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Christmas Celebration 2013

A festive spirit was in the air at London’s Guildhall on Tuesday and Wednesday night as the Central Band’s brass group joined a glittering lineup for The Royal British Legion’s Christmas Celebration. The two nights of seasonal music and readings in mid-December have fast become an unmissable part of The Legion’s yearly events programme.

Leading the singing were the scintillating Bach Choir who performed a number of carols including the enchanting ‘Balulalow’ and lively ‘Holly and the Ivy’. Also taking to the stage were classical girl group All Angels with their take on ‘Infant Holy’ and ‘Ding, dong! merrily on high’.
The music was interspersed by readings and lessons. These were performed over the two evenings by Frank Gardner, Tamsin Grieg, Susan Jameson, Michael Jayston, Sir Timothy Ackroyd, Sarah Badel, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Alastair Stewart.

The Central Band brass group added a touch of the upbeat and modern. ‘Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer’, ‘I’ll be home for Christmas’ and ‘Frosty the snowman’ all featured in Captain David Cole’s two arrangements … and, to the delight of the audience, Captain Cole himself featured on percussion!

The Bach Choir, the Central Band and Organ combined to lead the audience in a number of carols before a rousing rendition of ‘We wish you a merry Christmas’ reminded all present that it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

 

Epsom Concert of Remembrance 2012

With the 2012 Festival of Remembrance paying tribute to Bomber Command, there was no more fitting way to open the Central Band’s annual Epsom Concert of Remembrance than with the famous march ‘Dambusters’.

Highlights of the first half included Marvin Hamlish’s beautiful ‘Through the Eyes of Love’ featuring the trumpet of Tim Mulkern and a haunting alto sax solo by Phil Willans playing ‘What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?’.  A selection of songs from ‘My Fair Lady’ provided an opportunity for the Epsom audience to test their vocal chords as the concert was taken to the interval.

The second half started with the exciting March by Dmitri Shostakovich and then there was time to relax with the sound of the 1940s and the ‘Miller Memories’ and ‘Swing’s the Thing’ medleys.  Another musical selection from the ‘Wizard of Oz’ proceeded a short ceremony of remembrance.  The famous words of Laurence Binyon’s poem ‘For the Fallen’ – featured at the Festival of Remembrance the night before – were sung by Catherine Jack.  In the minutes silence followed the audience stood to remember those who have lost their lives in the service of the country and the Last Post and Reveille sounded from the bugles of Brian and Stuart Rutt.

The concert concluded with stirring march ‘Fame & Glory’ before a rousing rendition of ‘Abba Gold’ sent the audience out singing into the chilly November evening.

As another weekend of remembrance passes by, we remain, as ever, extremely honoured to have been a part of the Royal British Legion’s services and celebrations.  We look forward to hearing the total raised by the Poppy Appeal 2012 and sincerely hope that the ambitious target of£42 million has been achieved.

The Military Wives Choir

Festival of Remembrance 2012

The fanfare trumpet team of the Central Band were once again honoured to be invited to perform in the prestigious Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall.  The Royal British Legion’s annual Festival commemorates and honours all those who have lost their lives in conflict and is both a moving and emotional occasion.  The Festival is broadcast on BBC1 and attended by the Queen, members of the Royal Family, the Prime Minister and other senior members of the Government.

The Fanfare Team in rehearsalsThe Central Band’s very own Captain David Cole is also the Festival’s Musical Director and was responsible for shaping the musical features; this year featured Rod Stewart performing Auld Lang Syne and Sailing, X-Factor winner Alexandra Burke and Russell Watson, the Military Wives Choir, the Massed Bands of the Household Division, the RAF Squadronaires and vocal harmony group the Overtones.

The Central Band’s fanfare team, joined by the fanfare team of the Guards, had the privilege of opening the Festival with a specially composed fanfare by Captain David Cole.  This was rapturously received and paved the way for a spectacular show, full of variety and a real sense of occasion.  It is always heartening to see the Chelsea Pensioners (with a combined age of 1,428!) and war widows receive a spontaneous standing ovation during their entrance, as well as hearing some of the moving stories from servicemen and women projected on to large screens around the Albert Hall.

This year’s Festival incorporated a special tribute to the servicemen of RAF Bomber Command.  The arena of the Albert Hall was cleverly transformed into a projection of a Lancaster Bomber flying through the clouds as 7 original members of Bomber Command took their respective crew positions.  Between them, these remarkably brave men flew 246 missions during World War II.

The traditional muster and Act of Remembrance was led by classical vocal group Amore singing Elgar’s Nimrod, followed by Laura Wright – who previously joined the Central Band at Southwark Cathedral – singing a beautiful arrangement of Laurence Binyon’s poem, For the Fallen.

The Central Band’s fanfare team reappeared for the finale to provide an uplifting contribution to the hymns as part of the service that concludes Festival.

As usual, it was a very long day and a huge amount of effort to stitch together such an important production for the two performances.  The smoothness of the day was facilitated by two further members of the Central Band who did a sterling job running around behind the scenes as part of the production team to make sure everyone was in the right place at the right time.

Everyone involved is immensely proud to have been part of The Royal British Legion’s Festival of Remembrance 2012.

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Christmas CD Recording 2012

For years, audiences at our concerts have been asking ‘do you have a Christmas CD?’.  Well this winter, for the first time ever, we can say ‘Yes we do!’.

On the 29th September the band decamped to Dover’s Covelly Studios, for an intense weekend of Christmas tunes.

The festivities began early, with one member of the clarinet section donning her full Christmas pudding costume on the 8am train from London, and insisting on wearing it throughout the first recording session…

The music included plenty of Christmas favourites – all the carols, Rudolf, Troika, David Barker’s lovely Christmas Suite and David Cole’s In Excelsis Deo.  Of course no Christmas CD would be complete without Leroy Anderson’s Sleighride.  After multiple takes the percussion section must have had sleigh bells ringing in their ears all the way home.

The recording weekends are also a good chance for the band to spend a bit of social time together.  David Cole took some of the keener members on an 8-mile run along Deal seafront after Saturday’s session.  An ideal way to burning off a few calories in preparation for a lovely meal out in the evening, and hefty fried breakfast at the B and B the next morning.

After two days of hard work we all made our way home, our lips slightly swollen, but our hearts full of Christmas cheer.

The finished CD should be on sale at our concerts and online very soon.  Easy presents for everyone this year!

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Wimbledon Championships 2012

We were there! …when Andy Murray might have won Wimbledon…

The Wimbledon finals weekend has become a favourite fixture for the band, but I think we all had to admit there was something a bit special about being there for the 1 year in 74 when we had a Brit in the men’s final.

We played in the crowds as the gates opened and they surged in, all a bit more excited than usual.  Not sure who’s idea it was to start with Indiana Jones for this, but it seemed weirdly fitting!

We played our morning set in promenade area, between the Pimms bar and the strawberries and cream stall.  Captive audience!  We spied many a tennis fan discoing their way through the rain from one to the other to the strains of Abba Gold, and cha-cha-ing to Tea for Two.

After that, a quick chance to dry off, a glimpse of Andy Murray, who for some reason chose to share a dressing room with the band boys, and it was off to Centre Court.

‘Scotland the Brave ‘, hastily dug out of the music store the day before, went down a storm, and ‘Rule Britannia’ certainly had the desired rousing effect on the crowd.

Then we had to drink an awful lot of champagne to catch up with the rest of the spectators, just in time to find ourselves a spot to watch the final on Henman Hill (or whatever it’s called these days).

We’ll be back again next year. When Andy Murray will definitely win.

Central Band at The Brewery 2012

The Central Band of the Royal British Legion enjoyed playing at the Old Brewery Chiswell Street in the City on Friday for a St George’s lunch with speakers Mike Gatting and Will Greenwood.  The funniest person was the MC (who was he?) whose intro did raise a laugh!

Next gig is Epsom Playhouse, Sunday 29 April at 3pm.

New CD in the can 2012

The weekend of 3-4 March saw the Central Band locked away in the studios of Clovelly Recordings in Dover recording our new CD, soon to be released.

Music includes well loved selections from three popular shows: Fiddler on the Roof, West Side Story and South Pacific.  Instruments solos include Georgia for Trombone, Demelza for oboe and Trumpet Tune and Air.  In celebration of the Olympic year, we’ve included John Williams’ Olympic Spirit and rounded off with a new arrangement by David Lawrence, of hits made famous by the great Shirley Bassey.

The new CD has yet to be named, but we will announce details as soon as they are available.  The new CD will be available to purchase on our online store in April.