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Scarlet & Gold

The Bands of the Household Division
Featuring: The Countess of Wessex's String Orchestra; Katie Holmes (soprano)
Cadogan Hall
Thursday 29th November

Keen to reflect the particular British history of the Household Division ensembles in a worldwide 21st century context, this annual showcase concert was a clever mix of the familiar and the progressive - with polished playing aided by the effective use of social and multi-media presentation.

The effervescent compere Brigadier Alastair Bruce OBE added a touch of showmanship to the astute conducting of Lt Col Darren Wolfendale and his Majors - Michael Smith, Justin Matthews, David Barringer and Capt Craig Bywater, with a programme that pointed towards the future with a nod of heartfelt appreciation to the past.

Majesty

The effective use of renowned military choreography ensured a touch of pomp to the opening ‘Majesty’ fanfare and ‘National Anthem’, whilst a first half of geographical ‘Britishness’ saw ‘Vivat Regina’ followed by the stirring ‘Spitfire Prelude & Fugue’ and the UK premiere of Adam Gorb’s hypnotic ‘Let Them Play’ performed by the Household Division Saxophone Quartet.

WO Class II Ralph Brill was a fine flugel lead on ‘By Kell’s Water’ - displaying a languid, warmly burnished tonality, before a rousing trip north of the border with ‘Dundonnell’ from ‘Hymn of Highlands' rounded off the first half with bagpipe vigour.

The Countess of Wessex's String Orchestra took centre stage to open the second half with an accomplished ‘Presto’ from Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ led by Musician Katie Davies, the 2018 Household Division Musician of the Year, with the humour slot coming courtesy of a witty melange of Monti's 'Czardas' followed by the Household Division Brass Ensemble combining wit, wigs and wicked technique in a cleverly cigarillo packaged version of excerpts from Bizet’s usually Cohiba sized opera ‘Carmen’.

WO Class II Ralph Brill was a fine flugel lead on ‘By Kell’s Water’ - displaying a languid, warmly burnished tonality, before a rousing trip north of the border with ‘Dundonnell’ from ‘Hymn of Highlands' rounded off the first half with bagpipe vigour.

Thoughtful tone

Seriousness returned with the filigree whimsy of ‘Molly on the Shore’ before a deeply thoughtful tone was struck with Patrick Hawes conducting extracts from his 'Great War Symphony', featuring soprano Kate Holmes. 

It lost none of its impact even in this précised version written for the occasion – the projected imagery enhancing the musical homage.

It left time for an extra touch of good old British pomp with a brisk ‘Crown Imperial’ followed by a ‘Riverdance’ segue into ‘The Music Makers’ and ‘When the Guards are on Parade’ to send everyone home with a 120 march tempo in their step.

Iwan Fox

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