“A Band Is Born”
We are often asked about the origins of the Royal Marines Association Concert Band: when did it start and why? Good questions; the short answers are April 2006 and because a demand existed!
Various attempts had in fact been made over the past three or four decades to form a band comprising former Royal Marines musicians, but other than the Royal Marines ‘All Stars’ which forms for one annual concert only, somewhat surprisingly nothing permanent developed. However, in May 2004 Major Paddy Dunn RM, the Royal Marines Association Chairman (pictured right) and Paddy’s son of the RM Band Service most famous Principal Director’s of Music Lieut Col. Sir F Vivian Dunn KCVO OBE FRSA RM
Paddy just happened to attend the Chelsea Flower Show that year and was impressed by the quality of the band playing on the bandstand that day. It turned out to be the Guards Association Band!
That evening he telephoned the Royal Marines Association President, Brigadier Simon Hill, and announced: “We’re going to form a band!” Somewhat taken aback but catching Paddy’s enthusiasm, Brig Hill replied: “Fine, so let’s get on with it then !”
This is not the place to bore readers with any detail of what happened next but, briefly, Paddy contacted Capt Ted Whealing MVO BA ARAM ARCM LTCL RM (pictured top left) who was coming to the end of his 15 years appointment as Director of Music of the Royal British Legion. Several expensive lunches later a plan had been sketched out involving an initial costings estimate (£50K) and an outline of how best to resource the fundamental requirements such as uniforms, a music library, music stands and banners, funding etc.
The support of the senior retired Principal Director of Music, Lt Col Paul Neville OBE MVO FRAM RM, was then sought which he kindly gave wholeheartedly. The plan was then put to the Commandant General Royal Marines for endorsement and with the Principal Director of Music Royal Marines, Lt Col Chris Davis OBE BA(Hons) MMUS DMA LRAM RM, in November 2005. Brig’ Hill then defined the vision for the Band and Ted Whealing was appointed its first Director of Music.
By then ‘word’ had seeped around the Portsmouth based former RM ‘Bandy’ grapevine and in May 2006 the first gathering was held at HMS Excellent Whale Island. 30 former RM musicians turned up – to both Paddy’s and Ted’s delight and considerable relief – and the plan for the Band was explained. On 29th June the first rehearsal was held in the somewhat confined space of the conference room in Director Royal Marines building and about 35 musicians responded to the first downbeat of Ted’s baton with Kenneth Alford’s “On the Quarter Deck.”
Progress was swift and by September that year Ted felt that the Band was sufficiently competent to appear in public for the first time and they duly travelled to Lympstone Devon to play at the RMA Annual Reunion, wearing white shirts and Corps ties as the uniforms had yet to be delivered from the manufacturers ! By January the Band recorded its first CD ‘Once A Marine…..’, a tribute to the Corps’ widely recognised strapline, ‘Once a Marine, always a Marine’.
As word about the Band’s initial success spread, its membership grew rapidly and in early 2007 it was decided to move to the palatial 19th century surroundings of the Royal Marines Museum at Eastney which then became the Band’s permanent home (and undoubtedly the world’s finest band room!).
We remain indebted to the Museum’s Trustees for this considerable help, and similarly to the then Director, Chris Newbery, and his staff. (His successor is now Bob Bruce who is equally as supportive, being a former RM Officer of course!)
The first fee-paying gig was held at the Station Theatre, Hayling Island on Saturday 17th February 2007 and since then the Band has been fulfilling engagements on a roughly once-a-month basis. Early highlights included playing at the Falklands 25 Commemoration event at Lancaster House in London – this is the first building on the Mall adjacent to Buckingham Palace; and at the Torrevieja Music Festival on the Costa Blanca in Spain, as the UK representative band. Numerous other successes followed – these are described in detail in the Band’s twice yearly newsletters – and today the Band, now over 60 members strong, undertakes a demanding schedule of engagements stretching into the future.
This band of now 50 musicians, are committed to providing the highest standard of performance and musical excellence in the same way that our colleagues in the five remaining RM Bands continue to do. Our aim is always to thrill audiences the length and breadth of the country, just as RM Band’s have done for over a century.
It’s brilliant to be back on the gigs circuit and we’re extremely proud to again wear a Royal Marines uniform. We believe we have a very great deal to offer the public and the wider Corps Family. After all, between us we have well over 1,500 years of accumulated experience in the music business and, importantly, no shortage of enthusiasm.
Finally, we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Ted for all of the hard work that he put into the formation of this band. Sadly he decided in February 2011 that it was time to “hang up his baton” upon reaching his 70th birthday in order to spend more time with his family and relaxing at his Spanish Retreat !
Editor:- Our grateful thanks to Paddy Dunn (Chairman) for his foresight in forming this band from a single idea and helping us to get to where we are today.