I’m sure you will all agree 2020 has been an interesting year and our music making has definitely been impacted by Covid -19. However Aylesbury Concert Band has still been busy!
Here’s some of what we have been up to in 2020 so far……….
Back in March, just before we went into our first national lockdown, we were very fortunate to be able to run a band Development Day. We were delighted to be joined by past conductor Claire Lawrence and Band President Rob Wiffin who made it a thoroughly enjoyable day introducing us to new pieces by composers such as Philip Sparke, Nigel Hess, Michael Markowski and Steven Bryant. As always they certainly put us through our paces!
Sadly that was the last time we were able to play together for a few months but we have managed to stay in touch with each other via our weekly band zoom calls.
These calls have proved very popular (so popular in fact various pets are also now regular participants!) and are a welcome chance to catch up with the folks we are used to seeing every Wednesday. As you would expect the chat covers a variety of subjects and we have also had our brains stretched with a couple of quizzes.
During the summer, while regulations still meant we were unable to play together, several band members stepped out of their comfort zones to record solo performances which were then skilfully edited together by our Musical Directors to produce video performances from the band. This is apparently quite a tricky process but the end results were worth it! Our first online performance was our own version of Somewhere Over the rainbow, played as a tribute to all NHS staff, carers and essential workers. Every year we usually play at the Aylesbury Vale Proms in The park, one of our favourite engagements. Sadly this year, as expected, this was cancelled and prompted our next recording Hits from the Proms. Follow these links to hear and see them on the band Facebook page. Enjoy!
On the afternoon of 11th January the Band returned to Eaton Bray for the New Year Concert. This was the 7th year we’ve been there, or the 8th if you include the children’s concert in February 2013, and it’s gratifying that the band’s popularity seems undiminished, with a capacity audience filling St Mary’s church. Fortunately the weather wasn’t so cold as in some years, although it was overcast with showery rain.
The concert was conducted by Chris Doyle. It opened with the lively Yorkshire Overture by Philip Sparke, followed by Adam Gorb’s fusion of Jewish music and ragtime in Eine Kleine Yiddische Ragmusik. A quiet interlude with the second movement of Theatre Music by Philip Sparke was followed by the lively London Bridge March by Eric Coates and Waltz no. 2 from the second “Jazz Suite” by Shostakovich. The first half ended with two of the Aylesbury Dances by Rob Wiffin, Pavane: The Town and Frolic: Ducks in a Row.
The second half began with Mozart, the overture to The Marriage of Figaro. Next came a work which would be unfamiliar to the audience, The Eighth Candle – Prayer and Dance for Hanukkah by Steve Reisteter. Of course Hanukkah is hardly a New Year festival, but the music is worth playing, consisting of a slow solemn section followed by a lively dance with irregular time signatures. No such unfamiliarity with the next piece though, music from the Disney film Frozen. The rest of the concert returned to the dance theme, with Lord of the Dance, the Can-Can from Orpheus in the Underworld by Offenbach, and (just in case anyone thought we’d forgotten it was New Year) The Beautiful Blue Danube by Johann Strauss.
That was the last piece in the programme, but the audience demanded an encore, so we played another traditional piece for New Year, the Radetzky March by Johann Strauss.
The Band has already been invited back for another New Year concert in 2021. It’s very pleasing to think that our efforts to entertain should be so appreciated.
Christmas came early for the Band this year when the Mayor’s Carol Service at St Mary’s Church took place on the 1st December. Once again the Band played a prominent role in the service, beginning with some music to set the scene before the Mayor’s party arrived, including White Christmas and A Vaughan Williams Christmas. Then as the Mayor’s procession entered the church the Band Played the Pavane, no.1 from Aylesbury Dances by Rob Wiffin. As well as accompanying some of the carols, the Band also played A Winter’s Tale by Philip Sparke, and music from the Disney film Frozen. The service finished with We Wish You a Merry Christmas, after which the Band played White Christmas while mulled wine and mince pies were served to the congregation.
The following Saturday, 7th December, the Band provided music for Fairford Leys Carols in Hampden Square, Aylesbury. Although it wasn’t as cold as some years the weather had been very wet for weeks, but fortunately it stayed dry for most of the time on this occasion. As in recent years young people enacted a nativity play while the crowd joined in singing carols accompanied by the Band. Afterwards the Band played for community singing, including White Christmas, Let it Snow, and The 12 Days of Christmas. Finally everyone had to sing Jingle Bells so Father Christmas would know where to come. Of course, they didn’t sing loud enough and it had to be repeated before he arrived with sweets for the children.
Finally on Friday 20th, well before dawn, a dozen members of the band with their instruments and music stands squeezed into a tiny studio at Mix96, the local radio station, in order to play on the Breakfast Show. In a couple of sessions they first played a selection of Christmas Carols, and later White Christmas and Jingle Bell Rock. Rather different from the station’s usual fare, but let’s hope it brought some Christmas cheer for people on their way to work.
In 2018 Aylesbury Town Council held a special service before Remembrance Sunday at the parish church to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. It was such a moving occasion that the Mayor, Cllr Mike Smith, decided to hold a similar service again this year in conjunction with the Royal British Legion. It took place on the evening of 7th November and was led by the vicar of St Mary’s, Fr. Doug Zimmerman.
Once again the Band played a large part in providing the music, starting with Nimrod from Elgar’s Enigma Variations as the Mayoral party processed down the church. As well as accompanying the hymns, the Band played Keep the Faith by Duncan Stubbs, David of the White Rock, arranged by David Cresswell, and Band of Brothers by Michael Kamen. At points during the service the names of local people who died in the world wars were read out by young people from the Police Cadets, the Sea Cadets and the Army Cadet Force. As well as other readings, music was also provided by the Church choir, who sang My Soul, There is a Country by Hubert Parry, and the Aylesbury Youth Choir, who sang Peace Song. The Band finished the service with the National anthem, and then played Songs of the Great War, a medley arranged by Rob Wiffin.
Then on Remembrance Sunday itself the Band again provided music for the ceremony at the War Memorial in Stone, a village near Aylesbury. Luckily the day was dry and sunny, though cold, but the ground in the park where the band set up was quite muddy after the amount of rain we’d had recently. Prior to the service the Band played to set the scene, including Keep the Faith by Duncan Stubbs, David of the White Rock, and Band of Brothers. The Band played for the hymns during the service, and afterwards played Songs of the Great War.
The exact date is lost in the mist of time, but it’s generally agreed that Aylesbury Band came into being in 1994, meaning this year the Band is 25 years old. So on the afternoon of 12th October we held a Gala Concert at Holy Trinity Church celebrating the highlights of the Band’s history, welcoming back some previous Musical Directors, and featuring the premiere of a new work for band specially commissioned for the occasion. Among the audience were several special guests, including Sir Henry Aubrey-Fletcher, Lord Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire, and Judy Brandis, chairman of Aylesbury Vale District Council. We also welcomed members of Alan Mossford’s family. Alan played a major role in the Band’s development for 10 years and would have been our guest of honour had he not died earlier this year .
Some of the concert was conducted by Brendan Gudgeon and Chris Doyle, but we were delighted to have previous Directors of music come and conduct us as well. Duncan Stubbs was our conductor from 2006 to 2009, when he was appointed Principal Director of Music for the Royal Air Force, and Claire Lawrence led the Band from 2011 to 2014. She is now Bandmaster of the Coldstream Guards, clearly conducting Aylesbury Band does no harm to anyone’s career!
The programme included several pieces that we had played at the National Concert Band Festival over the years, but the highlight of the first half was the first performance of Aylesbury Dances, commissioned for the occasion from Rob Wiffin. Rob is a previous Principal DoM of the RAF, and is now professor of conducting at Kneller Hall, the Army music college. He has conducted Aylesbury Band a number of times on development weekends and playdays, so knows us well. Aylesbury Dances consists of three linked movements entitled
Pavane: The Town
Frolic: Ducks in a Row
The first is in ceremonial style inspired by the town’s connection with royalty, particular Henry VIII. The second is a quiet interlude, imagine strolling along the canal towpath early on a Sunday morning. The third movement… Well, Rob Wiffin seems to like fast movements to be very fast, and the music conjures up the idea of a slapstick movie of people trying to herd ducks! It’s witty and entertaining, but something of a challenge to play.
I’m pleased to say we had a good sized audience, including several ex-members of the band who have moved away. At the end of the concert we were treated to an impromptu speech by one such member, Roger Pethers, who now lives in Kent. He and his wife Carole were founder members of the band, and Roger briefly recounted how the Band was formed, along with some anecdotes about the early years.
The annual “Proms” concert organised by Aylesbury Town Council took place this year on the Sunday of the bank holiday weekend on 25th August. As an outdoor event it’s very dependent on the weather, but this year the whole weekend coincided with a heatwave, with cloudless blue skies and temperatures climbing into the 30s celsius. In fact it broke the record for the warmest August bank holiday since it was moved to the end of the month in 1971. So it was in sweltering heat that band members arrived early at 3.30 for some publicity photos, which fortunately were taken in the shade of some trees.
However when we moved to the stage ready for a rehearsal at 5.00pm there was no such shade, especially for those at the front in direct sunlight. The heat and the glare made playing both difficult and unpleasant, but fortunately by the time the concert proper was due to start the sun had moved round and was lower in the sky. Nevertheless it was still so warm that we played the first half in shirtsleeves.
Naturally the good weather brought out a huge crowd and there was scarcely a blade of grass to be seen in the park, the council estimate that the audience numbered some 4000 people. The concert was conducted by Brendan Gudgeon, with some pieces taken by Chris Doyle, and we once again welcomed tenor Lawrence Thackeray and soprano Alison Langer as soloists. The compère this year was Erika Sanderson as Carl Quaif was unavailable. She was assisted by Marie Biswell, who interpreted the announcements in sign language.
Brendan kicked off the concert conducting a rousing performance of Liberty Bell by Sousa. The theme of the concert was “childhood”, and the next items were two movements from Tales from Andersen by Martin Ellerby, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and The Red Shoes. After A Grand Day Out (the Wallace & Gromit theme), Alison Langer joined the band to sing O Mio Babbino Caro by Puccini. The whole programme is listed below, but the first half finished with a selection from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music.
During the interval the crowd were entertained by students from the Vivo d’Arte School of Theatre Arts, who sung a number of songs from musical shows. When the band returned to open the second half, it was with Looney Tunes cartoon music. The soloists starred again with Lawrence Thackeray singing Nessun Dorma from Turandot by Puccini, and he and Alison Langer came together to sing Con Te Partiro by Sartori and Quarantotto.
It was almost time for the Proms finale, but not before Chris Doyle conducted a selection from The Greatest Showman. Then came the moment the crowd had been waiting for, ready to join Alison Langer and the band singing Rule Britannia at the climax of Henry Wood’s Fantasia on British Sea Songs. This was followed by Jerusalem, with the singing led by Lawrence Thackeray. Last but not least, was Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March no. 1. In a break with precedent we performed the complete march, with Alison and Lawrence leading the singing of Land of Hope and Glory with the reprise of the big tune, which of course had to be encored.
The Mayor, Cllr Mike Smith, came on stage to thank everyone involved for all their hard work organising the ParkLife weekend and the concert, and to thank everyone in the audience who contributed to a collection for the Mayor’s charity, which this year was Youth Concern. Then after a countdown from the audience they were treated to a magnificent firework display to round off the evening.
Here is a list of the complete programme:–
Composer / Arranger
The Liberty Bell
John Philip Sousa
Tales from Andersen 1: The Steadfast Tin Soldier 4: The Red Shoes
A Grand Day Out
O Mio Babbino Caro (with Alison Langer)
Giacomo Puccini, arr. Dave Richards
Barry gray, arr. Philip Sparke
Dancing Round the Nursery
The Sound of Music
Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rogers, arr. W.J. Duthoit
Looney Tunes Overture
Arr. Bill Holcombe
Arr. Stephen Bulla
Nessun Dorma (with Lawrence Thackeray)
Con Te Partiro (with Lawrence Thackeray and Alison Langer)
F. Sartori and L. Quarantotto, arr. Frank Bernaerts
Exactly a year to the day after last year’s event, we were flattered to be invited back to the Officers’ Mess at RAF High Wycombe to play for their Summer Cocktail Party on 26th July. This year the weather wasn’t quite so kind, with occasional showers forecast for the evening, so the Band set up in a room indoors. Matching the “Hollywood” theme of the evening, much of the music we played was from films, plus well known popular music from several decades. So the first session started with Looney Tunes and included a selection from Chicago and music by Queen.
The second session opened with Thunderbirds (the children’s TV series from the 60s) and included New Hampshire Hornpipe (from On Golden Pond), Singing in the Rain and Lady Gaga Dance Mix. By the time the third session started the party was really getting going, and we played music by The Beatles, Sinatra!, Disco Lives, and finished with music from The Greatest Showman. At least that’s where we expected to finish, but unusually for such an event we were required to play an encore, finishing where we began with Looney Tunes.
“Leave them wanting more” as the saying has it. I wonder if this is going to turn into an annual event? Certainly it’s fun to play and be appreciated.
It is with great sadness that I must report that Alan Mossford, Conductor Emeritus of Aylesbury Concert Band, died on 15th July.
Alan was our Director of Music from 1996 to 2006. Prior to that, as Squadron Leader Alan Mossford he had been Director of Music of RAF Central Band, his last posting in a distinguished career with the RAF Music Services which began in 1956. During his time with Aylesbury Band he worked tirelessly to develop the band to one which could win a gold medal at the Midlands Regional Concert Band Festival (www.ncbf.info) in 2006. Safe to say without him the band wouldn’t be what it is today.
Fairford Leys (a district of Aylesbury) always seems to be blessed with good weather for their annual Fair in the Square, and this year was no exception. Although not as sunny as some years, the day was pleasantly warm with some hazy sunshine from time to time, and only the lightest of breezes.
The band was asked to play from 1.15, when conductor Chris Doyle started the programme with music from the Looney Tunes cartoons. After this the programme continued with two movements from the English Folksong Suite by Vaughan Williams, New Hampshire Hornpipe from the film On Golden Pond, Disco Lives, Singing in the Rain, Queen in Concert, and finally Sinatra!.
After a half hour break, the Band played some more, starting with Thunderbirds, a selection from the musical Chicago, A Grand Day Out (the Wallace and Gromit theme), Dancing Round the Nursery by Rob Wiffin, two movements from the 2nd Suite in F by Gustav Holst, Lady Gaga Dance Mix, and to finish, music from The Greatest Showman.
At events like this a band is mainly background music, but we did get some applause from time to time, which is gratifying.
The Band returned to Stone (a village outside Aylesbury) on the spring bank holiday, Monday 27th May, to play at the Stone and Bishopstone Fête. The previous few days had been wet or showery, and the weather forecast was for showers in the afternoon, but apart from a few spots of rain as we were setting up it remained dry. Unfortunately a strong, gusty wind made playing difficult, blowing over music stands and necessitating the use of pegs to stop the music blowing away, which makes it difficult to turn the page. However, we coped!
The band played two sets, conducted by deputy conductor Chris Doyle, who opened the programme with Looney Tunes. The first half continued with a selection from Mary Poppins, Queen in Concert, and music from the cult TV series Game of Thrones.
After the interval, when a dog show took place in the arena, the Band played The Sound of Music, music from the show and film The Lion King, and a selection from The Greatest Showman.
Despite the unsettled weather there was a good crowd at the fête, and no doubt the Band’s efforts added to the holiday atmosphere.