New Year Concerts

The Christmas season just past may have been less busy for the Band, but they made up for it by doing two New Year concerts in January. Following the successful Children’s concert in Eaton Bray last February the Band was invited back to play a New Year concert on 11th January. Eaton Bray is a village in Bedfordshire about 15 miles from Aylesbury and the concert took place in the parish church.

Once again it was quite chilly in the church, but by the time the concert was due to start at 2.00pm a gratifyingly large audience had arrived, nearly filling the church. The Band, conducted by Claire Lawrence, opened the concert with Heralds for an Occasion, a rousing piece by Stephen Bulla. The Bohemian composer Julius Fučík is almost forgotten today, but before the First World War he was famed as “the Bohemian Sousa” for the quality of the marches he wrote as an army bandmaster in the Austrian Empire. His Florentiner March came to popular attention when it was played in the 1996 film Brassed Off, and this was the second item in the programme.

Of course musical celebrations of the New Year are strongly associated with Vienna, and it was but a short journey from Bohemia to Vienna for the next item, the Tritsch Tratsch Polka by Johnn Strauss II.

In complete contrast, this was followed by Pie Jesu from the Requiem by Andrew Lloyd Webber, arranged as a duet for clarinet and alto saxophone with band accompaniment, and beautifully played by Julie-Marie James and Erica Miller. After The Barber of Seville goes to the Devil by Gordon Jacob the woodwind played two movements from the Suite for Winds by Adam Gorb, then it was back to Vienna for the Blue Danube Waltz in a new arrangement by Rob Wiffin. The first half finished with the overture to Crazy for You by George Gershwin.

The second half opened with the music from the film The Big Country, followed by the stillness of winter as depicted by Philip Sparke in A Winter’s Tale. Next the Band played The Dargason from the 2nd Suite in F for Military Band by Gustav Holst. Next a brass quintet from the Band led by Norman Bartlett played Norman’s arrangement of the Finale from Gounod’s Faust, which some of the Band feared would bring the house down – literally. Next was Disney at the Movies, which features a number of foot-tapping tunes from Disney films from the past 70+ years. Then back to Vienna again for the ever popular Radetzky March by Johann Strauss. The concert came to a rousing end with Rob Wiffin’s arrangement of the Farandole from L’Arlésienne suite no. 2 by Bizet. At least that was the official end, but the enthusiastic audience demanded an encore, and the Band played the Can-can from Orpheus in the Underworld by Offenbach.

In an email the organiser of the concert said “Please convey my thanks to the Concert band, for a splendid concert on Saturday afternoon. I was delighted by the programme you elected to play and I’ve had tremendous positive feedback from audience members”, and he has already booked the Band to do another New Year’s concert next year!

Then just two weeks later the Band repeated the programme for an Aylesbury audience in Holy Trinity Church, Aylesbury. This time the church was much warmer, although the audience was smaller, but this in no way diminished their appreciation of the concert. There was one change to the programme: the brass section played Pastime with Good Company, attributed to King Henry VIII, and also arranged by Norman Bartlett.

So with January nearly over it’s time to put that programme away and, in a complete change of mood, prepare for the next two concerts in March and May, which will feature swing music from the Big Band era.