Christmas 2015

The Band had just two engagements this Christmas, Fairford Leys Carols and the Mayor’s Carol Service.

Late in the afternoon of Saturday 5th December the Band set up in the arcade that runs along one side of Hampden Square in Fairford Leys, a large housing estate on the western side of Aylesbury, ready to play for the annual carol service. The evening was dry and not too cold, but a strong wind made it feel colder and threatened to blow over music stands and blow music away. Fires burnt in a couple of large braziers to give some warmth to the crowd, though the wind blew dangerous looking embers across the square. Before the service we played White Christmas, Let it Snow, and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, but there seemed to be some confusion over the start time as there was a long hiatus after we finished, so we played White Christmas again! When the service did start, the band accompanied the crowd in a number of Christmas carols, and then played Jingle Bells to let Santa Claus know where to go. The band and the crowd singing obviously weren’t loud enough, so we played and sung it again, and this time Santa arrived in his sleigh to distribute sweets to the children, while the band finished with We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

The following day, 6th December, the Band took part in the annual Mayor’s Carol Service in St Mary’s Church, Aylesbury. We were joined by members of the Aylesbury Choral Society, and the church choir and organist. Before the service started we played Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Troika by Prokofiev, and Christmas Recollections, a medley of Christmas songs including Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. A fanfare from the band announced the arrival of the Mayor’s procession, and then we accompanied the Aylesbury Choral Society who sang O Holy Night by Adolphe Adam. During the service, which was led by the Rector, the Reverend Doug Zimmerman, the congregation sang carols led by the Choral Society and the choir, accompanied by the band and the organist. Then at the end, the band played We Wish You a Merry Christmas, and as the Aylesbury Lions served mulled wine to everyone we played Mary’s Boy Child, White Christmas, and Christmas Festival by Leroy Anderson.

So now we can put the carol books away for another year, but we can’t rest on our laurels as we have two New Year concerts to do in January.

2015 Autumn Concert

The Band put on its autumn concert on 3rd October at Holy Trinity Church, Aylesbury, to a disappointingly small audience. Unfortunately we’d manage to choose a date that coincided with the England – Australia match in the Rugby World Cup, not to mention Strictly Come Dancing on television, so perhaps the reduced audience wasn’t a reflection on the merits of the Band.

The programme was a mixture of some pieces played at the Vale Park Proms in August, and some new pieces. It opened with the music from the film Back to the Future, which was followed by the Looney Tunes Overture. In complete contrast this was followed by the Fantasia on the Alleluia Hymn by Gordon Jacob. In the Vale Park Proms we had only played the final section of El Camino Real by Alfred Reed, but this time we played the complete work. This was followed by an arrangement of the classic song Autumn Leaves by Joseph Kosma, and the first half ended with Star Wars Saga by John Williams, arranged by Johan de Meij.

The second half opened with three pieces to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the second world war, The Dambusters by Eric Coates, the theme music from the film Schindler’s List by John Williams, arranged for clarinet solo and played by Julie-Marie James, and Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy by Don Ray and Hughie Prince, which featured the trumpet section. This was followed by a new piece, Thames Journey by Nigel Hess, which pictures in music the River Thames from its source, flowing through the English countryside and London, to the Thames Estuary. Following that, because there’s a new James Bond film coming out this month the band played a selection of James Bond theme music.

The Vale Park Proms ended with the traditional flag-waving finale, but this concert ended with a more subdued version, comprising the Henry Wood Sea Songs (without a singer for Rule Britannia) and Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1.

The audience may have been small, but we enjoyed playing for them, and I think they enjoyed the music. Now it’s time to start thinking about music for Christmas and New Year.

Vale Park Proms 2015

Sunday 30th August dawned grey and overcast with occasional showers, and more forecast for the evening – this didn’t bode well for the Vale Park Proms in Aylesbury that evening. The show must go on as there are always some people willing to sit under their umbrellas and cheer the Band, but it’s much more satisfying to play to a decent sized audience. However the rain had moved away by the time we were setting up, and much to my surprise by the time the concert was due to begin at least 500 people, possibly more, had arrived, despite it being cool and cloudy.

The Band was conducted by Robert Wicks, and we were delighted to welcome back two talented soloists, soprano Alison Langer and tenor Lawrence Thackeray, not to mention Carl Quaif, who ably assisted Robert by acting as compère. There was no single theme to this year’s concert, but among pieces simply to entertain there were others to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Ⅱ, and another to mark the Queen becoming the longest reigning monarch in British History on 9th September. And of course the concert had to conclude with the usual “last night of the Proms” finale.

You can read the complete programme here, but these are some of the highlights. After the National Anthem, the concert opened with Trailblaze by Goff Richards. In complete contrast Looney Tunes which followed celebrated the music from popular cartoons. Alison Langer and Lawrence Thackeray then sang two numbers from Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin, Summertime and Bess, You is my Woman Now. After this in tribute to the Queen’s long reign the Band played Elizabeth of England by Haydn Wood. The first half ended in anticipation of the release of Star Wars: Episode Ⅶ – The Force Awakens with a performance of music from the original Star Wars film by John Williams.

During the interval the audience were entertained by The LuLaLas; unfortunately at this point it started to rain a little, but undeterred the audience enthusiastically welcomed the return of the Band as part 2 opened with The Dambusters. During this some children (and others not so young!) ran around in front of the stage pretending to be aircraft. On a more sombre note, this was followed by the theme from the 1993 film Schindler’s List, arranged as a clarinet solo, and ably played by principal clarinet Julie-Marie James. The Second World War theme continued with The War Years, an arrangement of two songs of the time Run Rabbit Run and The White Cliffs of Dover, in which the Band was joined by Alison Langer and James Thackeray. Then the trumpet section were the stars in Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.

The last two pieces before the finale were the last part of El Camino Real by Alfred Reed, and The Lord of the Dance. Then it was time for the audience to join in and sing, as the soloists and the Band joined in playing Jerusalem, Sea Songs (including, of course, the Sailor’s Hornpipe and Rule Britannia), and Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1, also known as Land of Hope and Glory.

Finally the Mayor of Aylesbury, Cllr Allison Harrison, came on stage to thank everyone who took part, and the organisers of all the events of the weekend. She thanked everyone who came to enjoy the events and contribute to raising money for this year’s Mayor’s Charity, Community Unity Projects. The evening ended with a grand fireworks display which delighted the crowd, though one wonders how popular it was with people living near the park!

Programme – Vale Park Proms 2015

Conducted by Robert Wicks

Title Composer / Arranger
Trailblaze Goff Richards
Looney Tunes Overture Arr. Bill Holcombe
Summertime George Gershwin
Bess, You is my Woman Now George Gershwin
Elizabeth of England Haydn Wood
Fantasia on the Alleluia Hymn Gordon Jacob, arr. Douglas E Wagner
Puffin’ Billy Edward White, arr. John Holland
Star Wars Saga John Williams, arr. Johan de Meij
The Dambusters Eric Coates, arr. W J Duthoit
Theme from Schindler’s List
(soloist Julie-Marie James, clarinet)
John Williams, arr. Calvin Custer
The War Years arr. Barrie Hingley
Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy Kaye/Prince, arr. Ray Woodfield
El Camino Real (final section) Alfred Reed
The Lord of the Dance Ronan Hardiman, arr. Richard Saucedo
Jerusalem Hubert Parry, arr. Rob Wiffin
Fantasia on British Sea Songs Henry Wood, arr. W J Duthoit
Pomp and Circumstance March no. 1 Edward Elgar

Fairford Leys Summer Fayre

Saturday 11th July was the date for the Fairford Leys Summer Fayre, when the Band once again provided music for the occasion from the bandstand in Hampden Square. The day was warm and sunny, with passing clouds to temper the heat, though a gusty wind sometimes threatened to blow the music away.

The Band played a similar programme to the last engagement in Amersham, but including Caravan by Duke Ellington and The Stars and Stripes by John Philip Sousa. Meanwhile a large crowd enjoyed visiting the stalls and sideshows, eating ice creams, and cakes from the cake stall.

This was the only fête we played for this year, now it’s time to work hard preparing for the Vale Park Proms concert at the end of August.

A Sunday Afternoon in Amersham

Each summer Amersham Town Council run fortnightly concerts on Sunday afternoons in the Memorial Gardens in the old town, and Aylesbury Concert Band were invited to give the concert on 21st June. The day was a mixture of clouds and sun but was dry, which was fortunate as the gazebo provided for shelter was nowhere big enough for the whole band. Conductor Robert Wicks chose a varied programme of music from our current repertoire, as can be illustrated by the first four items alone: Trailblaze by Goff Richards, music from The Wizard of Oz, Mozart’s Overture The Marriage of Figaro and Puffin’ billy by Edward White. There was something for all ages, from Lady Gaga Dance Mix to a selection of songs by Abba, from Lord of the Dance to the musical Wicked, and from Looney Tunes to the Dambusters March.

It was a pleasant afternoon of music making for the band, let’s hope the people in the park enjoyed our efforts.

Spring Concert 2015

On Saturday 9th May the Band presented its Spring Concert at Holy Trinity Church, Walton Street, Aylesbury, to a respectably, if modestly sized audience. Naturally we’d prefer to play to a full house, but building a regular audience of any size is a long task.

Conductor Robert Wicks had assembled a mixed programme ranging from classic works for wind band to modern musicals, from film themes to opera and ballet. Here is the complete programme:–

Part 1

  • Trailblaze by Goff Richards, a lively work new to the Band.
  • Overture: The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart, arr. W J Duthoit.
  • Chaconne and March, the first and third movements of the First Suite in E by Gustav Holst.
  • Selections from the musical Wicked by Stephen Schwartz, arr. Jay Bocook.
  • The Flower Duet from the opera Lakmé by Léo Delibes, arranged by James Curnow, with soloists Alison Lovatt, flute, and Alison Swindles, oboe.
  • Music from the film Jurassic Park by John Williams, arr. Paul Lavender.

Part 2

  • Norwegian Rondo by Philip Sparke.
  • No. 1 from Three Dance Episodes from the ballet Spartacus by Aram Khachaturian, arr. Hunsberger.
  • Harlech Variants, an original work for band by Duncan Stubbs based on the traditional song Men of Harlech.
  • Lord Tullamore by Carl Wittrock.
  • And finally, in recognition of the 70th anniversary of VE Day celebrating the end of the war in Europe, The Dambusters by Eric Coates, arr. W J Duthoit.

Something there for all tastes, though perhaps not everything was to everyone’s taste. Nevertheless I think the audience enjoyed the concert on the whole and would have liked an encore, if we had prepared one.

Now summer is approaching, time to prepare for the usual engagements at fêtes and bandstands.

Our 2015 PlayDay

Almost every year we organise either a day or a weekend where we invite distinguished conductors to rehearse the band, often in music that is new to the band or is more difficult than our normal repertoire. This year we held a playday on Saturday 7th March at Buckingham Park Community Centre in Aylesbury, where we were honoured by the presence of Duncan Stubbs, a previous director of the band and currently Principal Director of Music for the Royal Air Force, and Rob Wiffin, Professor of Conducting at Kneller Hall who was also Principal Director of Music for the RAF from 1998 to 2003.

Among the music we played was Bohemian Revelry by Adam Gorb, Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes from Saint-Saëns Symphony No. 3 by Philip Sparke, and Thames Journey by Nigel Hess. Both conductors also brought with them some of their new compositions, including Striding Edge by Duncan Stubbs (named after a famous ridge in the Lake District) and Chiltern Overture by Rob Wiffin, which he wrote for Chiltern Band in High Wycombe.

It’s a marvellous experience to be rehearsed by such eminent musicians, and the band members learn a lot from these occasions. It was a long day of music making and pretty exhausting, but exhilarating as well. We are grateful not only to Duncan and Rob, but also to the Community Centre staff who kept us well supplied with tea and coffee, and Hi-Tide Fish and Chips, who fortified us with an excellent lunch.

New Year Concert in Eaton Bray

The Band returned to Eaton Bray on Saturday afternoon 10th January for another New Year concert, the third time the Band has been invited to play there. The Church of St Mary was gratifyingly full, with an encouraging number of children come to enjoy the music, and specially for them the first half included music from Frozen. The concert had started with Fanfare and Flourishes by James Curnow, followed by Mozart’s overture The Marriage of Figaro, and the first half also included Satin Doll by Duke Ellington, played by the saxophones. Music from Miss Saigon, the show which has recently been revived in London, was followed by a nod to the Christmas season just past – the Hallelujah Chorus from The Messiah by Handel. The first half finished in celebratory mood with part of Jupiter from The Planets by Gustav Holst.

To open the second half conductor Robert Wicks had chosen another piece with children in mind, music from the film Pirates of the Caribbean. Then the band played three movements from the lively ballet Pineapple Poll based on music by Arthur Sullivan arranged by Charles Mackerras, followed by Swing, Swing, Swing as arranged by Rob Wiffin. The second half also included an instrumental version of the Flower Duet from Lakmé by Delibes, and the ever popular Wizard of Oz.

This being a New Year concert the Band couldn’t finish without something associated with the season, so the concert ended with the Blue Danube Waltz as arranged by Rob Wiffin. At least, that was last item planned, but the applause from the audience demanded an encore, and the Band played the Radetzky March by Johann Strauss.

With the New Year suitably celebrated the Band now has something of a lull until the spring. Time to start preparing new music for spring concerts and summer fêtes, and we also have an enjoyable day’s music making to look forward to at our Playday in March.