Christmas 2021

The Band returned to St Mary’s Church, Aylesbury in the evening of 5th December for the annual Mayor’s Carol Service. Like the Remembrance Service, this didn’t take place in 2020 because of covid, and the occasion was a little reduced this year compared with earlier years. There was no participation from any schools for example, no doubt because of the pandemic. However the church choir and Aylesbury Choral Society were there to help support the carol singing and Aylesbury Band and the organist to accompany the carols.

The Mayoral party arrived to the accompaniment of Majesty from A Little Ceremonial Music by Rob Wiffin played by the Band. After a welcome from the Reverend Doug Zimmerman, Rector of St Mary’s, the first carol, Once in Royal David’s City, was introduced by soloist Libby Hough from the church choir singing the first verse. After the first reading the Aylesbury Choral Society sang Hail to the Lord’s Anointed from The Nativity by Eric Thiman. The service continued with other readings interspersed with more music and carols. The Band played A Christmas Festival by Leroy Anderson, Infant Holy (a traditional Polish carol arranged by Rob Wiffin), and Christmas in the Nursery (also by Rob Wiffin). The church choir sang In Dulci Jubilo , and Aylesbury Choral Society sang How Brightly Beams the Morning Star, also by Eric Thiman, plus And the Glory of the Lord from The Messiah by Handel.

Following the Blessing from Reverend Zimmerman, the service finished with everyone singing We Wish You a Merry Christmas accompanied by the band. After this the evening was rounded off by Aylesbury Band playing Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson and Jingle Bells.

Then the following Saturday, 11th December, members of the Band played for the carols in Hampden Square, Aylesbury. This was another regular event that was cancelled in 2020. Though not as cold as in some years showery rain was forecast, but fortunately it stayed dry for the service. As well as carols, the Band accompanied Little Donkey, Winter Wonderland, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, and It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas. The crowd had to sing Jingle Bells so that Father Christmas would know where to go, and as usual they didn’t sing loud enough so it had to be repeated (twice!). Then Father Christmas arrived, and the band played Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

So the last event for the Band in 2021 came to an end. We were next due to play for the New Year’s Concert in Eaton Bray in January, but this was cancelled because of the uncertainty surrounding yet another covid variant causing alarm in some quarters. Will we be able to play a full programme of events in 2022? I hope so, but we shall have to wait and see.

Remembrance Service 2021

In 2018 Aylesbury Town Council and invited guests attended a special memorial service on the 11th November to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. This was such a moving occasion that it was felt that it should become an annual event, and Aylesbury Concert Band was again invited to provide some of the music in 2019. The covid pandemic curtailed all remembrance ceremonies in 2020 so the service couldn’t take place, but this year it was revived and Aylesbury Band were invited to take part once more. So on the evening of 11th November the Band set up in a darkened St Mary’s Church. The church had been prepared with stage lighting which could change colour to suit the mood of the moment, but for much of the time the Band was in virtual darkness, and stand lights were a necessity.

Before the service, as the congregation took their seats, the Band set the scene by playing Pavan: Sicut Aquilae by Rob Wiffin, and Hymn to the Fallen by John Williams, from the film Saving Private Ryan. Then as the Mayor’s party arrived they entered to the accompaniment of Elegy on the RAF March by Barrie Hingley.

The service was begun by the Mayor reading The Soldier by Rupert Brooke, after which the band played Solemn Melody by H. Walford Davies. Following a reading from the Gospel of St Luke, the band accompanied the singing of Jerusalem, Parry’s setting of the words of William Blake. The Band weren’t the only musicians taking part, for this was followed by the Aylesbury Consort of Voices, conductor Kelvin Turner, singing Justorum Animae by Stanford. Other readings and hymns followed, and an address from the rector of St Mary’s, Fr. Doug Zimmerman. Naturally the church choir also took part, they sang They are at Rest by Edward Elgar. The Aylesbury Consort of Voices performed For the Fallen, specially written for the occasion by Kelvin Turner and later, Holy is the True Light by William Henry Harris. Other music performed by the Band included the theme from Band of Brothers by Michael Kamen, and Nimrod from the Enigma Variations by Elgar.

Following the sounding of Last Post the congregation observed two minutes silence, during which images of poppies were projected onto the walls. Fr. Zimmerman said prayers and gave the Blessing, then the Band accompanied the hymn I Vow to thee, my Country and the singing of the National Anthem. Aylesbury Band then ended the service with a performance of Majesty from A Little Ceremonial Music by Rob Wiffin.

This was Aylesbury Band’s first performance under our new Director of Music John Brown, and judging by comments received by the council it was an undoubted success. We look forward now to returning to the church in December for a very different occasion, the Mayor’s Christmas Carol Service.

We’re Back! – Vale Park Proms 2021

The covid pandemic has been devastating for the performing arts, professionals, and amateurs alike. Restrictions meant that the Band played no concerts and had virtually no rehearsals for 14 months (an attempt to restart rehearsals in October 2020 had to be abandoned after just 3 weeks when restrictions were reimposed). All the regular events for which we provide music were cancelled, and all we could do was make Zoom recordings to keep the flame alive. A particular loss was the 2020 Vale Park Proms, a “last night of the Proms” concert we play every year to large and enthusiastic audiences. When we cautiously restarted rehearsals in May this year we hoped that the 2021 concert would go ahead and started rehearsing for it, but for weeks there was no certainty that it would actually take place.

But take place it did! To add to our woes our conductor had resigned during the lockdown, so we were fortunate to be able to call upon Brendan Gudgeon and Chris Doyle to share conducting the concert on the day. Spirits were high as the band set up on the stage in the park on 29th August, and by the time the concert was due to start barely a blade of grass could be seen as people crowded into the park, eager for live music and to gather and sing as a community once more.

The programme stuck to the tried and tested theme of music from shows and films, and what better opening could there be than music from the James Bond films? Then came the fast and furious music from The Incredibles. The next piece, Keep the Faith by Duncan Stubbs gave time to reflect on the events of the past year and perhaps remember loved ones who had died. Originally written for the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, this elegiac music suited the occasion perfectly.

Jollity quickly returned as the band played music from The Wizard of Oz, including such favourite songs as We’re Off to See the Wizard, and Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Then came Ducks in a Row, no. 3 of Aylesbury Dances written for Aylesbury Band by Rob Wiffin. Finally, Chris Doyle ended the first half by conducting selections from the musicals The Greatest Showman and Les Misérables.

After the interval, Brendan Gudgeon took to the rostrum to conduct Star Wars Saga, at which point a Star Wars Stormtrooper and a Jedi knight appeared on the stage to set the scene. In complete contrast this was followed by Can You Feel the Love Tonight from The Lion King.

The proms always features some fine singers and this year was no exception, as we were joined by Alison Langer who sang O Mio Babbino Caro from Gianni Schicchi by Puccini. Next came music from The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Now came the moment the audience had been waiting for, the “Proms” Finale, beginning with Henry Wood’s Fantasia on British Sea Songs. This ends with Rule Britannia which was sung by Alison Langer, with the audience joining in the choruses and waving their flags. Next Alison led the audience singing Jerusalem in the setting by Parry, and finally Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March no. 1, with Alison leading the audience in Land of Hope and Glory. Of course this had to be repeated! Then after a short speech from the Mayor, the Park Life weekend was brought to a close by a magnificent display of fireworks.

How wonderful it was to play to a live audience again after so long. The weather was kind, if cool, and the audience loved it. We have more engagements to look forward to, so let’s hope the worst of the pandemic is behind us and we’re not prevented from playing and entertaining people in the future.

Here is a video of the complete concert…

More details about the programme…

TitleComposer / Arranger
National Anthem
James Bond 007arr. Johan de Meij
Music from The IncrediblesMichael Giacchino, arr. Jay Bocook
Keep the FaithDuncan Stubbs
The Wizard of OzHarold Arlen & E.Y. Harburg, arr. James Barnes
Ducks in a row
(No. 3 of Aylesbury Dances)
Rob Wiffin
Selection from The Greatest Showmanarr. Paul Murtha
Selection from Les Misérablesarr. Warren Barker
Star Wars SagaJohn Williams, arr. Johan de Meij
Can You Feel the Love TonightElton John, arr. Jay Bocook
O Mio Babbino Caro (with Alison Langer, soprano)Giacomo Puccini, arr. Dave Richards
The Hunchback of Notre Dame, soundtrack highlightsAlan Menken, arr. Calvin Custer
Fantasia on British Sea SongsHenry J. Wood, arr. W.J. Duthoit
Rule Britannia (Alison Langer)Thomas Arne
JerusalemC. Hubert Parry arr. Rob Wiffin
Pomp and Circumstance March no. 1Edward Elgar, arr. C. Evans