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