The Band Returns to Penn Street

Since 2009 the Band has travelled to Penn Street, near Amersham, each January to perform a concert in Holy Trinity church. It’s a fairly small church, but the audience that attended on that first occasion so enjoyed themselves that we’ve been invited back every year since. This year’s concert took place on 28th January. Conductor Claire Lawrence planned the programme around pieces reflecting the New Year’s Day concert in Vienna, and opened with the overture to Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss II. Christmas is over, but it’s still winter, so then we played A Winter’s Tale by Philip Sparke, which depicts a still winter’s scene, with a horse-drawn sleigh passing by.

The oboe is an important member of the wind band, often playing prominent solos, but there are few works written specially for solo oboe and band. One of these is the rarely heard Variations on a Theme of Glinka for oboe and military band by Rimsky-Korsakov, which was skilfully performed by Alison Swindles. (Not only is Alison a fine oboist, but she is also a talented designer of handmade silver jewellery). Other works in the first half were Valdres, a march by Johannes Hanssen named after a region of Norway, Eine Kleine Yiddishe Ragmusik by Adam Gorb, and a selection from Les Misérables.

After the interval, when band and audience were again treated to delicious cakes home made by ladies of the congregation, the second half opened with Century Point by Robert Sheldon, followed by a portrait of New York by Nigel Hess. Then returning to the New Year theme, the Mazurka and Waltz from Coppélia by Delibes. John Dablin played the clarinet solo in Golden Wedding, which was heard at the first concert here in 2009. Two movements from Theatre Music by Philip Sparke were followed by Can Can from French Impressions by Guy Woolfenden, and the concert ended with a selection from the musical Barnum by Cy Coleman and Michael Stewart. The audience wouldn’t let the band go without an encore, though, so continuing the New Year theme the band played the Radetzky March.

Considering how little time there was to rehearse over the busy Christmas season, the whole concert went remarkably well. One lady emailed the band to say “how much I enjoyed the concert at Penn St church on Sat evening. I was taken straight back to Vienna. I had a few tears (well a lot) the music was wonderful, thank you”. Looks like we may be going back again next January.

Christmas Concert 2011

The Band’s Christmas concert nearly met with disaster. It was only by chance that we found out that the minister at Aylesbury Methodist Church had arranged a carol service immediately prior to our concert, leaving us virtually no time to set up. Fortunately with a little juggling of times we were able to do a run through in the hall before moving into the church in time for the concert.

The Band was once again joined by Lemon Tuesday ladies choir from Rickmansworth. The programme began with the Band playing Century Point by Robert Sheldon, conducted by Claire Lawrence, and this was followed by the first “Christmassy” piece, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. The band accompanied the audience singing Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, after which John Dablin played the clarinet solo in the Woody Herman version of Golden Wedding.

Now it was the turn of Lemon Tuesday to entertain, singing Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol, Hushabye Mountain by The Sherman Brothers and Ball and Chain by The Staves. The Band then rounded off the first half with A Fireside Christmas by Sammy Nestico.

The second half opened with the well known Troika by Prokofiev. This was followed by A Winter’s Tale by Philip Sparke, which sets out to evoke a winter scene, with a horse-drawn sleigh passing by in the middle section. Lemon Tuesday then sang some more, including Rocking Carol (a traditional Czech carol), Silent Night and Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas. They rounded off their session with an encore – a spirited tango (whose title I didn’t catch) with added percussion played by Claire Lawrence, Robert Wicks, and other people dragged from the band!

The concert ended with three more Christmas pieces, Mary’s Boy Child (arr. Philip Sparke), and Sleigh Ride and A Christmas Festival by Leroy Anderson.

I’m pleased to report that the concert was well attended, the audience was larger than last year, and I’m sure they enjoyed the evening as we did our best to spread Christmas cheer. Many thanks are due to Lemon Tuesday and their conductor Martin Smith for their lively and fun performances.