It was in the magnificent setting of the famous Gloucester Cathedral that saw one of the best evening concerts that the band has played at for some time – made all the more fitting with a complete ticket sell out, and even the restricted view areas behind the large pillars were all taken up!
The very enthusiastic audience clearly enjoyed the good mix of music within the programme, but the real bonus for them was witnessing not one, but two utterly brilliant Military Wives Choirs to entertain them! One of these was based in the Marches region of Shropshire and ably led by their Director of Music Alison Houlbrooke.
The other was from nearby Innsworth and who were also making their very first live performance! (This was so very hard to believe with such a quality showing!) Their singing, diction, timing and harmonies were all totally spot on and all credit must surely go to their leader and Musical Director Gita Wymer for this.( Gita is seen here conducting above and below)
Both choirs gave superb performances, impeccably balanced and each showed command of some exquisite harmonies.
The Marches MWC were also accompanied on piano by the young and talented Manu Hasan.
Later, (just before the interval and finale) the two choirs combined to perform with the band to Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Gary Barlow’s collaboration “Sing” – composed for last years Queens Diamond Jubilee. The band arrangement was by our own Dave Cole and the whole piece resulted in one glorious sound, in a beautiful Cathedral!
The concert opened with prayer and introduction by the Very Reverend Stephen Lake, Dean of Gloucester.
The band’s trumpet section then immediately opened with Gordon Jacobs rousing fanfare prior to his famous National Anthem arrangement.
The first piece of music to open proceedings was the lively March “The Liberators” by Ancliffe and this seemed to immediately get some feet tapping!
With the forthcoming Eurovision Song Contest in mind, it became the turn of our leading trumpeter Jon Yates to perform the theme tune on his high pitched D trumpet. This familiar piece is entitled “Prelude from the Te Deum” by Charpentier. On completion the packed cathedral gave due recognition to Jon’s impeccable performance.
Next was something that proved very popular with a good percentage of the audience as the band played excerpts from the memorable show and now film, “Les Miserables.” Many of the songs featuring some of our lead instrumentalists.
Next up came the Marches Military Wives Choir lead by Alison Houlbrooke and accompanied by Manu Hasan to sing, Althouse’s “I am a small Part of the World” which fully deserved the applause they received! They swiftly followed this with Leonard Cohen’s wonderful melody, “Hallelujah” to win similar applause before closing their set with the lovely “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Parry, Schon and Cain
Time for another solo, and this time it was the turn of our Lead Alto Saxophone Eric Payne who performed the beautiful “Adagio“ (Aranjeuz) by Rodrigo. Eric certainly made the most of the amazing acoustics here and the audience, once again showed their appreciation in bucket loads!! (Eric is seen here nearest camera)
Audience participation was required for the next piece (The film theme to “Bridge over the River Kwai”) especially arranged by Dave Cole requiring both band and audience to whistle along to the tune of Colonel Bogey for the opening 40 odd bars – before the full band got into the “meat” of the piece! The audience enjoyed that one I think!
It was now the turn of the combined MW Choirs to perform together with the band to sing this appropriate song, “Together we are stronger!” by Kennedy & Malone. Once again, this drew a very good reception.
To complete the first half of the concert, it was time for some nostalgia, as the band played out the super medley and arrangement of the more famous Beatles hits entitled “Echoes of an Era” arranged by Higgins. This also featured many of our lead instrumentalists. Brian Allen’s Euphonium opened “Penny Lane” followed by Jon Yates once again on his D Trumpet in the same song. Then came Alan Flood’s lovely Flugel Horn rendering of “Fool on the Hill,” before Robert Scarrett’s haunting French Horn solo was the prelude to the famous “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”
Elaine Coker’s beautiful Oboe playing superbly complimented McCartney’s “Michelle” so very well, just before Brian Allen’s Euphonium again suited the introduction to “Yellow Submarine,” as did John Hill’s excellent Trombone rendition to the opening bars of the last number in the medley, “Hey Jude!”
The famous “Dambusters March” opened the 2nd half which was played to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the amazing feat on 17th May 1943 when Guy Gibson V.C. led the Lancaster bombers of 617 Squadron at less than 100ft (30.48m) above the water, to accurately drop those bouncing bombs and successfully destroy two huge barrage dams on the rivers Moˆhne and the River Eder in the Ruhr valley. It goes without saying that everyone enjoyed this particular piece!
Percy Grainger’s beautiful arrangement of “The Londonderry Air” then changed the mood somewhat. Such a fine arrangement that seems to suit a wind band perfectly.
It was now the turn of our 3 leading trumpet players (Jon Yates, Alan Flood and Kevin Jones) to shine and perform the rapid and rousing “Buglers Holiday” by Leroy Anderson which was in complete contrast yet again. – Not that our audience were complaining!
They were clearly enjoying their treat this evening and now it was the turn of The MW Choir again, led by Alison Houlbrooke. Singing 4 lovely tunes, that many in the audience were soon singing along to (including some band members!) “A little help from my friends,” “Lean on me” by Bill Withers, Will you still love me tomorrow” and Tony Hatch’s famous “Downtown.”
After the band had rested, they followed with the soaring, melodic overture by Rosanno Galante, “Resplendent Glory” A delightful yet dramatic work which may even be our next CD title track! – Watch this space!
Most of the themes of 007 James Bond followed including the most recent “Skyfall” arranged by Dave Cole. How the Cathedral seemed to enjoy this one! The whole medley is one that really stretches the brass section too, but also gives them a chance to shine very brightly and they did just that!
The combined choirs then took to the stage for the last time to join the band and perform “Sing” which, (as stated above) was suitably well received by the appreciative crowd.
To finish the concert the Sibelius tone poem “Finlandia” proved very suitable to end on a glorious note. Finally, to complete an outstanding evening of music and song, the band played out with both regimental marches of the Royal Navy & Royal Marines, “Hearts of Oak” & “A Life on the Ocean Wave.” At this point, the choirs came out to take their bow and movingly marched out up the centre aisle to a standing ovation!
Finally, our enormous thanks to Jan Blandford for the most wonderful buffet tea that she had prepared both for the band and all of the two MW Choirs – together with the help of her able assistant Flo’ Flood. Thanks to you both again Ladies!