Lance Corporal Daniel King is principal clarinettist in the Band of the Royal Corps of Signals (RSIGS BAND). Here he writes about being an Army musician, a role which allows him to perform at many high-profile events across the UK and abroad.
Every year military bands get tasked with a week or two at the home of Army Music, Kneller Hall. The job is to provide musical support to the school.
There are two main courses that are held at Kneller Hall. The first is the Student Bandmasters course. Future bandmasters are selected to do a 3 year course, which will qualify them to become full bandmasters of one of the regular army bands. The second course is the Foundation Course. Every musician in the British Army goes through this. When musicians complete phase 1 training they go to Kneller Hall and are brought up to the minimum level of ability for army bands. You are also taught how to march and play which I can assure you is not easy as a beginner.
The second thing we do is help out with numbers in the foundation course band. Unlike regular army bands, the foundation course is often unbalanced in the way of instrumentation, other than the obvious “too many brass”, which is a problem in every single wind band in the world in my opinion. Only a few band members are needed for this in order to help with numbers and also to sit with sections that may require a little support.
The final task we are required for is marching band. Marching and playing is a huge part of our job and is easier to learn when the band is balanced and when you have experienced players next to you to help you out.
As an extra task during the week, on the Thursday night the band provided a band for the dining out of the Commandant of Kneller Hall, Colonel Cuthbert-Brown CBE. A small 18 piece played in Student Bandmasters’, Sergeants’ and Warrant Officers’ messes. The band was conducted by Student Bandmaster Estelle Gouws. During the dinner we played pieces such as, Les Miserables, Vocalise (Featuring an oboe soloist from the foundation course, I can’t remember his name!) and Pirates of the Caribbean.
For the after dinner entertainment Musician Jo Nethercott and myself performed a clarinet duet called “Pie in the face polka”. We both dressed up in German outfits and played around the tables and drank the guests’ port whilst we were resting. It was our first performance of the duet and it proved to be very popular, so my hopes of burning the outfit were very quickly dashed. Musician Dan Shave then played a solo, Virtuosity, and he even hit the high note at the end which was a novelty.
On the Friday night eight members of the band stayed behind to help the foundation course as they played for Richmond Upon Thames’ Christmas Lights Ceremony. This involved a small march through town then we played carols and Christmas songs on Richmond green. I have to admit… it was pretty cold!
And then a well-earned rest………………………….