Vale Park Proms 2018

This has been a glorious summer for holidaymakers, sun lovers and fête organisers, perhaps less so for farmers and growers, gardeners and water companies. For Aylesbury Band and conductor Robert Wicks, though, the question was would there be good weather for the Vale Park Proms on Sunday 26th August? Sadly the answer seemed to be no, by 10.00am that morning it was raining steadily, and it continued to rain for the next six hours. However, by the time we arrived to set up for a rehearsal at 5.00pm it had just about stopped. The concert started at 7.15, and by then, despite another shower of rain, a large crowd had gathered (official estimates say it was over 1000 people, perhaps nearer 1500). Many had brought picnics along with their umbrellas and raincoats, this is England after all!

So despite the clouds and damp, and the blustery breeze, the show must go on. The concert had a theme: “around the world in 80 minutes”, and began in the USA with The Stars and Stripes by John Philip Sousa, followed by music from the Disney film Frozen.

The Band was then joined by our first two soloists, tenor Lawrence Thackeray and soprano Alison Langer, who sang Tonight from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein. This was particularly fitting as the day before had been the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth.

Next stop on the world tour was Argentina, and the tango Por una Cabeza by Carlos Gardel (which was featured in a famous tango scene in the 1992 film Scent of a Woman). Then to Russia, and the 2nd waltz from Jazz Suite No. 2 by Dmitri Shostakovich (which was used in another film, Eyes Wide Shut). From there we travelled to India and Jai Ho, exuberant music from Slumdog Millionaire which featured the percussion. Time for a quieter interlude as we moved on to Africa to play the film theme Out of Africa by John Barry. To end the first half it was back to Asia and part of Armenian Dances, based on Armenian folk tunes by American composer Alfred Reed.

During the interval the audience were entertained by Hartbeats West African drummers. When the Band returned for part 2, we found ourselves in Spain with Malagueña by Ernesto Lecuona, and then Lawrence Thackeray returned to the stage to sing O Sole Mio by Eduardo di Capua and Giovanni Capurro. Cheekily he sang “just one Cornetto” to the last verse!

Then it was the turn of the incredibly talented young violinist Shona Beecham who played Czardas by Vittorio Monti accompanied by the band. Shona, who lives in Aylesbury, is just 15, but she’s been playing the violin since she was 7 and currently attends the Royal College of Music Junior Department. She made her her debut at 9 and played her first concerto publicly at 12. She has performed not only in the UK, but also in New York (at the Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall), Switzerland, France, Austria and Germany.

From Italy we hopped across the Alps to Austria as Alison Langer returned to sing the Laughing Song from Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss II. Then to France and the Can Can from Orpheus in the Underworld by Offenbach. Next stop was Ireland, and Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance, music by Ronan Hardiman. Finally it was back to England and another film theme, The Dam Busters by Eric Coates.

Now it was time for the audience to join in with the grand “last night of the proms” finale, beginning with Jerusalem by Hubert Parry, sung by Lawrence Thackeray. Then the Band played Fantasia on British Sea Songs by Henry Wood, joined by Alison Langer at the end to lead the audience in singing Rule Britannia. Finally it was time for Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March no. 1 with the audience and soloists joining in singing the refrain Land of Hope and Glory. Of course, this had to be repeated.

Before this the Mayor, Mark Willis, had come on stage to thank everyone who had taken part, and thank all the organisers of the ParkLife weekend. He also thanked the audience for contributing generously to the Mayor’s Charity this year, Carers Bucks, an independent charity established in 2004 to support the wellbeing of unpaid, family carers in Buckinghamshire.

Finally, after a countdown from the audience led by the evening’s compère, Carl Quaif, a fireworks display brought the weekend events to a sparkling end.

The local paper, The Bucks Herald, has a report with pictures of the weekend’s events, including the Vale Park Proms.