Within the UK many important musical jobs take place at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. During the last week of September the Band of the Royal Corps of Signals, of which I am principle clarinettist, performed on the steps there. The occasion was the Territorial Army Commissioning parade (Sandhurst has a long-standing tradition of producing the best and this was no exception).
We, along with a few members of the Band of the Light Cavalry, arrived at Sandhurst on Wednesday lunchtime and wasted no time by going straight out to practice on the steps of Old College where the parade would take place. For a fair few of the band, it was their first experience of marching up and down steps whilst playing and luckily it was picked up fairly quickly and with no injuries!
Sandhurst had decided the previous week to go into long sleeve order, so the band were on the steps in barrack dress complete with woolly jumper. To say we were hot was an understatement! For the duration of all the rehearsals over the following days we never received the delights of shade due to the positioning of old college. For those of you who were not in the UK, this last week was the hottest end of a September for over 100 years with highs of 29C (84F).
Due to the amount of work during the summer season the band had no problems with this. The soldiers however….. did! No fewer than four soldiers on parade were drilled by the Academy Sergeant Major to ensure that they didn’t faint!
Begone Dull Care…
On the day of the parade it got just that little bit hotter. We started the day with the commissioning service in the Academy chapel. The acoustics in this church are fantastic and it is a thoroughly enjoyable place to play in. You need so little effort to produce a stunning sound.
On completion of the service, it was a fairly quick turnaround ready to march on parade.
With the band ready, the troops formed up behind us awaiting the Academy Sergeant Major’s commands to get on parade. We stepped off in quick time leading the troops on to the square where we broke off and marched up the steps. For all the rehearsals so far we had been wearing normal shoes but for the parade we wear spurs. Before the parade, bets were made on who was going to trip down the steps. My money was on our first cornet player but he stayed on both feet!
The parade continued with the adjutant coming on to parade and finally the inspecting officer. Due to the high status of this parade, HRH Prince Edward The Earl of Wessex was in attendance. After inspecting the troops and the band he gave a speech. To finish the parade the band marched off the steps and formed up just to the side so that the troops could slow march up the steps to the music ‘God Bless the Prince of Wales’ and ‘Auld Lang Syne’ to receive their commission. With the new officers in the building the band marched off the parade square to the Corps of Army Music March and our own, ‘Begone Dull Care’.
As well as providing music for the parade the band provided musical support for the commissioning dinner on the Thursday night. A brass quintet played during the dinner and the rest of the band joined in for a cabaret marching display at the end of the dinner. The band entertained the dinner with pieces featuring the Post Horns, the Lord of the Dance and finally another piece featuring the less musical trombones (I’m a woodwind player and the rivalry runs deep with the brass). We finished with the regimental marches of those dining.
To conclude, this was a very good experience for the band especially some of the younger members.