Mayor’s Charity Concert

Aylesbury Band and Aylesbury Town Council put on a joint concert on the afternoon of 9th March in St Mary’s Church, Aylesbury. Entrance to the concert was free, but with a collection to raise money to be shared by the Band and the Mayor’s Charity, Carers Bucks. Unusually for our concerts the church was packed, and extra chairs had to be found for latecomers.

The programme consisted entirely of film and TV themes, even Queen in Concert had a film connection through the recent Best Motion Picture winner at the Golden Globes, Bohemian Rhapsody. But the concert started on a mysterious note with music from Jurassic Park by John Williams before breaking into the well known march theme from the film. After this came music from the blockbuster TV series Game of Thrones.

The 1990s BBC TV series about The Victorian Kitchen Garden had a gentle clarinet solo for its theme which became a chart topper for its performer, Emma Johnson. Clarinettist Julie-Marie James performed it here in an arrangement for clarinet and band made by the Band’s conductor for 10 years, Alan Mossford. After Queen in Concert, soloist Erica Miller played alto sax in the Love Theme from The Godfather. Following the foot-tapping Blues Brothers Revue, it was the turn of Alison Swindles to play the oboe solo Gabriel’s Oboe from the 1986 film The Mission, by Ennio Morricone. The first half then drew to a close with a selection from the evergreen Mary Poppins, including Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and A Spoonful of Sugar.

Everyone loves cartoons, so what better way to start the second half than with the Looney Tunes Overture. This and the next 4 pieces were conducted by the Band’s deputy conductor Chris Doyle. His next items were more music by John Williams, in a selection entitled John Williams Soundtrack Highlights, followed by Rey’s Theme from Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Then after the lively New Hampshire Hornpipe from On Golden Pond Chris finished his session with a selection from The Greatest Showman.

Robert Wicks then returned to conduct The Simpsons, followed by the grand finale, a selection from The Wizard of Oz. Of course the audience demanded an encore, so with the help of the audience clicking fingers and tapping knees to make the sound of raindrops, the band played Singin’ in the Rain.

In all the collection raised £676.20 for Carers Bucks and the Band. Thanks are due to Fr. Doug Zimmerman of St Mary’s for allowing the use of the church free of charge, and to Carl Quaif for acting as compère for the afternoon, and of course to Robert Wicks and Chris Doyle and all the members of the Band who give up their time to make entertaining music.

Eaton Bray 2019

The Band returned to Eaton Bray in Bedfordshire on 12th January for an afternoon concert marking the New Year. This has been an annual event since 2014, and the gratifyingly full church suggested our concert is still popular. This year our Musical Director Rob Wicks shared the conducting with our new assistant conductor Chris Doyle.

Rob Wicks directed the first half, opening with Strike up the Band by Gershwin. Music by Glenn Miller followed in Big Band Classics, then John Barry’s score for the film Out of Africa, and Finnegan’s Wake by A J Potter. A slow interlude was provided by Hymn Song of Lowell Mason before the jollity of Jupiter from The Planets by Gustav Holst. The next piece conjured up Argentina with the tango Por Una Cabeza, and the first half finished with the last part of Armenian Dances by Alfred Reed.

After the interval Chris Doyle took to the podium to conduct a selection from The Greatest Showman and music from the films Titanic and The Little Mermaid. Rob Wicks returned to take us to Spain with Malagueña, followed by Singin’ in the Rain complete with some sound effects from the audience making the sound of raindrops.

With the end of the concert approaching it was time for some music traditionally played at the New Year, starting with Tritsch Tratsch Polka by Johann Strauss, followed inevitably by The Blue Danube.

That was the end of the programme, but the enthusiastic applause from the audience meant we had to play an encore, so Rob Wicks conducted the Radetzky March by Johann Strauss Snr. So it looks like we may be invited back next year.

And Finally…

…for 2018, the band was invited to repeat their 2017 performance of Christmas carols on the local radio station, Mix 96. So, before dawn on the Friday before Christmas, Rob Wicks and a dozen members of the band squeezed into a tiny studio at the station, standing around the mixing desk with barely an inch to spare. We played two five minute sessions, several carols in one and White Christmas, Jingle Bells, and We Wish You a Merry Christmas in the other. A little different from the Breakfast Show’s usual mixture of pop music and chat, but maybe it helped whet people’s appetite for the Christmas festivities?

Fairford Leys Carol Service 2018

As darkness fell on Saturday 8th December the Band set up in Hampden Square, Aylesbury, for the annual Fairford Leys Carol service. It was a cold and windy evening, but not as cold as last year. However the event followed the same format, with an enactment of the Nativity story played by people in costume, including carols sung by everyone to the accompaniment of the Band. After this there was more community singing, including the perennial favourites White Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and The Twelve Days of Christmas. Finally, to guide Father Christmas to the right place, everyone sang Jingle Bells – but not loudly enough so they had to sing it again! After Father Christmas had arrived all that was left was to play We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

Mayor’s Carol Service 2018

Cover of the order of service

On 2nd December the Band returned to St Mary’s Church, Aylesbury, to take part in the annual Mayor’s Carol Service. The service was led by the rector, Reverend Doug Zimmerman, with readings by the Mayor of Aylesbury, Cllr Mark Willis, Mr Stephen Archibald, CEO of CarersBucks, David Lidington MP, and other community leaders.

Before the service, the Band played When a Child is Born by Ciro Damicco (“Zacar”) and Fred Jay, and Christmas Festival by Leroy Anderson. Then the arrival of the Mayor’s Procession was announced by Fanfare for Christmas by James Curnow. As well as the lessons and carols, in which the accompaniment was shared by the Band and the organist, there were musical contributions from several other groups. The Church choir sang Jesus Christ the Apple Tree by Elizabeth Poston, Bedgrove Junior School Choir sang Lo, a Rose E’er Blooming and The Song of the Magi, and Aylesbury Choral Society sang On Christmas Night All Christians Sing and Past Three O’Clock. The Band also provided a couple of musical interludes of its own, Midnight in Bethlehem (Away in a Manger and O Little Town of Bethlehem arranged by Warren Barker) and Mary’s Boy Child by Jester Hairston, arranged Philip Sparke. To round off the service Everyone sang We Wish You a Merry Christmas to the accompaniment of the Band.

One last tradition remained. While councillors from Aylesbury Town Council and members of Aylesbury Lions served mulled wine and mince pies to the congregation, the Band played The Proclamation of Christmas by Stephen Bulla and Jingle Bells.

Remembrance Sunday 2018

Remembrance Sunday this year occurred on 11th November, the exact 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, thus the day’s services and commemorations had even more significance than usual. Aylesbury Band was asked to play for two such services, first in Stone, a village outside Aylesbury, and later for the Mayor’s Remembrance Service at St Mary’s Church, Aylesbury.

The event at Stone was the conventional morning service outdoors at the recreation ground, encompassing the two minutes silence at 11.00am. Beforehand the band played the RAF March Past, and a medley of Songs of the Great War arranged by Rob Wiffin. The service included the hymns I vow to thee my Country, music by Gustav Holst, and Abide with Me. The start of two minutes silence was marked by a trumpet playing the Last Post, and at the end of the service the Band accompanied the singing of the National Anthem.

The Mayor’s service started at 5.30pm. Before the arrival of the Mayor the Band played part of The Sun will Rise Again by Philip Sparke, and then as the Mayoral party arrived, Nimrod from Elgar’s Enigma Variations. In a darkened church the band set the scene with Mars from The Planets by Gustav Holst. After a call to Remembrance by the Mayor, cllr Mark Willis, the congregation sang Abide with me accompanied by the band. After a reading of Moina Michael’s poem Keep the Faith by Sgt Joe McNicholas of the Air Cadets, the Band played the companion music for the poem written by Duncan Stubbs. Another poem followed, written and read by Cadet Edward Tagg of the Air Cadets, entitled Prima conclusio est infernum.

Following an address by the Vicar of Aylesbury, Fr. Doug Zimmerman, the band accompanied the congregation singing Jerusalem, and Mrs Barbara Grant of the Aylesbury British Legion read Perhaps by Vera Brittain.

A group of young people from Community Unity Projects in period costumes were led by Roisin Willetts in enacting readings of Diaries and Letters from the Trenches, many written by or to local people.

This was also a celebration of the ending of the war, however. Soprano Alison Langer sang Tell Your Heart to Beat Again by Danny Gorkey, and the Band played the middle and final sections of Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity from The Planets, with its noble tune later used as a hymn I Vow to Thee my Country. Following prayers led by Fr. Doug Zimmerman, the Blessing was said by the Bishop of Buckingham, Rt. Revd. Dr. Alan Wilson, and the congregation sang two verses of the National Anthem.

As the Mayor and guests left, the Band played Songs of the Great War, arranged by Rob Wiffin.

Afterwards we were honoured and delighted to receive a letter of thanks from the Mayor, in which he said

I would like to pass on my thanks and admiration on behalf of all who attended the Mayor’s Remembrance Service at St Marys Church on Sunday, for the beautiful, powerful and profoundly moving rendition of Holst’s Planets suite, Mars and Jupiter.

Sitting in the front row with the full power of the pieces you were playing, the music being forced into us was a remarkable experience. I found it deeply unsettling and moving, the whole atmosphere, the lighting and your excellent musicianship made it one of the most memorable and moving experiences of my life, truly unforgettable.

Vale Park Proms 2018

This has been a glorious summer for holidaymakers, sun lovers and fête organisers, perhaps less so for farmers and growers, gardeners and water companies. For Aylesbury Band and conductor Robert Wicks, though, the question was would there be good weather for the Vale Park Proms on Sunday 26th August? Sadly the answer seemed to be no, by 10.00am that morning it was raining steadily, and it continued to rain for the next six hours. However, by the time we arrived to set up for a rehearsal at 5.00pm it had just about stopped. The concert started at 7.15, and by then, despite another shower of rain, a large crowd had gathered (official estimates say it was over 1000 people, perhaps nearer 1500). Many had brought picnics along with their umbrellas and raincoats, this is England after all!

So despite the clouds and damp, and the blustery breeze, the show must go on. The concert had a theme: “around the world in 80 minutes”, and began in the USA with The Stars and Stripes by John Philip Sousa, followed by music from the Disney film Frozen.

The Band was then joined by our first two soloists, tenor Lawrence Thackeray and soprano Alison Langer, who sang Tonight from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein. This was particularly fitting as the day before had been the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth.

Next stop on the world tour was Argentina, and the tango Por una Cabeza by Carlos Gardel (which was featured in a famous tango scene in the 1992 film Scent of a Woman). Then to Russia, and the 2nd waltz from Jazz Suite No. 2 by Dmitri Shostakovich (which was used in another film, Eyes Wide Shut). From there we travelled to India and Jai Ho, exuberant music from Slumdog Millionaire which featured the percussion. Time for a quieter interlude as we moved on to Africa to play the film theme Out of Africa by John Barry. To end the first half it was back to Asia and part of Armenian Dances, based on Armenian folk tunes by American composer Alfred Reed.

During the interval the audience were entertained by Hartbeats West African drummers. When the Band returned for part 2, we found ourselves in Spain with Malagueña by Ernesto Lecuona, and then Lawrence Thackeray returned to the stage to sing O Sole Mio by Eduardo di Capua and Giovanni Capurro. Cheekily he sang “just one Cornetto” to the last verse!

Then it was the turn of the incredibly talented young violinist Shona Beecham who played Czardas by Vittorio Monti accompanied by the band. Shona, who lives in Aylesbury, is just 15, but she’s been playing the violin since she was 7 and currently attends the Royal College of Music Junior Department. She made her her debut at 9 and played her first concerto publicly at 12. She has performed not only in the UK, but also in New York (at the Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall), Switzerland, France, Austria and Germany.

From Italy we hopped across the Alps to Austria as Alison Langer returned to sing the Laughing Song from Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss II. Then to France and the Can Can from Orpheus in the Underworld by Offenbach. Next stop was Ireland, and Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance, music by Ronan Hardiman. Finally it was back to England and another film theme, The Dam Busters by Eric Coates.

Now it was time for the audience to join in with the grand “last night of the proms” finale, beginning with Jerusalem by Hubert Parry, sung by Lawrence Thackeray. Then the Band played Fantasia on British Sea Songs by Henry Wood, joined by Alison Langer at the end to lead the audience in singing Rule Britannia. Finally it was time for Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March no. 1 with the audience and soloists joining in singing the refrain Land of Hope and Glory. Of course, this had to be repeated.

Before this the Mayor, Mark Willis, had come on stage to thank everyone who had taken part, and thank all the organisers of the ParkLife weekend. He also thanked the audience for contributing generously to the Mayor’s Charity this year, Carers Bucks, an independent charity established in 2004 to support the wellbeing of unpaid, family carers in Buckinghamshire.

Finally, after a countdown from the audience led by the evening’s compère, Carl Quaif, a fireworks display brought the weekend events to a sparkling end.

The local paper, The Bucks Herald, has a report with pictures of the weekend’s events, including the Vale Park Proms.

RAF Summer Dinner

The band had an unscheduled outing on Thursday 26th July when we were engaged to play for the Officers’ Mess Summer Dinner at RAF High Wycombe. Whatever the reason, with less than three weeks to go the organisers had found themselves without a band to provide music for the occasion. This was when they contacted Aylesbury Concert Band. Fortunately we were able to oblige, though not without the help of a number of deps. At this time of year we have a lot of light music in the pad from playing at fêtes, which are ideal for accompanying a dinner like this, so conductor Rob Wicks was able to put together and rehearse a programme very quickly.

The dinner was planned to be held on the lawn outside the Officers’ Mess, which might have been risky given British weather, but the 2018 heatwave was still going strong and it was another sweltering hot day. As the band set up ready to play from 7.00pm the temperature was still nearly 30°C so we began the evening in shirtsleeves. We played for a while as the diners were enjoying aperitifs, and then played two sessions during the dinner with a break between. It was actually quite enjoyable to be playing outside on such a warm evening.

An evening such as this always ends with a loyal toast, to which the band plays the National Anthem. On this occasion one of the guests was from Holland, so a second toast to the king of the Netherlands was called for, requiring the Band to play the Dutch National Anthem.

The whole evening was a little outside the band’s normal experience, so all credit to the members for coming out at such short notice and playing well. One of the organisers emailed the next day to say Thanks from the Officers’ Mess at RAF High Wycombe to … the whole of the band for a superb performance last night. The music was outstanding and was commented on by so many people last night and this morning.

Summer Fêtes 2018

June this year was the driest on record, and as the days passed the weather grew warmer and warmer, staying hot and sunny as June faded into July. As I write, some places in south east England have had no rain for 7 weeks, and the forecasters see very little change on the horizon. So on Saturday 7th July we plastered on sun cream and dug out our summer hats ready for our annual visit to Fairford Leys Summer Fair. We play on the bandstand in Hampden square, which affords some of the band some shade, but not for everyone.

This year was a little different from normal, as the date coincided with the England / Sweden football match in the 2018 World Cup, due to begin at 3.00pm. Our second session was brought forward to finish then, as the organisers had organised a large screen TV in the community centre to show the match. To get into the spirit of things conductor Rob Wicks had added Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home) and Rule Britannia to the programme.

In other respects this was a normal fête. In the first session we played West Side Story, A Grand Day Out, a selection from South Pacific, Caravan and music from the film Frozen. The second half opened with Strike Up the Band, then Disney at the Movies, A Walk in the Black Forest, the Muppet theme, and a selection from My Fair Lady, as well as Three Lions and Rule Britannia already mentioned.

One week later, on 14th July, the band was asked to play for a street party in Kingsbrook, a very new housing estate being built to the south east of Aylesbury. The builders were putting this on for the first new residents, and although intended to be a street party, for whatever reason it was moved to the car park of the nearby pub The Dog House. The gravel car park wasn’t the ideal place for the event, but they had laid on a burger bar, free soft drinks and ice creams (the pub was open for anything stronger), and face painting and a balloon modeller to entertain the children. And Aylesbury Concert Band to provide music!

Again the day was hot and sunny, but we were sheltered by a wide gazebo. We played a very similar programme to Fairford Leys the week before. England were involved in a World Cup match again, but this time it was the third-place play-off against Belgium so there was considerably less excitement (unfortunately England lost as well, but at least something is normal this summer).

The organizers were impressed by the Band’s performance, and if it’s not too presumptuous to say so, it would have been a very dull event without us.

This was our last engagement before the Vale Park Proms on 26th August, now it’s time to start rehearsing for that.

Stone Fête 2018

The morning of the Spring Bank holiday on 28th May was overcast and showery, which wasn’t promising for the fête that afternoon in Stone (a large village outside Aylesbury). However the day brightened, and just as the fête was officially opened the sun began to shine, and the weather stayed pleasantly warm and sunny for the rest of the afternoon. The band was shaded by a marquee, as playing in the direct heat of the sun can be as difficult as playing in wind or cold.

The Band played two sets. The first opened with a selection from My Fair Lady, followed by A Grand Day Out (the Wallace & Gromit theme). After music from South Pacific came Caravan by Duke Ellington, and the set finished with music from the Disney film Frozen.

Five band members in front of a large gorilla
Some of the woodwind with a friend.

Later the second set began with Disney at the Movies, and the sixties easy listening hit A Walk in the Black Forest by Horst Jankowski. Then after Chitty Chitty Bang Bang the set finished with music from West Side Story.

It was quite a pleasant afternoon’s music making, let’s hope the weather is as kind for the other fêtes we’ll be playing at this summer.