Christmas Concert 2009

The Band’s Christmas concert this year was held in the beautifully restored surroundings of Aylesbury Methodist Church. Although we have played here once before for a wedding, this was something of an experiment to see if the church was suitable to become a regular venue for our concerts, and on the whole the answer seemed to be yes. Admittedly the band was a tight fit in the chancel, not helped by the large Christmas tree at the back, but after some juggling the whole band managed to squeeze into place. There are certainly advantages for the audience, the church is more accessible than St Mary’s, there are no pillars in the way to obscure the audience’s view of the band, and those who wished were able to sit in the balcony to get an even better view. Rod Wynne-Powell was on hand again to take photos, which you can see here.

The concert opened with Fanfare and Hark the Herald Angels Sing, a quirky modern arrangement of the Christmas carol by Chip Davis for the group Mannheim Steamroller[Wikipedia] (who are very popular in the USA but virtually unknown in this country). This was followed by Alfred Reed’s Festive Overture, then Black and White Rag and the four Gypsy Dances Puszta by Jan Van Der Roost. Vanessa Owen and Annalie Ibison played the Flower Duet from Lakmé arranged for flute and oboe by James Curnow. After Christmas Recollections and a carol sung by the audience, the first half ended with A Vaughan Williams Christmas.

After the interval the second half opened with Troika by Prokofiev, and New York by Nigel Hess. Another new piece came next: Good Swing Wenceslas arranged by Sammy Nestico. A quartet from the sax section then played three entertaining pieces, Ceilito Lindo, Solitude by Duke Ellington, and Five foot two, eyes of blue. The old favourite, Carol of the Drum was followed by the 3rd movement of Pineapple Poll, Broadway Showstoppers, and of course, White Christmas. After another carol sung by the audience the concert ended with Sleigh Ride and We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

Near the end of the concert, conductor Robert Wicks publicly thanked the members of the band and the committee for all their work in the past year, and John Dablin presented him with a gift in recognition of all the hard work he had done over the Christmas season conducting the band in the absence of Duncan Stubbs.

So ended another year. In January rehearsals start for the next concert in Penn Street, and it will be time to start preparing for another Band Development Weekend in March, as well as the Spring concert. So there is much to look forward to in 2010.

Christmas Carols

On Saturday 5th December the Band returned to Fairford Leys (a district of Aylesbury) to provide music for carols. As the band set up under an arcade at the side of Hampden Square there seemed to be a distinct lack of people come to sing, but shortly before the start at 5 o’clock a crowd appeared from nowhere, many carrying umbrellas against the gentle rain. The band played We Need a Little Christmas, White Christmas, and Sleigh Ride and then accompanied the crowd in half a dozen carols.

Then on Sunday the 6th came the annual Mayor’s Carol Service in St Mary’s Church. For some reason the procession of the Mayor and dignitaries from the town centre was late, meaning the whole service was 20 minutes late starting. The band shared the accompaniment of carol singing with the organist, playing alternate verses and joining together in the last, so when the organist started playing one carol in the wrong key it caused considerable alarm. Some frantic signalling from conductor Robert Wicks alerted the organist to his mistake, and he performed an acrobatic improvisation before the next verse to modulate into the correct key!

The next Friday, 11th December, it was Wendover’s turn for carol singing. It was a cold but dry evening as the band set up on the Manor Waste in Wendover High Street. A good sized crowd soon arrived and spent the next hour singing 15 carols accompanied by the band. The event was organised by Wendover Parish Council, who must have been quite pleased with the good turnout.

Waddesdon Manor, 29th November

And so to Waddesdon to play slightly premature Christmas music at Waddesdon Manor. The weather forecast predicted showers, and they were right if your definition of showers is heavy rain for 20 minutes every half an hour. Last year we played in the stables, but the recent downpours had left them flooded, so we played outside the main house, under a permanent gazebo that serves in summer to protect al fresco diners from the sun. Today it protected us from the rain. Amazingly it also protected some of the audience, while others stood under umbrellas to listen. Only in England…

The band played a mixture of Christmas carols, Christmas music such as White Christmas, and some of the other pieces we have out at the moment, such as Black and White Rag and Broadway Showstoppers. Considering the awful weather we were lucky to have an audience at all, but those who did stop to listen certainly seemed to appreciate the band, applauding each number. If we’re invited back next year, let’s hope it will at least be dry!

The News Blog

This is the blog of Aylesbury Band. Here you can read news about concerts and other events involving the Band. You can add your own comments to the articles, and read other people’s comments, by following the ‘comments’ link at the end of each article. Also, on the front page you can find links to older news stories in the column on the right.

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Duncan Stubbs

Congratulations are due to Duncan Stubbs on his promotion to the rank of Wing Commander and appointment as Principal Director of Music for the Royal Air Force. In the light of this news, we are deeply honoured that he still wishes to continue his association with Aylesbury Concert Band. How feasible this will be remains to be seen, but we will be very disappointed if he has to give up being our Director of Music as he has done so much for the development of the Band, and is popular with the players and audiences alike. We are keeping our fingers crossed.

UPDATE 22nd January 2010: Unfortunately it can now be announced that Duncan is going to have to step down as our Director of Music. The extent of his commitments in his new post mean that he will be unable to continue coming to Aylesbury. We will not be losing touch with him entirely though, he plans to come and coach the band on our development weekend in March, and of course he will always be welcome as a guest conductor. So, the search is now on for a new Director of Music.

News: 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 fromGodspell.

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 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.

News: 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!

News: 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.