The Band of the Coldstream Guards celebrated St George’s Day with a programme consisting largely of familiar repertoire, hosted in convivial, if occasionally anarchic fashion by actress Barbara Windsor.
The concert opened with Gordon Jacob’s arrangement of ‘The National Anthem’, with the seven-man fanfare team in the gallery above the organ. They remained in place for ‘Fanfare and Soliloquy’ by former Director of Music Trevor Sharpe, the brightness of the trumpets and trombones contrasting with the mellowness of the woodwinds and horns.
Guest soloist Philip Cobb wowed the audience from the start with his rendition of the ‘Harry James Trumpet Concerto’, marrying a flawless technique with jungle sounds and other jazz elements.
The march ‘Standard of St George’ was an obvious candidate for inclusion on such an occasion; less so was Andy Scott’s ‘Fujiko’, in a first performance in a new arrangement for flute, with Lance Sergeant Rachel Smith as the impressive soloist. With its Japanese influences and unfamiliar sounds, it made for one of the highlights of the evening.
Arthur Butterworth was one of many talented artists who lost their lives during World War I, his ‘Banks of Green Willow’ being quintessentially English, and sounding quite idiomatic in this arrangement, bringing out the distinctive colours of the woodwind in particular.
Philip Cobb returned to the stage with cornet in hand for a stunning performance of Bellstedt’s ‘Napoli’, with sympathetic accompaniment from the band.
The first half closed with Robin Dewhurst’s ‘Guards in Action’, accompanied by footage depicting the Guards on deployment in Afghanistan and elsewhere. It was explained that the music would develop into a familiar melody, and that the audience may like to join in, but when ‘Jerusalem’ emerged, it was over almost before anyone was aware.
Recording the theme tune for a new television comedy may not seem particularly significant, but ‘Dad’s Army’ has received countless reruns over the years.
The band followed this with ‘Beatles: Echoes of an Era’, a pot-pourri of familiar melodies featuring several soloists who each stood for their moment of fame.
Tunes such as ‘Hey Jude’, ‘When I’m 64’ and ‘Yellow Submarine’ had everyone’s feet tapping, with a particularly fine performance of ‘The Fool on the Hill’.
Major Wolfendale committed one faux pas during the evening, misattributing Andrew Pearce’s ‘Interlude’ to Paul Sharman, but he corrected himself before Philip Cobb played the latter’s ‘Flourish’, arranged for wind orchestra by Rodney Newton, who was present in the audience.
Philip demonstrated his sparkling virtuosity contrasted with moments of intense contemplation to stunning effect.
Mezzo soprano Susanne Dymott joined the band for the ‘Habanera' from 'Carmen’, before a vigorous account of ‘Mars - The Bringer of War’, with its menacing chords and incessant, driving rhythms.
Susanne then returned for the patriotic finish; commencing with ‘Jerusalem’, which ended up as a solo, with the audience rather unsure whether or not they should sing or not.
No such doubts attended ‘Rule Britannia’ though, as they joined heartily in the chorus each time. ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ was an unheralded addition to the printed programme, before the band closed with their regimental march ‘Milanollo’.