Windsor Castle Concerts

Central Band Windsor Castle Concerts raise £30,000 for Legion

Two nights of uplifting summer concerts by The Legion’s own Central Band, in the spectacular and historic surroundings of St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, have raised over £30,000 for the Royal British Legion.

The concerts on the evenings of 1 and 2 June, were kindly sponsored by Sir Donald Gosling and featured a wide range of popular music from marches, to The Beatles, John Williams, Sea Songs, Richard Rogers and two opera arias, beautifully sung by guest bass/baritone Tristan Hambleton.

The Central Band continues its busy summer with concerts at Nye Hall Dover on Saturday 18 June, followed by appearances at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships finals at Wimbledon in July, before heading down to Sussex for a week of concerts playing to the summer crowds at the famous Eastbourne Bandstand.

Central Band at Southwark Cathedral 2014

The Central Band of The Royal British Legion appeared before a packed and appreciative crowd at Southwark Cathedral on Friday 3 October. The concert was entitled ‘Magnificent Musicals’ and featured arrangements from Oklahoma, Cole Porter, Gershwin and concluded with David Cole’s own arrangement of Phantom of The Opera.

Here’s Jack Foley with the Central Band singing Anthem from Chess.


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…


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.

Wimbledon logo

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.

Rochester Cathedral

Rochester Cathedral Concert

Throughout 2011, the Concerts in Cathedrals series is celebrating the 90th anniversary of the Royal British Legion.  Over 40 cathedrals in England and Wales will host concerts, with the Central Band performing five of them.

The Norman church of Rochester Cathedral was the final venue as the Central Band finished off their contribution to the Legion’s 90th Anniversary celebrations in style.  It was the perfect location for a concert that combined celebration, remembrance and patriotism.

The Central Band’s fifth concert was a “greatest hits” from the previous four in the series.  After the National Anthem (including Gordon Jacob’s Coronation fanfare) had finished ringing round the ancient cathedral, the Central Band began the proceedings with Sir Vivian Dunn’s march ‘Cockleshell Heroes’.

An all-singing, toe-tapping first half followed with ‘Dixieland Jamboree’, popular songs from World War II, famous tunes from Glenn Miller and Captain David Cole’s awesome arrangement of Lennon and McCartney classics.

The second half was dedicated to commemorating the sacrifice of those who have given their lives in the service of Queen and country.  Soprano Margaret Threadgold joined Phil Willans on soprano saxophone and the rest of the Central Band to perform Karl Jenkins’ ‘Benedictus’.  A simple act of remembrance followed and everyone in the cathedral stood in silence as the ‘Last Post’ and ‘Reveille’ were sounded.

The trumpet calls of Sir Henry Wood’s ‘Fantasia on British Sea Songs’ signalled the start of the flag-waving finale with Margaret Threadgold returning to the stage to lead the audience in the singing of ‘Rule Britannia’, ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’.

With the concert over, the audience were in for a final treat as they departed to the march of The Royal British Legion.  A fitting end to a fantastic series of concerts to celebrate the Legion’s 90th year.

As part of the Concerts in Cathedrals series, the Central Band have already played at:

Truro Cathedral

Truro Cathedral Concert

Throughout 2011, the Concerts in Cathedrals series is celebrating the 90th anniversary of the Royal British Legion.  Over 40 cathedrals in England and Wales will host concerts, with the Central Band performing five of them.

With a long trip to the bewitching county of Cornwall, the fourth of the Central Band’s cathedral concerts was staged at Truro Cathedral.  The ‘Heroes’ concert was dedicated to the eight servicemen from Cornwall killed on duty in Afghanistan and the presence of their families as guests of honour added a particularly poignancy.

The Central Band shared the stage in Truro with a number of local artists.  The cathedral’s head chorister began the concert with ‘O for the Wings of a Dove’ and there were also performances from the Steve Panter trio and Jonathan Delbridge on piano.

It was also a night for the Central Band’s soloists to shine.  Elaine Ball gave a hauntingly beautiful performance of ‘Gabriel’s Oboe’, the trombone of Paul Coker served up a dazzling rendition of ‘The Rose’ and Tim Mulkern took to the pulpit with his trumpet to play ‘High on a Hill’.

The scorching ‘Slavonic Rhapsody No. 2’ demonstrated the dexterity of the Central Band’s clarinet section before the audience stood to sing ‘Jerusalem’, Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry’s famous setting of William Blake’s poem.

With the audience in fine voice the Central Band shamelessly played to the local crowd with the song of the western men, ‘Trelawny’.  The Cornish men and women didn’t disappoint as they belted out the words:

“And shall Trelawny live?
And shall Trelawny die?
Here’s twenty thousand Cornish men
Will know the reason why!”

A unique end to an emotional but uplifting concert.

See also:  BBC News

The Central Band will be playing in one more cathedral in 2011:

  • Rochester Cathedral – 1st October

As part of the Concerts in Cathedrals series, the Central Band have already played at: