normal, although there didn't seem to have been much advertising for the event either.
However, as the crowd joined in singing carols to the accompaniment of the band, more people began to arrive, perhaps late night shoppers attracted by the music. Rotary club members sold mulled wine and mince pies, and Father Christmas arrived to give out sweets to the children, as the band played Santa Claus is coming to town.
Then on Sunday 11th, the Band helped provide the music for the Mayor's Carol Service in St Mary's Church. The service began when the Mayor and members of the Town Council arrived in a lantern procession from the town centre, led by a piper. During the service, the carols were interspersed with readings by local community workers, councillors, the Vice Lord-Lieutenant for Buckinghamshire, and David Lidington, MP. While gifts were being brought forward for distribution to children (by the charity Asylum Welcome), the band played A Vaughan Williams Christmas, and the Church Choir sang Il est né, le divin Enfant! The congregation were also treated to some highly skilled singing by the Aylesbury Music Centre Youth Choir, conducted by Debbie Davies. After the service, everyone enjoyed mulled wine and mince pies.
This was Aylesbury Band's last public engagement of 2005, but the following Wednesday some members of the band gave the regular Christmas concert at Cherry Trees old people's home in Wendover. As we go our separate ways for Christmas, we look forward to meeting again in January, to rehearse new programmes to entertain the people of Aylesbury and the surrounding district.
NEWSLETTER: October 2005
In 1805, the British fleet commanded by Admiral Lord Nelson defeated the French and Spanish navies at the battle of Trafalgar, ending once and for all the threat of invasion of the British Isles, and laying the foundations for a century of British naval supremacy. On the 23rd October this year, Aylesbury Band marked the 200th anniversary of the battle with a concert on a nautical theme.
The concert took place in St Mary's Church, Aylesbury. It opened with the march Trafalgar by W. Zehle, followed by John Ansell's lively overture Plymouth Hoe. Other items in part 1 included an amusing arrangement by Duncan Stubbs of The Drunken Sailor, a clarinet solo Stranger on the Shore, performed by Ruth Holiday, and Sailing By by Ronald Binge, a piece familiar to late night listeners to BBC Radio 4.
However, the star of the show was undoubtedly 17 year old Rebecca Holly, who stood in at very short notice for soprano Jill Neenan, who was indisposed. Despite only having one rehearsal, Rebecca sang beautifully with professional aplomb, accompanied by the band in Sailing by Gavin Sutherland.
Part 1 finished with The Padstow Lifeboat march by Malcolm Arnold. After the interval, part 2 opened with Anchors Aweigh, then Rebecca Holly sang My Heart will Go On from the film Titanic. The trumpet section performed Three Jolly Sailormen, and oboist Analie Thorndike played The Watermill by Ronald Binge.
Back to the naval theme, the band played Hearts of Oak and A Life on the Ocean Wave, followed by the complete Fantasia on British Sea Songs by Henry Wood, during which Rebecca Holly joined in singing Home Sweet Home. Finally conductor Alan Mossford asked the audience to join in singing the Sailor's Hymn Eternal Father, Strong to Save.
One lucky member of the audience won a raffle, and went home with a limited edition print of a painting of the Battle of Trafalgar, which had been generously donated for the occasion by horn player John Gummer, and professionally framed by Aces High of Wendover. The whole audience went home with warm memories of a highly enjoyable and successful concert.
NEWSLETTER: September 2005
The annual Vale Park Proms have become a highlight of the year both for the Band and for the people of Aylesbury, and this year was no exception, despite the best efforts of the council organisers to wreck the event. Usually the band performs on a stage set up in the park for the purpose. As in previous years the concert was part of the Parklife Festival, which this year featured a small circus. With no consultation the organisers had decided that the band should perform in the circus tent, with one side opened to the audience. The result was that not only could most of the audience not see the band or the soloists, but also much of the sound was lost in the roof of the tent. The sound system did little to mitigate this, so many people in the audience could not hear the band properly either. The following Wednesday the local newspaper, the Bucks Herald, headed their letters page with one from a member of the public complaining about the organisation. Let's hope the town council heeds this in future years.
Despite these problems, the band played well, and were well received by the audience. The concert took place on a warm evening on 3rd September. It opened with a rousing march by Sousa, Semper Fidelis, followed by Concert Prelude by Philip Sparke. After the jazz classic Birdland, soprano Jill Neenan sang Anthem from the musical Chess. Other solo items included percussionist Matt Banks, who came to the front of the band to sing (Is this the way to) Amarillo?, to great acclaim. The trombone section displayed their skills with Blades of Toledo, and clarinettist Ruth Holiday charmed the audience with a performance of A Victorian Kitchen Garden by Paul Reade.
Among the other items played by the band was the infectious beat of Blues Brothers Revue, after which it was time for the grand finale. This opened as usual with the Sea Songs arranged by Sir Henry Wood. Then after Jerusalem the crowd joined in singing Land of Hope and Glory to Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March no. 1.
A crowd approaching 1000 people joined in the applause for the band. Let's hope they won't be discouraged from coming again next year.
St Mary's Church, Aylesbury, was the venue for a concert on 10th July to mark VE/VJ day. This combined the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the end of the 2nd World War in Europe (VE day) and Japan (VJ day). As the Band played The Standard of St George, members of the British Legion, the Scouts, and other organisations marched on their standards. Inevitably the mood was one of nostalgia, as the Band, with singers Jill Neenan, Alasdair McLaughlan and Alex Jacobs, opened with a medley of wartime songs: The Army, the Navy and the Air Force, Yours, Lili Marlene and There'll always be an England. Later, The War Years by Barrie Hingley, featured other songs of the era such as Run, Rabbit, Run and The White Cliffs of Dover. The contribution of the Americans to the war effort was marked by The St Louis Blues and Big Band Classics, an arrangement of Glen Miller's best known tunes.
As well as the Band, the concert featured the talents of young people from schools in the town. Violinist Carolyn Amos (accompanied by Brian Dipple) played Salut d'Amour by Elgar, and Meditation by Frank Bridge, and the Mandeville School choir sang a selection of songs from Blitz by Lionel Bart.
As the concert neared its end, the audience sang along with the Band and soloists in Cockney Cavalcade, a medley of old favourites such as Don't Dilly Dally on the Way, The Old Bull and Bush and Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner.
The concert's finale began with the Sunset Ceremony: Evening Hymn and Sunset Call, then Alan Mossford led the Band and the audience in Vera Lynn's famous song We'll Meet Again.
So ended another successful concert. Once again the Band had helped mark an anniversary of those years of sacrifice and deprivation. Sadly, the concert took place just three days after terrorist bombings on the London Underground killed 56 people and injured many others, leading many to reflect that wars and conflict are never very far away.
NEWSLETTER: June 2005
"It's in some sort of tent. Cublington's a very small place, you can't miss it". Well, your reporter did miss it the first time, but Cublington (a village 5 miles north of Aylesbury) is indeed small, and the venue was soon found. "Tent" was something of an understatement. It turned out to be a large marquee, fit for a celebrity wedding, with windows in one side and lit by chandeliers. It had been erected against one end of the Biggs Pavilion, with entrance through a door in the building.
The occasion was a "Proms" concert organised by The Friends of St Nicholas, the parish church of Cublington. The guests sat at tables enjoying a buffet supper, while the band played at one end. The concert opened in festive mood, with Concert Prelude by Philip Sparke. Other items included an arrangement of music from Star Wars, and a jovial arrangement by Duncan Stubbs of Strawberry Fair. The programme included items previously played in the April concert, such as Birdland, Chicago, and Mary Poppins. The trombone section were featured in Blades of Toledo, and Jon Pyefinch repeated his trombone solo Berkeley Square. Ruth Holiday (clarinet) was also featured again, playing A Victorian Kitchen Garden. The concert finished with the traditional finale: Sea Songs, Jerusalem and Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March no. 1.
The concert was greatly enjoyed by the audience, and we hope it was successful in raising funds for the Church.
NEWSLETTER: April 2005
On Saturday 23rd April, St George's Day, the Band gave its first concert of the year, in St Mary's Church, Aylesbury. Naturally, St George was one of the themes. The concert got off to a rousing start with the march The Standard of St George by Kenneth J Alford, which was followed by Concert Prelude by Philip Sparke. Then, in a complete change of style, the Band performed the jazz classic Birdland by Josef Zawinul.
The other theme was music from shows and films, including the soundtrack music from Jurassic Park. This arrangement included parts for a synthesizer, enhancing the atmospheric effects. The stage was represented by music from Chicago, while Mary Poppins represented both stage and screen, now that a stage show has been created based on the original film. The Band was joined in this by the singers Jill Neenan and Alasdair McLaughlin, who encouraged the audience to join in the well known songs.
There were two soloists from the Band. Ruth Holiday played an arrangement for clarinet of The Victorian Kitchen Garden by Paul Reade, and Jon Pyefinch played A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square arranged for trombone.
Towards the end of the concert, after the foot tapping Blues Brothers Revue, the St George's Day theme returned when Jill Neenan lead the audience in singing There'll Always be an England. Then the Band finished as they had begun, with a reprise of The Standard of St George
From time to time at intervals between the music, Air Commodore Cynthia Fowler read a history of the real St George, how he came to be chosen as the patron saint of England, and other interesting facts concerning England's connection with the saint up to the present day.
Thanks are due to conductor Alan Mossford for devising a programme with such variety. There was something for everyone in the near capacity audience, who seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves. The Band played extremely well, and can be proud of the evening's performance.
NEWSLETTER: February 2005
Many of the band let their hair down on 12th February, at a Barn Dance in the newly opened Fairford Leys Community Centre. We were greeted at the door with a complimentary drink, and soon everyone was dancing to the excellent music of Calamity's Fling. Not that anyone knew what they were doing, which is half the fun of course. However, under the expert guidance of the caller we were soon doing square dances, circle dances, circling left and right, and doing the doh-si-doh. The caller complimented us on how good we were, better than many parties they play for. Maybe it's because we're musicians!
At half time we paused for a rest and enjoyed a traditional fish and chip supper, then those who had energy left returned to the floor for some more dancing. The next morning, many of us were nursing aches in muscles we had long since forgotten, but that did help to remind us what a good time we'd had.
This was one of the best social events enjoyed by the Band, and many thanks are due to Ros Young and Judith heberer for all their hard work organising it, and to Calamity's Fling for making it such fun.
Now it's time to go back to work, preparing for our Spring concert.
NEWSLETTER: Christmas 2004
As usual, the Band was in demand to boost the festive atmosphere in the run-up to Christmas, starting on 26th November with the Mayor's "Sing About Christmas" concert. This year it was a smaller occasion, which took place at Stoke Mandeville school rather than the Civic Centre. A children's choir, trained by Jill Neenan, sang Christmas carols and songs accompanied by the band. Jill sang O Holy Night, and the band played the Three Bears fantasy by Eric Coates, with a narration read by Catherine Goldson.
Then on Sunday 12th December the Band took part in the Mayor's Carol Service at St Mary's Church. As well as accompanying the carols, the band played Walking in the Air by Howard Blake, and O Holy Night. Children from St Marys School and Mandeville School gave performances, and readings were given by people from the community. Presents were also donated to give to needy children in the town.
The following Wednesday, members of the band gave the annual Christmas concert for the benefit of the residents of Cherry Trees old people's home in Wendover. Then on Saturday 18th it was the turn of Watermead, a district of Aylesbury, to have a Carol concert accompanied by the Band.
Usually the Rotary Club hold a carol concert in Market Square, but this year they chose instead to have two days collecting for charity in the Hale Leys shopping centre, supported by members of the band. On one day, carols were provided by a woodwind ensemble, and on the other it was the turn of a brass ensemble. It would be idle to deny that the musicians found playing indoors to be a much more pleasant experience than outdoors in the cold!
So ended another eventful year for the Band. We look forward to entertaining the people of Aylesbury again in 2005.
NEWSLETTER: October 2004
This month the band made its second visit to Germany to give two concerts, the first visit having been in 1998 not long after the band was formed. This time things did not augur well, as the clarinet section was severely depleted when no less than three players had to drop out at the last minute because of family crises. However, undaunted, the remainder of the band boarded the bus in Aylesbury in the middle of the night, and set out for Dover and the Channel crossing.
Following an uneventful journey, the Band reached Lahr, their destination, on Saturday evening. Lahr is a town in southwest Germany, on the edge of the Black Forest, and not far from the French border and Strasbourg. After a night's rest, the band set out on Sunday for some sightseeing. In the morning they visited Colmar in France, and in the afternoon returned to Germany to visit Freiburg, prior to the first concert in Zell am Hammersbach in the evening. Here the next upset occurred, as it was only when the Band arrived that they discovered that the venue had been changed. By the time they reached the right hall there was no time to warm up properly, so it was surprising there weren't more mishaps during the concert than there were. Nevertheless, the small audience was very appreciative, and gave the Band a standing ovation at the end.
Monday dawned cloudy and wet, not the best weather for a visit to Triberg and the Gutach waterfall. The weather brightened up in the afternoon, however, when the tour reached the lake at Titisee. The next concert was that evening in Bad Krozingen. This time there was no confusion about the venue, but some of the posters gave the wrong time, with the result that the audience was disappointingly small. This was a shame, because the Band performed excellently.
Tuesday, the last full day, was spent in Strasbourg. The charms of the city were hard to appreciate in the continuous rain. Some of the band went on a boat trip around the city, which meant they could see some of the sights without getting wet. The weather did nothing to dampen people's spirits at the last night dinner and party, however. After dinner, various members of the band provided entertainment, and everyone joined in the singing and laughter.
Sadly it was now time to return home. After leaving Lahr at 8am on Wednesday, the bus made such good time to Calais that they boarded an earlier ferry, and arrived back in Aylesbury at 9.30pm. Despite the hiccups, everyone had enjoyed a marvellous tour, and the next one is eagerly awaited.
NEWSLETTER: September 2004
Saturday 4th September was the occasion of the fifth annual "Proms in the Park" in Vale Park, Aylesbury. This year, the concert was part of the Parklife3 event, a three day weekend of music and entertainment in the park, which reached its climax on Sunday evening with a concert by Aylesbury's own top ten star, John Otway.
Analie Thorndike playing "Gabriel's Oboe"
Saturday was Aylesbury Band's turn, however. A fine, warm evening brought an enthusiastic crowd of over 500 people to hear the band. The programme included several solo items, in particular it was Aylesbury's chance to hear the remarkable talent of ten year old Claudia Mills, who sang Over the Rainbow and Castle on a Cloud. Other singers were our old friend Jill Neenan, and newcomer Graham Breeze, who sang the old Victorian ballad The Holy City. Soloists from the band included oboist Analie Thorndike, who played Gabriel's Oboe by Ennio Morricone, from the film The Mission. This was specially arranged by the Band's Director of Music, Alan Mossford. The trumpet section displayed their skills in Trumpets Wild by Harold Waters, and the trombone section in Blades of Toledo by Trevor Sharpe. As a tribute to the 60th anniversary of D-day, the programme included The Dambusters by Eric Coates, and the march The Longest Day from the film of that name.
Of course, the climax of the evening was the Grand Finale, the traditional Sea Songs by Henry Wood, Jerusalem, and Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 where the audience joined in singing Land of Hope and Glory. Such were the cheers that this had to be repeated, and the crowd wouldn't let the band go without an encore, a reprise of The Longest Day.
This concert must have been one of the most successful ever performed by the band, and the audience left the organiser, counciller Ray Ghent, and the Town Mayor, Mrs Denise Summers, in no doubt that they wanted a repeat next year.
NEWSLETTER: June 2004
Following a lull in May, the Band had two engagements in one weekend on 26th and 27th June. On Saturday afternoon, we provided music for the village fête at Bledlow, near Princes Risborough. The organisers had provided a tent to shelter the band, which was just as well as the day was overcast with showery rain. Guest conducter Harvey Baigent not only had to contend with the weather, and having to sight read some of the pieces, but was also faced with having no alto saxes, due to a family emergency, and no trombones. Despite this the band struggled through without any total disasters.
Then on the Sunday evening the band once again provided the climax for the Ivinghoe Festival. Again the weather was not promising, cold, with a strong, gusty wind and blustery showers, but as the start time for the concert approached the wind dropped and the sun came out. The concert was conducted by the Director of Music, Alan Mossford, and began with Fanfare and Flourishes by James Curnow and Foxfire by James Barnes. The solo items included Trumpets Wild and Blues on the Slide, played by principal trombone John Pyefinch. In the second half, principal clarinet Ruth Holiday performed the theme from the film Schindler's List, but the star performer was once again nine year old Claudia Mills singing Somewhere over the Rainbow.
As a tribute to the 60th Anniversary of D-day, the band played the Dambusters by Eric Coates, and the march The Longest Day from the film of that name. The concert also included the selection from Les Misérables, with the band being joined by the singers Jill Neenan and Phil Gee, as well as by Claudia Mills. The singers were also prominent in the grand finale, the traditional Sea Songs, Jerusalem and Land of Hope and Glory.
Sadly, this was Phil Gee's last concert with the band, as he is leaving the district. Alan Mossford presented Phil with an engraved tankard as a memento, and his wife Pat a bouquet of flowers, in recognition of all the help she has given over the years at concerts, serving the audience with refreshments and selling raffle tickets. They will both be missed.
NEWSLETTER: April/May 2004
The Band's second concert this year took place on 24th April, in the parish church in Buckingham, a market town 17 miles north of Aylesbury. The programme was similar to the previous concert in Aylesbury, but included the first movement of the Concerto for Three Trumpets, played by Norman Bartlett and Martin Brown. The centrepiece of the concert was a tribute to Jim Driver, who was an enthusiastic member of the band until his death last year. The band played two of his favourite items, Big Band Classics, an arrangement by Eric Osterling of classic Glen Miller numbers, and Music of the Beatles. Members of Jim's family were in the audience, and Alan Mossford presented his wife with a special souvenir programme to commemorate the event.
Aylesbury Band always receives a warm welcome in Buckingham, and this concert was no exception. We look forward to returning there soon.
Then on Sunday 23rd May, the band provided music for the annual ceremony at which the Mayor of Aylesbury for the preceding year hands over to his successor. The band played the slow march from Scipio by Handel to accompany the Mayor's procession. Then, following the ceremony, the specially invited guests were entertained by children from the town's schools, and by the Band, which played a short programme of light music.
NEWSLETTER: March 2004
On 7th March at Aylesbury College the Band presented their first concert of the year. An audience of well over 100 people were entertained "At Your Request", so called because many of the pieces in the programme had been especially requested by the audience. These included Lord of the Dance by Ronan Hardiman and the Toccata in D minor by J S Bach, in a swinging arrangement by Ray Farr and Kevin Lamb. Young Claudia Mills, who had so enchanted the audience at the "Sing About Christmas" concert last year, had been invited to sing again. She gave a delightful performance of Over the Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz, by Harold Arlen and E Y Harburg. Other soloists included the trumpet section, who played Trumpets Wild, principal trombone John Pyefinch, who played Blues on the Slide, and principal clarinet Ruth Holiday, with the Theme from "Schindler's List" by John Williams.
Concert bands like Aylesbury Band are familiar today, with thousands of bands, amateur and professional, in many countries around the world. However, bands like these only really developed in the second half of the 20th century. Prior to this most bands were military bands, which brought music to the masses with bandstand concerts in seaside towns and city parks, but could mostly play only arrangements of music originally written for orchestra or dance band. Among the first composers to write original music specially for such bands were Ralph Vaughan Williams and Gustav Holst, whose two suites for band are classics of the wind band repertoire. The First Suite in E flat, written by Holst in 1909, formed the centrepiece of the second half of the concert.
Following this, Soprano Jill Neenan performed Ave Maria by Schubert, accompanied by Emma Morrison on piano. Then, for the final item in the concert she was joined by Claudia Mills and Philip Gee, to sing with the band in a selection from Les Misérables, arranged by Warren Barker.
So with the rousing sounds of "Do you hear the people sing?" ringing in their ears, the audience made their way home, and the members of the Band could congratulate themselves on a fine start to the year's engagements.
NEWSLETTER: December 2003
Following the last of the summer engagements, the band had a quiet autumn, which gave us the chance to rehearse a variety of music without the pressure of an imminent performance. Some pieces are more difficult, and will need a lot of preparation before they can feature in a concert. Others are works which may never be suitable to put into a programme, but which nevertheless stretch the band technically.
The first engagement of the Christmas season was on 25th November, at Aylesbury Civic Centre. This was the Mayor's annual "Sing About Christmas" concert, held to raise money for the Mayor's charities. The band was joined by choirs and singers from local schools, conducted by Jill Neenan, and compèred by Des Kay from Stoke Mandeville Hospital Radio. The programme included old favourites, such as Jingle Bells and Sleigh Ride from the band, and When Santa got Stuck up the Chimney from the choir. A highlight was Walking in the Air by Howard Blake, brilliantly sung by nine year old Claudia Mills, whose self assurance and stage presence belied her youth.
The next engagement was on 7th December, when a small band helped to provide music for the Mayor's carol service in St Mary's Church. Then on Wednesday 17th, members played a Christmas concert and carols for the residents of Cherry Trees Old People's home in Wendover. This is always a popular event which is enjoyed enormously by the audience and band alike.
The next day was the turn of the Rotary Club carols in Market Square, Aylesbury. The evening was cold and damp, but it didn't actually rain. A crowd of several hundred people gathered to sing carols, eat mince pies and drink mulled wine, and Father Christmas arrived with sweets for the children. This is an annual event, which helps to raise money for the many charitable causes supported by the Rotary Club.
Finally, to Watermead, a suburb of Aylesbury, for another regular event, the Saturday evening carol concert. True to form it was bitterly cold, with occasional light rain, but this didn't deter the crowd, who were determined to enjoy themselves. Father Christmas made another appearance, and there was a brisk sale of mulled wine.
So ended another year, and the band members dispersed to enjoy their own Christmas celebrations. It would be idle to pretend that the Christmas engagements are the band's favourite jobs, it's much more pleasant to play inside in the warm, but we can take satisfaction in having contributed to several community events and earned our title.
NEWSLETTER: September 2003
On the 6th September the Band once again provided Aylesbury's own "Last Night of the Proms". The concert was the climax of a day of events in Vale Park to celebrate the town's Charter Day, and the Band was joined once more by vocal soloists Jill Neenan and Philip Gee. Gratifyingly, there was a larger crowd than last year, and although the evening was cooler than of late, the weather stayed dry. Judging by the applause, the audience enjoyed the evening, and as usual joined in heartily singing during the finale. The Mayor of Aylesbury, Ray Ghent, asked if they wanted the event again next year, which brought enthusiastic shouts of "yes".
A couple of weeks before over 40 people, members of the band and their families, had enjoyed a summer party and barbecue at the home of the band secretary, Alison Wright. As well as traditional barbecue fare of burgers and sausages, the guests were treated to some delicious puddings made by some of the ladies in the band. A great time was had by all.
NEWSLETTER: July 2003
The Band's summer engagements began on 22nd June with a concert at the Ivinghoe Village Festival. A spell of warm, dry weather had broken on the day, and dark clouds loomed as the band set up on the platform, resulting in rain showers during the evening. The crowd were undaunted, however, having brought their umbrellas, and, in some cases, tents and awnings. They certainly seemed to enjoy the evening, which included solo items from Vanessa Owen (flute), Annalie Thorndike (oboe) and Jonathan Pyefinch (trombone). The crowd joined in with the finale, singing Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory, leading up to the firework display.
Then on 28th June the band went to Dinton for the third year running, and this year the organisers were blessed with fine weather for a change. For the band, however, the concert came perilously close to disaster. Not only had several key players had to drop out at short notice, leading to a desperate search for deputies, but even the Director of Music was unable to attend, his place being take at short notice by Harvey Baigent. Unsurprisingly there were a number of close shaves, but Harvey proved himself unflappable, even when he found himself conducting 8 bars of silence at one stage! The band will also remember the concert for the florid manner in which Harvey flattered the lady soloists as he introduced them.
Despite the mishaps, the crowd seemed to enjoy themselves, especially judging from their enthusiastic singing of Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory at the end.
The following day the band repeated the programme in Princes Risborough, an event organised in aid of the Iain Rennie Hospice at Home. With the Band back to normal strength the concert ran more smoothly. A highlight was teenager Natalie Witts playing the trombone solo Blue Moon at virtually no notice. Sadly this was Natalie's last concert with the band for a while, as she is going to a new school.
Finally, on 5th July the band took the same programme to Stone, in the grounds of the St John's Social Club. Another disaster loomed, as a stand-in trombone player arrived and realised he had left all the trombone parts at home, over 20 miles away. He set out to get them, but it was clear that there was no way he could get back before the concert was due to start. However, there was only a small audience, some of whom seemed to be there more for the subsequent disco, so the band began the concert by playing items which didn't have prominent trombone parts. When the parts did eventually arrive, the audience was beginning to grow, so, as the concert reached the end without further mishap, it's unlikely anyone knew anything was wrong.
So ended a busy period for the band. The next event will be in September, (see the Engagements page) after the Band members have returned from their summer holidays.
NEWSLETTER: June 2003
Members of the band fulfilled a different sort of engagement on 6th June. As the guests arrived at Tythrop Manor near Haddenham for a charity dinner, they were entertained by a wind quintet with the unusual combination of flute, oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet and alto saxophone. The dinner was held to raise money in aid of the Kingsey Church roof fund, and the guests congregated on the terrace at the rear of the house drinking punch, enjoying the evening air, and, we hope, the quintet's music. At 8pm the guests moved indoors for their dinner, and the players adjourned to the pub.
All the members of the quintet agreed that this was an enjoyable occasion, and we should find ways to play in small ensembles more often.
NEWSLETTER: April 2003
On 29th March the Band promoted its own Spring Concert at Aylesbury College, under the baton of Director of Music, Alan Mossford. Many of the audience were members of the University of the Third Age, so it was quite appropriate that the theme of the concert was "Times Like Old Times". The audience were invited to join Philip Gee in singing Bless This House, and again, in the grand finale, Keep Smiling Through. This is an arrangement of World War II songs such as Bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover and We'll Meet Again. The concert also featured soprano Jill Neenan, who sang Stardust by Hoagy Carmichael. Later Philip and Jill both joined the band by singing along to some of the numbers in A Portrait of George Gershwin.
Among the instrumental items, the theme continued with The Symphonic Duke, a medley of well known numbers from Duke Ellington. The first half finished with a performance of Themes Like Old Times, a medley of numbers such as Swanee and Tiger Rag arranged by Warren Barker.
The concert wasn't all nostalgia, however. In complete contrast, the band performed music from Star Wars - The Phantom Menace by John Williams, while the talents of band members were highlighted in several solo items. Principal flute, Vanessa Owen, performed The Lonely Shepherd by James Last, and principal trombone, Jonathan Pyefinch, performed Blue Moon. A woodwind quartet from the band played Turkey in the Straw and the whole clarinet section was featured in Clarinet Escapade.
The whole evening was a great success. Many members of the audience expressed their appreciation, and looked forward to attending other concerts featuring the Band.
Bram Wiggins was born in 1921, and was a Walter Stokes Orchestral Scholar at the Royal Academy of Music. His main study was the trumpet under George Eskdale, who subsequently invited him to join the London Symphony Orchestra. After eleven years with the LSO as assistant first trumpet and principal cornet, Bram Wiggins moved to Canada, where he joined the CBC (Winnipeg) Orchestra and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. He also worked as band director, conductor, trumpet soloist and adjudicator. On returning to the UK, he played with all the major orchestras, and also examined regularly at the Royal Academy of Music, Trinity College and Birmingham Conservatory. He has been awarded prizes for his compositions for Concert Band, including Big Sky Country. His publications cover a wide range of educational music for brass, and his arrangements of classics such as the Haydn Trumpet Concerto and John Stanley's Trumpet Tune bring well known pieces to a wider audience.
In 1966, Bram Wiggins was appointed Head of Brass and Woodwind at Stowe School, and he is remembered affectionately by the students (and their parents) who attended the school during his tenure, many of whom still live in Buckingham and the surrounding area.