Vale Park Proms 2019

The annual “Proms” concert organised by Aylesbury Town Council took place this year on the Sunday of the bank holiday weekend on 25th August. As an outdoor event it’s very dependent on the weather, but this year the whole weekend coincided with a heatwave, with cloudless blue skies and temperatures climbing into the 30s celsius. In fact it broke the record for the warmest August bank holiday since it was moved to the end of the month in 1971. So it was in sweltering heat that band members arrived early at 3.30 for some publicity photos, which fortunately were taken in the shade of some trees.

However when we moved to the stage ready for a rehearsal at 5.00pm there was no such shade, especially for those at the front in direct sunlight. The heat and the glare made playing both difficult and unpleasant, but fortunately by the time the concert proper was due to start the sun had moved round and was lower in the sky. Nevertheless it was still so warm that we played the first half in shirtsleeves.

Naturally the good weather brought out a huge crowd and there was scarcely a blade of grass to be seen in the park, the council estimate that the audience numbered some 4000 people. The concert was conducted by Brendan Gudgeon, with some pieces taken by Chris Doyle, and we once again welcomed tenor Lawrence Thackeray and soprano Alison Langer as soloists. The compère this year was Erika Sanderson as Carl Quaif was unavailable. She was assisted by Marie Biswell, who interpreted the announcements in sign language.

Brendan kicked off the concert conducting a rousing performance of Liberty Bell by Sousa. The theme of the concert was “childhood”, and the next items were two movements from Tales from Andersen by Martin Ellerby, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and The Red Shoes. After A Grand Day Out (the Wallace & Gromit theme), Alison Langer joined the band to sing O Mio Babbino Caro by Puccini. The whole programme is listed below, but the first half finished with a selection from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music.

During the interval the crowd were entertained by students from the Vivo d’Arte School of Theatre Arts, who sung a number of songs from musical shows. When the band returned to open the second half, it was with Looney Tunes cartoon music. The soloists starred again with Lawrence Thackeray singing Nessun Dorma from Turandot by Puccini, and he and Alison Langer came together to sing Con Te Partiro by Sartori and Quarantotto.

It was almost time for the Proms finale, but not before Chris Doyle conducted a selection from The Greatest Showman. Then came the moment the crowd had been waiting for, ready to join Alison Langer and the band singing Rule Britannia at the climax of Henry Wood’s Fantasia on British Sea Songs. This was followed by Jerusalem, with the singing led by Lawrence Thackeray. Last but not least, was Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March no. 1. In a break with precedent we performed the complete march, with Alison and Lawrence leading the singing of Land of Hope and Glory with the reprise of the big tune, which of course had to be encored.

The Mayor, Cllr Mike Smith, came on stage to thank everyone involved for all their hard work organising the ParkLife weekend and the concert, and to thank everyone in the audience who contributed to a collection for the Mayor’s charity, which this year was Youth Concern. Then after a countdown from the audience they were treated to a magnificent firework display to round off the evening.

Here is a list of the complete programme:–

TitleComposer / Arranger
The Liberty BellJohn Philip Sousa
Tales from Andersen
1: The Steadfast Tin Soldier
4: The Red Shoes
Martin Ellerby
A Grand Day OutJulian Nott
O Mio Babbino Caro
(with Alison Langer)
Giacomo Puccini, arr. Dave Richards
ThunderbirdsBarry gray, arr. Philip Sparke
Stephenson’s RocketNigel Hess
Dancing Round the NurseryRob Wiffin
The Sound of MusicOscar Hammerstein and Richard Rogers, arr. W.J. Duthoit
Looney Tunes OvertureArr. Bill Holcombe
Sinatra!Arr. Stephen Bulla
Nessun Dorma
(with Lawrence Thackeray)
Giacomo Puccini
Con Te Partiro
(with Lawrence Thackeray and Alison Langer)
F. Sartori and L. Quarantotto, arr. Frank Bernaerts
The Greatest Showmanarr. Paul Murtha
Fantasia on British Sea SongsHenry J. Wood, arr. W.J. Duthoit
Rule BritanniaThomas Arne
JerusalemHubert Parry, arr. Rob Wiffin
Pomp & Circumstance March No. 1Edward Elgar, arr. C. Evans