Christmas 2016

It’s hard to imagine Christmas without music, whether it be traditional Christmas carols, sentimental ballads, settings of scripture by the great classical masters, or simply cheerful tunes with a wintry title. So it’s not surprising that Aylesbury Band should be called upon to play at this time of year.

The Mayor’s Carol Service took place on 4th December in St Mary’s Parish Church, Aylesbury. The Band was joined by the Aylesbury Choral Society, and the choir and organist of St Mary’s Church. While waiting for the Mayor’s procession to arrive the Band entertained the congregation by playing White Christmas, Jingle Bells, and Ye Merry Gentlemen (no. 3 of Three Carols from Olde England by Duncan Stubbs), and then played fanfares to announce the arrival of the Mayor and the procession.

During the service the band accompanied the singing of Christmas carols along with the organist, and also played a couple of musical interludes, A Winter’s Tale by Philip Sparke, and Carol of the Drum (“The Little Drummer Boy”) by Katherine Davis, arranged by Floyd E. Werle. Similarly the Aylesbury Choral Society sang In Dulci Jubilo, and O Magnum Mysterium by Tomás Luis de Victoria, and the church choir sang Jesus Child by John Rutter. At the end the Band accompanied everyone singing We Wish You a Merry Christmas. After the service everyone tucked into mulled wine and mince pies to the accompaniment of the Band playing Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson, A Vaughan Williams Christmas, Good Swing Wenceslas by Sammy Nestico, and Scherzo Variation (no. 2 of A Christmas Suite by David Barker).

The following Saturday, 10th December, the band again provided music for the Fairford Leys Carol Service in Hampden Square, Aylesbury. The weather had been very cold during the preceding week, but on Saturday it warmed up a little, and it didn’t rain! To set the scene the Band played White Christmas and Let it Snow, and then played while everyone joined in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. After playing for the carol singing, the crown had to sing Jingle Bells to let Father Christmas know where to go, but of course they didn’t sing loud enough, so they had to sing it again. The Band then rounded off proceedings with We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

The saxophone quartet (players from the Band) then moved indoors to play while refreshments were being served, but for the rest of the Band it was time to go home. However there was still work to do before Christmas, rehearsing for our New Year concert in January.

Autumn Charity Concert

Rupert Johnston first came to the band nearly two years ago in 2015. Rupert was on the verge of a promising career as a professional horn player when in 1997 he nearly died in a serious car accident. He suffered severe head injuries which required brain surgery to save his life. He now lives in Kent House in Aylesbury, a specialist home and rehabilitation centre for people who have suffered brain injuries. Incredibly, despite his injuries he still retains the ability to play the French horn, and comes to play regularly at our rehearsals and for at least part of our concerts. So when we planned our autumn concert we decided it should be in aid of a charity, and should feature Rupert as a soloist. The charity chosen was the Oxford branch of Silverlining, whose aim is to give help to anyone affected by brain injury and their families and community.

The concert took place on 19th November at Holy Trinity Church, Aylesbury. The third item on the programme featured Rupert playing the last movement of Mozart’s horn concerto no. 2, accompanied by the band. He played superbly, and at the end he was rewarded by loud applause from audience and band alike. Clearly he was overjoyed by the response and laughed and smiled as he acknowledged the applause and our conductor, Robert Wicks.

The concert had opened with The Grenadiers by Rob Wiffin, based on The British Grenadiers and Scipio, the quick and slow marches of the Grenadier Guards. This was followed by music from West Side Story. After the horn concerto the band played the Toccata in D Minor by J.S. Bach, arranged by Ray Farr and Kevin Lamb. Next was three movements from Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saëns, Introduction and Royal March of the Lions, The Elephant, and the Finale. Erica Miller played Romance from The Gadfly by Shostakovitch, arranged for alto saxophone and band by Ed Keeley. The first half ended with Gaelforce by Peter Graham.

The second half opened with Finlandia by Sibelius, and an arrangement of Pure Imagination. Then Norman Bartlett and Victoria Paulding, trumpets, were featured in Mexican Hat Dance accompanied by the band. After music from the Disney film of Aladdin came Holiday in Rio, a nod to this year’s Olympics, and the whole trumpet section featured in Bill Bailey. The concert came to a rousing conclusion with part of Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes from Saint-Saëns 3rd Symphony (known as the “Organ” symphony).

The concert raised £483 for the charity, well done to Rupert and the Band.

You can find out more about Rupert from this video made by members of his family to promote the Eyes Alight appeal…

Vale Park Proms 2016

The Band’s major event of the summer each year is the Vale Park Proms, part of the annual Park Life festival organised by Aylesbury Town Council. Aylesbury Band’s contribution took place on Sunday evening 28th August this year. The day had been a mixture of sunshine and showers, and a gusty breeze was blowing as the band set up on the stage in Vale Park. But although there were some ominous looking clouds around and more showers were forecast, in fact the weather stayed dry for the whole of the concert. The band was conducted by Director of Music Robert Wicks, and were joined by the vocal soloists Alexandra Lowe, soprano, and James Liu, tenor.

As the 7.15 start time approached a large crowd, possiby a thousand people, assembled in the park to hear the band, ready with their flags to wave in the Grand Finale. The 2016 Olympics in Brazil had just ended, so conductor Robert Wicks chose for the first item Olympic Fanfare and Theme written by John Williams for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. After music from the Disney film Aladdin the first of the soloists, Alexandra Lowe, sang Quando me’n vo from La Bohème by Puccini. Then it was back to Brazil with Holiday in Rio.

The author Roald Dahl lived not far from Aylesbury in Great Missenden, and the next item was Pure Imagination from the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory which was based on one of his books for children. In complete contrast the band then played the Toccata in D Minor by J.S. Bach, in the distinctive arrangement for band by Ray Farr and Kevin Lamb. After Scarborough Fair by Duncan Stubbs, James Liu sang the well known Italian song O Sole Mio, and the band played Light-Walk by Barrie Gott. The first half ended with the Apotheosis, the last section of the grandly named Symphonic Metamorphosis on themes from Saint-Saëns 3rd Symphony. This is a paraphrase of the last movement of the symphony, known as the Organ Symphony because of the prominent part played by the organ, which brought the first half to a suitably grand conclusion.

Part 2 opened with Grenadiers! by Rob Wiffin. This is a fast and vigorous piece built on the Grenadier Guards’ quick and slow regimental marches (The British Grenadiers and Scipio by Handel). Then the band played a medley of songs from Frank Sinatra, arranged by Stephen Bulla. The two soloists returned to the stage to sing Brindisi (drinking song) from La Traviata by Verdi, after which the Band played Gaelforce by Peter Graham, which is based on three well known Irish folksongs.

Now it was time for the “Proms” finale. The audience were led by the band and soloists in singing Jerusalem by Hubert Parry, and the band played the Fantasia on British Sea Songs by Henry Wood, which ends with Rule Britannia sung by Alexandra Lowe. Finally in Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 the audience joined in enthusiastically singing Land of Hope and Glory. This, of course, had to be repeated.

Before these last items the Mayor, Cllr Barbara Russel, came on stage to thank everybody who had helped organise the weekend. She also thanked the Band and soloists for the Proms concert, and Carl Quaif who had once again acted as compêre for the evening. Then once the music was all over, there was a spectacular (and noisy!) firework display.

And then it rained, heavily. How lucky we were that until then the evening had remained dry.

UPDATE: The Bucks Herald has a report about the ParkLife weekend in which they say…

And on Sunday the Aylesbury Concert Band were out in force for Proms In The Park, attracting a huge crowd for classical and not so classical standards.

Speaking about Proms, a spokesman for organisers Aylesbury Town Council said: “Aylesbury Concert Band along with soloists Alex Lowe and James Liu performed a truly spectacular Proms concert for the 2,000-plus strong crowd at Proms in the Park on Sunday evening. With more families attending the event than ever before, bringing picnics, glow sticks, flags and their singing voices, this traditional English concert was shared by so many people. In typical English style, luckily the rain held off until the very last firework lit the night sky.”

Here is a complete listing of all the music played:–

Programme – Vale Park Proms 2016

Conducted by Robert Wicks

Title Composer / Arranger
Olympic Fanfare and Theme John Williams, arr. James Curnow
Aladdin (from the Walt Disney film) Arr. Paul Jennings
Quando me’n Vo (from La Boheme, act 2)
Soloist Alexandra Lowe
Puccini, arr. Mark Armstrong.
Holiday in Rio Andreas Ludwig Schulte
Pure Imagination (from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, arr. Douglas E. Wagner
Toccata in D Minor J.S. Bach, arr. Ray Farr and Kevin Lamb
Scarborough Fair (2nd movement from The Fun of the Fair) Duncan Stubbs
O Sole Mio
Soloist James Liu
Words by Giovanni Capurro, music by Eduardo di Capua, arr. Mark Armstrong
Light-Walk Barrie Gott
Apotheosis, (final section of Symphonic Metamorphosis on themes from Saint-Saëns 3rd Symphony) Philip Sparke
Grenadiers Rob Wiffin
Sinatra! Arr. Stephen Bulla
Brindisi (from La Traviata)
Soloists Alexandra Lowe and James Liu
Verdi, arr. Geoffrey Brand
Gaelforce Peter Graham
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 Fête 2016

On 9th July this year Aylesbury Concert Band performed at Fairford Leys Summer Fayre again, which took place as usual in Hampden Square, Aylesbury. The organisers reported that there were a record number of stalls, and a large crowd of people attended throughout the afternoon. The weather was overcast, and a few spots of rain fell as the band was setting up, but luckily it didn’t amount to much, and the sky brightened as the day wore on. Unfortunately it was quite windy, which threatened to blow music stands over and made page turns difficult.

The band played two sessions. The first opened with Bright Lights by Robert Sheldon followed by music from Disney’s film of Aladdin and two themes from recent James Bond films, Live and Let Die and Writing’s on the Wall from Spectre. After music from the film Rocky the first session ended with Queen in Concert.

The second session opened with more music from older James Bond films arranged by Johan de Meij. The march Liberty Bell and a selection of music by Henry Mancini was followed by Instant Concert by Harold Waters. The Band finished with a selection of well known songs by Frank Sinatra, and Dancing Round the Nursery by Rob Wiffin.

The Queen’s Birthday Concert in Amersham

The Band provided the climax to a concert to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday, which took place in the Memorial Gardens in Amersham on 12th June. Though the skies threatened rain, the weather stayed dry as a large crowd gathered in the Gardens. The concert began with performers from the Amersham Music Centre, then Vanessa Bowers, accompanied by pianist Sheila Cornall sang songs describing the Queen’s life, from her parents falling in love, her childhood and resilience during the Second World War, her coronation and more. Then after a Royal British Legion service it was the turn of Aylesbury Concert Band.

The Band’s programme began with Bright Lights by Robert Sheldon, followed by a medley of Frank Sinatra’s hits, arranged by Stephen Bulla. Writing’s on the Wall from the James Bond film Spectre by Sam Smith was followed by an arrangement of songs by Queen, and then Dancing Round the Nursery by Rob Wiffin.

Then it was time for the audience to join in, singing Jerusalem, which was followed by Henry Wood’s Fantasia on British Sea Songs. Finally the Band played Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 and the audience joined in singing Land of Hope and Glory and waved their flags enthusiastically.

Or not quite finally, for the Band led the crowd in singing Happy Birthday to You to round off a happy afternoon.

Spring Concert 2016

The Band presented its Spring concert on 14th May at Holy Trinity Church, Aylesbury, where we were delighted to welcome back Lemon Tuesday Ladies’ Choir from Rickmansworth to share the platform. The band opened and closed the concert, while the choir entertained the audience in two sessions either side of the interval.

The concert opened with Bright Lights! by Robert Sheldon, and the first half included The Fun of the Fair by Duncan Stubbs, Writing’s on the Wall (by Sam Smith, from the James Bond Film “Spectre”) and Sinatra!, an arrangement of classic Frank Sinatra numbers by Stephen Bulla. John Dablin (clarinet) played Viktor’s Tale, the theme from the film The Terminal by John Williams.

In the second half, the band played Mancini Magic, arranged by Trevor Sharpe, Afterlife by Rossano Galante, and, to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, Via Appia from SPQR by Guy Woolfenden, based on music he wrote for the play Julius Caesar. The concert ended with a selection from the musical Guys and Dolls by Frank Loesser, arranged by W J Duthoit, though this was followed by an encore, Liberty Bell by John Philip Sousa.

In complete contrast to the sound of the band, the choir demonstrated their versatility with a variety of music in contrasting styles, some humorous. Unfortunately I don’t have a note of their programme, but their singing is always entertaining and highly enjoyed by the audience.

Leigh “Ted” Heath, 1946 – 2016

I am saddened to report the death of Leigh Heath, always known to everyone as Ted. In the early 1990s Ted founded the Aylesbury Town Band, which in 1996 was reconstituted as Aylesbury Community Concert Band, now Aylesbury Concert Band.

After leaving school Ted joined the army where he learnt the clarinet and served in the Band of the Worcestershire Regiment. On leaving the army he served in the Diplomatic Corps in Bulgaria and Persia (now Iran). Later he retrained as a teacher and settled in Aylesbury, where he founded the band. He always wanted to play clarinet rather than conduct the band, however, so in 1996 he passed the baton to Alan Mossford, who helped nurture and grow the band into the organisation we have today. Unfortunately Ted’s later life was dogged by ill health which made it difficult for him to pursue his love of music.

When not teaching or playing, Ted loved horses, and was a keen gardener.

Ted touched the lives of many people who remember him fondly for his skill and enthusiasm as a teacher, as well as his love of life and his sense of humour. He will be sorely missed.

New Year Concerts 2016

The Band had a busy start to the New Year, with two concerts on successive Saturdays. On the afternoon of 9th January we travelled to Eaton Bray in Bedfordshire for a New Year Concert at St Mary’s Church. It was a very cold and damp day, and when we arrived there was no heating on in the church, which was bitterly cold, and even when the heating had been turned on it could do little to warm such a large space. Nevertheless a pleasingly large audience nearly filled the church ready to enjoy our music.

Conductor Robert Wicks opened the programme with The Ancient and Honourable Artillery Company March by Sousa, which he wrote for the the oldest military organisation in North America, dating back to 1638 in Massachusetts. This was curiously relevant to a New Year concert as Sousa incorporated the Company’s marching song, Auld Lang Syne, into the march. This was followed by the well known Funiculi Funicula by Denza, After which Julie-Marie James (clarinet) and Catherine Dawson (bassoon) stepped up to play Brindisi (Drinking Song) from La Traviata by Verdi. Then after An American in Paris by Gershwin, arranged by John Krance, the band played part of El Camino Real by Alfred Reed. The first half ended with Rhapsody on an Old English Sea Song by Stuart Johnson, an amusing arrangement of What shall we do with a drunken sailor?, and music from Star Wars arranged by Johan de Meij.

The second half opened with Lord of the Dance by Ronan Hardiman, followed by Thames Journey by Nigel Hess. Nimrod from the Enigma Variations by Elgar was followed by two movements from Tales from Andersen by Martin Ellerby: The Steadfast Tin Soldier and The Emperor’s New Clothes. After James Bond 007 arranged by Johan de Meij, we returned to the New Year theme for the finale with The Blue Danube in the arrangement by Rob Wiffin. The audience didn’t let us go without an encore, though, so continuing the New Year theme we played The Radetzky March.

One week later we played a similar programme for our New Year Concert at Aylesbury Methodist Church. The evening was very cold, with sleet and snow showers, which probably contributed to the disappointingly small size of the audience. Instead of Star Wars we played the whole of El Camino Real by Alfred Reed, and three movements from Puszta by Jan Van der Roost, which are original pieces in the style of Hungarian gypsy music. Rob Wiffin’s arrangement of The Blue Danube opened the second half, which also included the Fanfare and Romance from Fanfare, Romance and finale by Philip Sparke, which feature the brass and woodwind sections respectively. The second half finished with An American in Paris by George Gershwin. The audience may have been small, but they were enthusiastic enough for the Band to play Radetzky March as an encore.