Vale Park Proms 2022

The August bank holiday weekend this year came towards the end of a prolonged heatwave with temperatures climbing into the 30s celsius (over 90° F) and drought. Fortunately the worst of the heat had abated, but it was still shirtsleeve weather as we set up for the Proms concert in Vale Park, Aylesbury on 28th August. This was part of the Annual ParkLife weekend organised every year by Aylesbury Town Council, which is always a popular event. This year was no exception as several thousand people crowded into the park for the concert.

We should have been joined again by soprano Alison Langer, but unfortunately she was unwell on the day and her place was taken at the last moment by Eleanor Sanderson-Nash. We had also expected to be conducted by John Brown, our Director of Music who is a musician and bandmaster in the army, but much to our disappointment (and his annoyance) the army had decided to post him to a band too far away for him to continue conducting Aylesbury Band. Instead we were pleased to welcome back Brendan Gudgeon, who has conducted the band on several occasions before, including the Proms in 2019 and 2021.

The theme of the concert this year was “Myths and Legends”, and it opened dramatically with Mars, the Bringer of War from The Planets by Gustav Holst. Some might have thought this was rather grim, but they needn’t have worried, because it was followed by Go the Distance from the film Hercules, and music from the 2021 Disney Film Encanto. Following this was The Land Called Chicora, an original work for band by Paul Murtha (Chicora was a legendary Native American kingdom or tribe – Wikipedia).

Next we were joined by Eleanor Sanderson-Nash who sang Beauty and the Beast from the Disney film of that name, and then the first half ended with Phoenix Rising by Rob Wiffin.

More film music opened the second half, starting with How to Train Your Dragon, and Into the Unknown from Frozen II. Music by Jo Hisaishi from Japanese animation films followed, and The Legend of Zorro by James Horner. The last item before the “proms” finale was the can-can from the overture to Orpheus in the Underworld by Offenbach.

So now it was time for the audience to take part, waving their flags and light sticks, joining Eleanor Sanderson-Nash in singing Parry’s setting of Jerusalem. Henry Wood’s Fantasia on British Sea Songs (ending with Eleanor singing Rule Britannia), and Land of Hope and Glory in Pomp and Circumstance March no. 1 by Edward Elgar.

All that was left was a speech from the Mayor thanking everyone who contributed to a collection for the Mayor’s charity, and the presentation of gifts to the conductor and soloist. But that wasn’t quite all, because this was the cue for a spectacular firework display.

This event seems to grow more and more popular every year, so no doubt the Band will be invited back to take part in 2023. Maybe the council will soon have to find a bigger park?

The concert was live-streamed on the internet, and you can watch a recording on YouTube…

The Complete Programme

TitleComposer / Arranger
Mars from The PlanetsGustav Holst
Go the Distance, from the film “Hercules”Alan Menken, arr. Jay Bocook
Selections from EncantoLin-Manuel Miranda, arr. Paul Murtha
The Land Called ChicoraPaul Murtha
Beauty and the Beast
(with Eleanor Sanderson-Nash, soprano)
Alan Menken
Phoenix RisingRob Wiffin
Music from “How to Train Your Dragon”John Powell, arr. Sean O’Loughlin
Into the Unknown (from Frozen II)Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, arr. Paul Murtha
Animation Songs MedleyJo Hisaishi, arr. Kazuhiro Morita
The Legend of ZorroJames Horner, arr. Michael Brown
Can-Can (from overture to Orpheus in the Underworld)Jacques Offenbach, arr. Lawrence Odom
JerusalemC. Hubert Parry, arr. Rob Wiffin
Fantasia on British Sea Songs (including Rule Britannia, with Eleanor Sanderson-Nash)Henry Wood, arr. W J Duthoit. (Rule Britannia arr. Alan Mossford)
Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 (inc. Land of Hope and Glory)Edward Elgar

Mayor’s Charity Concert 2022

Aylesbury Concert Band performing in St Mary's Church, Aylesbury.
Photo by Steve Cook, Aylesbury & District News

In 2019 Aylesbury Town Council and the Band put on a concert to raise money for the Mayor’s Charity (each year the new Mayor selects a local charity to sponsor and support). The concert was such a success that it was decided it should become a regular event, but unfortunately the covid pandemic put paid to that in 2020 and 2021. This year however, with restrictions lifted, the concert was able to go ahead on 9th April in support of the charity Aylesbury Women’s Aid. In a brief address to the audience the Mayor, Cllr Anders Christensen, explained why he had chosen to support this charity. In his role as a councillor he had been horrified to learn that two out of every three recorded crimes in Aylesbury concern domestic violence. AWA provides support, advice and refuge to women in abusive relationships and their children, and when Cllr Christensen became Mayor he determined they should receive his support.

None of these grim statistics were evident in the concert, however. Conductor John Brown had selected a programme of Celebration, this being the year of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee having reigned for 70 years. Almost every piece celebrated some sort of anniversary, opening with Century Point, written by Robert Sheldon to celebrate the millennium in 2000. The full programme is listed below, but other highlights included the 35th anniversary of Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the 70th birthday of John Williams, composer of music for a multitude of films, and other pieces recalling the early years of the Queen’s reign. The concert ended on a patriotic note, with Jerusalem by Parry and Pomp and Circumstance March no. 1 by Elgar (a complete performance), with the tune well known as Land of Hope and Glory.

It would have been nice had the audience been a little larger, in 2019 extra chairs had to be found because of the numbers, nevertheless the audience’s donations raised a worthwhile sum to be shared between AWA and the Band.

Here is the complete programme:

TitleComposer / Arranger
National Anthem
Century Point
Written for the millennium in 2000.
Robert Sheldon
Olympic Fanfare and Hymn
Celebrating the Olympics and John Williams’ 70th birthday
John Williams, arr. James Curnow
Phantom of the Opera
35th anniversary of its West End opening.
Andrew Lloyd Webber, arr. Warren Barker
Somewhere (from West Side Story), arranged for cor anglais solo with small wind ensemble, featuring Alison Swindles, cor anglais.
New film version of West Side Story released in 2022, also celebrating Stephen Sondheim, 1930 – 2021.
Leonard Bernstein, with words by Stephen Sondheim.
Folk Song Suite, 1st movement Seventeen Come Sunday.
150 years since the birth of Vaughan Williams.
Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Queen in Concert
52 years since the founding of Queen in 1970.
arr. Jay Bocook.
Suite of Old American Dances. No.3: Western One-Step and no.1: Cakewalk.
Celebration of American Dance.
Robert Russell Bennett
Theatre Music, 2nd movement: Entr’acte.
Philip Sparke’s 70th birthday.
Philip Sparke
The Beatles – Echoes of an Era
The Platinum Jubilee.
Arr. John Higgins
Elizabethan Serenade.
The Platinum Jubilee.
Ronald Binge, arr. W J Duthoit.
Are You Sitting Comfortably
A medley of radio programme theme tunes from the early 1950s, celebrating the Platinum jubilee.
Fauré, Williams, Strachey, Wood, Guiliani, and Rossini, arr. Rob Wiffin.
JerusalemC Hubert Parry, arr. Rob Wiffin
Pomp and Circumstance March no. 1Edward Elgar

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

2020 News

I’m sure you will all agree 2020 has been an interesting year and our music making has definitely been impacted by Covid -19. However Aylesbury Concert Band has still been busy!

Here’s some of what we have been up to in 2020 so far……….

Back in March, just before we went into our first national lockdown, we were very fortunate to be able to run a band Development Day. We were delighted to be joined by past conductor Claire Lawrence and Band President Rob Wiffin who made it a thoroughly enjoyable day introducing us to new pieces by composers such as Philip Sparke, Nigel Hess, Michael Markowski and Steven Bryant. As always they certainly put us through our paces!

Composite of 4 photos from the ACB development day, March 2020

Sadly that was the last time we were able to play together for a few months but we have managed to stay in touch with each other via our weekly band zoom calls.

These calls have proved very popular (so popular in fact various pets are also now regular participants!) and are a welcome chance to catch up with the folks we are used to seeing every Wednesday. As you would expect the chat covers a variety of subjects and we have also had our brains stretched with a couple of quizzes.

During the summer, while regulations still meant we were unable to play together, several band members stepped out of their comfort zones to record solo performances which were then skilfully edited together by our Musical Directors to produce video performances from the band. This is apparently quite a tricky process but the end results were worth it! Our first online performance was our own version of Somewhere Over the rainbow, played as a tribute to all NHS staff, carers and essential workers. Every year we usually play at the Aylesbury Vale Proms in The park, one of our favourite engagements. Sadly this year, as expected, this was cancelled and prompted our next recording Hits from the Proms. Follow these links to hear and see them on the band Facebook page. Enjoy!

New Year Concert 2020

On the afternoon of 11th January the Band returned to Eaton Bray for the New Year Concert. This was the 7th year we’ve been there, or the 8th if you include the children’s concert in February 2013, and it’s gratifying that the band’s popularity seems undiminished, with a capacity audience filling St Mary’s church. Fortunately the weather wasn’t so cold as in some years, although it was overcast with showery rain.

The concert was conducted by Chris Doyle. It opened with the lively Yorkshire Overture by Philip Sparke, followed by Adam Gorb’s fusion of Jewish music and ragtime in Eine Kleine Yiddische Ragmusik. A quiet interlude with the second movement of Theatre Music by Philip Sparke was followed by the lively London Bridge March by Eric Coates and Waltz no. 2 from the second “Jazz Suite” by Shostakovich. The first half ended with two of the Aylesbury Dances by Rob Wiffin, Pavane: The Town and Frolic: Ducks in a Row.

The second half began with Mozart, the overture to The Marriage of Figaro. Next came a work which would be unfamiliar to the audience, The Eighth Candle – Prayer and Dance for Hanukkah by Steve Reisteter. Of course Hanukkah is hardly a New Year festival, but the music is worth playing, consisting of a slow solemn section followed by a lively dance with irregular time signatures. No such unfamiliarity with the next piece though, music from the Disney film Frozen. The rest of the concert returned to the dance theme, with Lord of the Dance, the Can-Can from Orpheus in the Underworld by Offenbach, and (just in case anyone thought we’d forgotten it was New Year) The Beautiful Blue Danube by Johann Strauss.

That was the last piece in the programme, but the audience demanded an encore, so we played another traditional piece for New Year, the Radetzky March by Johann Strauss.

The Band has already been invited back for another New Year concert in 2021. It’s very pleasing to think that our efforts to entertain should be so appreciated.

Christmas 2019

Christmas came early for the Band this year when the Mayor’s Carol Service at St Mary’s Church took place on the 1st December. Once again the Band played a prominent role in the service, beginning with some music to set the scene before the Mayor’s party arrived, including White Christmas and A Vaughan Williams Christmas. Then as the Mayor’s procession entered the church the Band Played the Pavane, no.1 from Aylesbury Dances by Rob Wiffin. As well as accompanying some of the carols, the Band also played A Winter’s Tale by Philip Sparke, and music from the Disney film Frozen. The service finished with We Wish You a Merry Christmas, after which the Band played White Christmas while mulled wine and mince pies were served to the congregation.

The following Saturday, 7th December, the Band provided music for Fairford Leys Carols in Hampden Square, Aylesbury. Although it wasn’t as cold as some years the weather had been very wet for weeks, but fortunately it stayed dry for most of the time on this occasion. As in recent years young people enacted a nativity play while the crowd joined in singing carols accompanied by the Band. Afterwards the Band played for community singing, including White Christmas, Let it Snow, and The 12 Days of Christmas. Finally everyone had to sing Jingle Bells so Father Christmas would know where to come. Of course, they didn’t sing loud enough and it had to be repeated before he arrived with sweets for the children.

Finally on Friday 20th, well before dawn, a dozen members of the band with their instruments and music stands squeezed into a tiny studio at Mix96, the local radio station, in order to play on the Breakfast Show. In a couple of sessions they first played a selection of Christmas Carols, and later White Christmas and Jingle Bell Rock. Rather different from the station’s usual fare, but let’s hope it brought some Christmas cheer for people on their way to work.

Remembrance 2019

In 2018 Aylesbury Town Council held a special service before Remembrance Sunday at the parish church to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. It was such a moving occasion that the Mayor, Cllr Mike Smith, decided to hold a similar service again this year in conjunction with the Royal British Legion. It took place on the evening of 7th November and was led by the vicar of St Mary’s, Fr. Doug Zimmerman.

Once again the Band played a large part in providing the music, starting with Nimrod from Elgar’s Enigma Variations as the Mayoral party processed down the church. As well as accompanying the hymns, the Band played Keep the Faith by Duncan Stubbs, David of the White Rock, arranged by David Cresswell, and Band of Brothers by Michael Kamen. At points during the service the names of local people who died in the world wars were read out by young people from the Police Cadets, the Sea Cadets and the Army Cadet Force. As well as other readings, music was also provided by the Church choir, who sang My Soul, There is a Country by Hubert Parry, and the Aylesbury Youth Choir, who sang Peace Song. The Band finished the service with the National anthem, and then played Songs of the Great War, a medley arranged by Rob Wiffin.

Then on Remembrance Sunday itself the Band again provided music for the ceremony at the War Memorial in Stone, a village near Aylesbury. Luckily the day was dry and sunny, though cold, but the ground in the park where the band set up was quite muddy after the amount of rain we’d had recently. Prior to the service the Band played to set the scene, including Keep the Faith by Duncan Stubbs, David of the White Rock, and Band of Brothers. The Band played for the hymns during the service, and afterwards played Songs of the Great War.

Best of 25 Years

The exact date is lost in the mist of time, but it’s generally agreed that Aylesbury Band came into being in 1994, meaning this year the Band is 25 years old. So on the afternoon of 12th October we held a Gala Concert at Holy Trinity Church celebrating the highlights of the Band’s history, welcoming back some previous Musical Directors, and featuring the premiere of a new work for band specially commissioned for the occasion. Among the audience were several special guests, including Sir Henry Aubrey-Fletcher, Lord Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire, and Judy Brandis, chairman of Aylesbury Vale District Council. We also welcomed members of Alan Mossford’s family. Alan played a major role in the Band’s development for 10 years and would have been our guest of honour had he not died earlier this year .

Some of the concert was conducted by Brendan Gudgeon and Chris Doyle, but we were delighted to have previous Directors of music come and conduct us as well. Duncan Stubbs was our conductor from 2006 to 2009, when he was appointed Principal Director of Music for the Royal Air Force, and Claire Lawrence led the Band from 2011 to 2014. She is now Bandmaster of the Coldstream Guards, clearly conducting Aylesbury Band does no harm to anyone’s career!

The programme included several pieces that we had played at the National Concert Band Festival over the years, but the highlight of the first half was the first performance of Aylesbury Dances, commissioned for the occasion from Rob Wiffin. Rob is a previous Principal DoM of the RAF, and is now professor of conducting at Kneller Hall, the Army music college. He has conducted Aylesbury Band a number of times on development weekends and playdays, so knows us well. Aylesbury Dances consists of three linked movements entitled

  • Pavane: The Town
  • Siciliana: Waterside
  • Frolic: Ducks in a Row

The first is in ceremonial style inspired by the town’s connection with royalty, particular Henry VIII. The second is a quiet interlude, imagine strolling along the canal towpath early on a Sunday morning. The third movement… Well, Rob Wiffin seems to like fast movements to be very fast, and the music conjures up the idea of a slapstick movie of people trying to herd ducks! It’s witty and entertaining, but something of a challenge to play.

I’m pleased to say we had a good sized audience, including several ex-members of the band who have moved away. At the end of the concert we were treated to an impromptu speech by one such member, Roger Pethers, who now lives in Kent. He and his wife Carole were founder members of the band, and Roger briefly recounted how the Band was formed, along with some anecdotes about the early years.