Col Alasdair Hutton, OBE, was the affable compère for a gala concert to mark the end of Lt Col Graham Jones’ 39 years service in military music.
‘Royal Salute’ made for an impressive opener as the brass entered from either side of the stage, bedecked in their bearskins, to carry out a marching display in quick and slow time.
‘Summon the Dragon’ followed, before solo piccolo and side drum led into the theme from ‘The Longest Day’, during the playing of which the marching party left the stage to remove their bearskins.
Lt Col Jones took up the baton for Nigel Hess’s ‘Stephenson’s Rocket’, with vocal effects depicting the whoosh of steam and effective contrasts between the brass and woodwind timbres.
Musician Sam Smith and Lance Sergeant Nigel Coombes demonstrated their dexterity in ‘Concerto for Two Clarinets’, the lightly-scored accompaniment allowing their rippling scales and arpeggios to be clearly heard.
Following greeting from the Basle Tattoo, members of the Top Secret Drum Corps marched down from the rear of the auditorium and proceeded to thrill the audience with their slick and varied display, including a finale featuring flaming sticks which may have caused the hall’s health and safety officer some concern!
Other special guests were vocalist Laura Wright, with an arrangement of ‘I vow to thee, my Country’ that made good use of the flugel horn, and Dr Roger Webster, who gave a stylish rendition of the opening movement of Tartini’s ‘Concerto for Trumpet in D Minor’ on piccolo trumpet.
The first half ended with ‘The Beatles – Echoes of an Era’, a well-crafted medley of familiar melodies with prominent solos on euphonium, piccolo trumpet, flugel horn, oboe and trombone.
‘Victory Salute’ was the first piece written by Col Jones, and was an imposing concert march with a slower central section featuring the French horn section.
Four pipers from the Scots Guards then joined the band, playing ‘100 Pipers’, ‘Amazing Grace’, and ‘Highland Laddie’.
Martin Ellerby’s suite ‘Cries of London’ was just one of the works premiered during Col Jones’ tenure, and was represented by the atmospheric ‘Dawn Watch’ and lively ‘Westminster Chimes’.
Col Christer Johannesen brought greetings from Scandinavia before leading the band in ‘Valdersmarsh’ before Col Jones was presented with a framed print of the cornet part.
Rodney Newton wrote ‘Harry the Tuba’ for Lance Corporal John Marsh. It is a jazzy solo complete with finger-clicking off-beats and a duet between tuba and clarinet with vibraphone backing. The guest bassoonist deserves a special mention, one of two players co-opted from other regiments.
Remembering the Light Division
Cornet players Stephanie Barry and Nick Mott presented ‘High on a Hill’, before the band played two new ‘Peninsular Marches’ by Martin Ellerby. ‘Salamanca’ was notable for some bravura horn playing, whilst the brisker ‘Vittoria’ made much use of glockenspiel and xylophone.
‘Japanese Tune’ has featured in all the band’s concerts in that country, but had never been programmed over here. Opening with a woodwind quartet, the somewhat ethereal atmosphere was interrupted by some rousing drumming and shouting at the start of the lively second half of the piece.
Soloists to the fore
Peter Graham’s ‘Cossack Fire Dance’ fitted the bill perfectly as a showcase for the band, with solos for trombone, flute, euphonium, xylophone, violin and trumpet, all carried off with aplomb.
The majestic sounds of ‘Crown Imperial’ provided the climax to the evening, although there was time for encores with ‘Radetzky March’ and a pot-pourri representing the marches of the regiments with whom Col Jones had served.
As they commenced their own regimental march, the musicians were joined by eight members of the Corps of Drums. Appropriately, the evening ended with the playing of the National Anthem.