On the 8th July Aylesbury Concert Band played on the bandstand in Hampden Square, Aylesbury, for the Fairford Leys Summer Fayre. Before the covid pandemic this was an annual event for the band, but this was the first time the band had performed there since 2019. It was a warm but cloudy day, with rain showers threatened, but fortunately it stayed dry while the band was playing.
The band was conducted by Brendan Gudgeon, and played much the same programme as Stone Fête in May, including Sousa Scramble and West Side Story. Having a band at these occasions is a long-standing tradition, and adds so much to the cheerful atmosphere enjoyed by the crowd.
The bank holiday Monday on 29th May dawned cloudy with a blustery wind, which was a shame as the day before had been warm and sunny and would have been much nicer for the fête at Stone, near Aylesbury. As it was the sun began to appear as the band set up to play, but the wind was as strong as ever. This makes it difficult, as music has to be pegged to the stand to stop it blowing away, but then it’s impossible to turn pages quickly. Several times music escaped anyway and had to be chased before it was lost.
The band was conducted by Brendan Gudgeon, and began with Strike Up the Band by George Gershwin. Other music we played included selections from musicals such as Les Misérables and West Side Story, medleys of classic rock and pop numbers by Queen and Coldplay, familiar tunes from Disney movies, and A Grand Day Out (the “Wallace and Gromit” theme).
Though it may have been windy the fête was well attended, and featured numerous stalls, a busy tearoom in the pavilion, and a beautiful vintage carousel. Some members of the band couldn’t resist having a ride on it during the interval.
On the evening of 25th March the Band joined forces with the Aylesbury Music Centre senior band to present a concert at the Centre’s premises. The audience of parents and friends also included several distinguished guests including Rob Butler, MP for Aylesbury, the Mayor of Aylesbury, Cllr Tim dixon and His Honour Judge Sheridan.
The Music Centre band played the first half and Aylesbury Band the second, with both bands coming together for the finale. The Music Centre band played a variety of music, including the entertaining Padstow Lifeboat by Malcolm Arnold and a challenging piece (whose title I cannot remember!) originally commissioned by an American High School Band. Aylesbury Band’s programme included an arrangement of the Beatles’ number Ticket to Ride and Country Gardens by Percy Grainger, and the finale ended with the joint bands playing The Symphonic Gershwin, an arrangement of music by George Gershwin.
As well as demonstrating the high level of musicianship fostered by the Music Centre, the teenagers themselves were excited by the experience of playing with a full size band. We hope that they will be inspired to continue playing after they leave school, whatever career path they choose. Even if only as a leisure pursuit, music is an enjoyable and rewarding pastime throughout life, and of course, as the years pass bands and orchestras will need new young talent if they are to survive and grow.
The main Christmas event for the Band was the Aylesbury Mayor’s Carol Service at St Mary’s Parish Church on 4th December. The service was led by Fr. Doug Zimmerman, rector of St Mary’s, with readings from scripture by the Mayor, Cllr. Tom Dixon, Cllr Richard Lloyd, leader of the Town Council, Judge Sheridan, Recorder of Aylesbury, Debbie Brock, High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire, and other councillors and representatives of local charities. The Band was conducted by our new Director of Music, Brendan Gudgeon.
Before the service began, the Band played A Christmas Festival by Leroy Anderson, then as the Mayor’s procession entered the church Festival Fanfare by John Wasson. Other music was provided by St Mary’s Church Choir, the Aylesbury Music Centre Choir, and Bedgrove Junior School Choir. During the service Aylesbury Band played to accompany the carol singing, and some other Christmas music, including:–
Scherzo Variation from A Christmas Suite by David Barker
Ye Merry Gentlemen from Three Carols from Olde England by Duncan Stubbs.
Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson
At the end the Band accompanied everyone singing We Wish You a Merry Christmas, and played Rob Wiffin’s arrangement of the Farandole from L’Arlésienne by Georges Bizet.
Then the following Saturday, 10th December the Band returned to Fairford Leys to play for the Carol Service in Hampden Square. This event seemed a little reduced compared to some previous years, the Band simply accompanied the singing of a number of carols, led by a children’s choir on the bandstand in the square. As usual the last item was Jingle Bells, sung to let Father Christmas know where to go, until he arrived with gifts of sweets for the children.
So ended our year of music making. Brendan has hinted at some exciting events for next year, so we look forward to 2023 with anticipation.
In what has become an annual event the Aylesbury Town Mayor’s Remembrance Service this year took place on 10th November at St Mary’s, Aylesbury Parish Church. Aylesbury Concert Band were honoured to be invited to play an important role providing some of the music, together with the Aylesbury Consort of Voices, conductor Kelvin Turner, and St Mary’s Church Choir. The Band was conducted by our new Director of Music, Brendan Gudgeon.
In the darkened church before the Mayoral party arrived the Band played the theme from the TV series Band of Brothers, and as the Mayor arrived and processed up the church, David of the White Rock. After the Welcome and Bidding Prayer by the rector of St Mary’s, Fr Doug Zimmerman, the congregation were accompanied by the Band in singing Jerusalem in the setting by C. Hubert Parry. Following a reading by the Mayor, Cllr Tim Dixon, the Band played Solemn Melody by Walford Davies. After another reading by L/Cpl Harrison Isom of the Buckinghamshire (The Rifles) ACF, the Aylesbury Consort of Voices sang My Soul There is a Country by Parry.
The next reading, Unless You’ve Been a Soldier, was by Cadet Elliot Miles of the Aylesbury Sea and Royal Marine Cadets, then the Church Choir (conductor Kenton Brigden) sang View Me Lord by Richard H. Lloyd. After this Cadet Flight Sergeant Madeline Smith from the Aylesbury Air Training Corps read Our Wall by William Walker. Everyone then joined in singing Abide With Me accompanied by the organ. Following an address by Fr Doug Zimmerman the Band played Hymn to the Fallen (from the film Saving Private Ryan) by John Williams.
Next the Aylesbury Consort of Voices performed For the Fallen, a piece specially written for this service by their conductor, Kelvin Turner. Then came the heart of the service, the Exhortation:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.
(read by the Vice Chairman of the Royal British Legion, Aylesbury Branch, Mr Brian Morris)
Norman Bartlett, trumpet, sounded the Last Post, which was followed by two minutes’ silence, during which a shower of red paper symbolising poppies fell from the ceiling (and all over the Band!) before Norman sounded Reveille.
Following prayers and a blessing by Fr Zimmerman, and the Lord’s Prayer, the Aylesbury Consort of Voices sang They are at Rest by Edward Elgar, and Aylesbury Band accompanied the congregation singing I Vow to Thee my Country by Gustav Holst and two verses of the National Anthem. The service came to an end with the Band playing Nimrod from the Enigma Variations by Edward Elgar.
Music is a vital part of civic occasions like this, conveying so much more than words can alone. We were pleased to be able to contribute to the atmosphere of such a solemn and moving service, and play our part in the town’s remembrance of those who gave their lives in the service of our country.
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
Composer / Arranger
Mars from The Planets
Go the Distance, from the film “Hercules”
Alan Menken, arr. Jay Bocook
Selections from Encanto
Lin-Manuel Miranda, arr. Paul Murtha
The Land Called Chicora
Beauty and the Beast (with Eleanor Sanderson-Nash, soprano)
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 Medley
Jo Hisaishi, arr. Kazuhiro Morita
The Legend of Zorro
James Horner, arr. Michael Brown
Can-Can (from overture to Orpheus in the Underworld)
Jacques Offenbach, arr. Lawrence Odom
C. 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)
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:
Composer / Arranger
Century Point Written for the millennium in 2000.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
Composer / Arranger
James Bond 007
arr. Johan de Meij
Music from The Incredibles
Michael Giacchino, arr. Jay Bocook
Keep the Faith
The Wizard of Oz
Harold Arlen & E.Y. Harburg, arr. James Barnes
Ducks in a row (No. 3 of Aylesbury Dances)
Selection from The Greatest Showman
arr. Paul Murtha
Selection from Les Misérables
arr. Warren Barker
Star Wars Saga
John Williams, arr. Johan de Meij
Can You Feel the Love Tonight
Elton John, arr. Jay Bocook
O Mio Babbino Caro (with Alison Langer, soprano)
Giacomo Puccini, arr. Dave Richards
The Hunchback of Notre Dame, soundtrack highlights