On Saturday 12th September, when all around the country the Last Night of the Proms celebrations were doubtlessly in full swing, what better way to bring this much enjoyed annual musical spectacular to Romsey than to invite the Royal Marines Association Concert band. Joined in this concert by Portsmouth’s Military Wives Choir, the band’s director of music, Major Tony Smallwood, chose his programme well to match the grand surrounds of the abbey. As well as band favourites such as the opening march Soldiers of the Sea and Mac McDermott’s atmospheric and moving piece The Seafarers, regular band soloists Sian Brace and Steve Tanner were joined in this concert by Rodney Preston. Rodney showed his true versatility by swapping his clarinet, his regular instrument in the band, for the violin and presented to the audience a beautifully controlled performance of The Ashokan Farewell.
The Portsmouth Military Wives Choir were equally in fine form and under the direction of Andrew Cleary matched the versatility of the band as favourites such as Rhythm of Life and a Vera Lynn Medley were contrasted in the second half, first with a beautiful rendition of On My Own followed by the more upbeat soul song Lean On Me with the band’s rhythm section.
For the finale and all the Last Night of the Proms pomp and circumstance you would expect that the abbey was awash with the waving of flags and programmes as Tony led the band, receptive audience and choir through the usual favourites before an aptly timed period of prayer and reflection for the evening hymn, Crimond followed by Sunset. For the band especially this proved a truly moving and apt tribute to the recent passing of our beloved tuba player, Albert Hall. Stand easy now Albert: duty done most magnificently throughout your life; all your band colleagues miss you very much indeed.
As the concert ended with Britannic Salute and the band’s traditional and regimental marches, the only question on the lips of the audience as they left was when the band would surely return again.