Tropical storms, abandoned tattoos and the South Shore Serenade

Musician Lance Corporal Paul Dove talks about working in Bermuda as part of a Corps of Army Music training team.

 

Army Musician Lance Corporal Paul Dove.

Army Musician Lance Corporal Paul Dove.

Bermuda. A tiny island located in the North Atlantic covering an area of 20.6 miles2 with a coastline of just 75 miles. Home to Bermuda shorts, whistling tree frogs, pink sand beaches, the Bermuda onion, the world’s smallest drawbridge and, for the next 18 nights, a Corps of Army Music (CAMUS) Short Term Training Team (STTT).

The team was made up of personnel drawn from all over CAMUS and included Warrant Officer Class One Bandmaster Matt Simons, Drum Major Alistair Smith, Musician Mattias Andersson and me, Lance Corporal Paul Dove.

CAMUS in Bermuda?

Bermuda has always held close ties with the UK as a member of the Commonwealth. In particular, The Bermuda Regiment is closely linked to the Lincolnshire Regiment and its successor The Royal Anglian Regiment, specifically the 2nd Battalion, who often provide training in various guises.

CAMUS provide STTT’s in direct support of the Army’s core purposes of ‘contingent capability for deterrence and defence’ and ‘overseas engagement and capacity building’ as outlined under the current Army 2020 plan.

Our team was in Bermuda to support and help train The Band and Corps of Drums of the Bermuda Regiment, the ceremonial face of The Bermuda Regiment. In the same way that Army Reserve Bands are required to complete an annual camp, our deployment was to coincide with the Band’s annual two-week camp.

Drum Major Alastair Smith with the current and potential Drum Majors of the Bermuda Regiment Band and Corps of Drums.

Drum Major Alastair Smith with the current and potential Drum Majors of the Bermuda Regiment Band and Corps of Drums.

On the 26th of September after a seven hour flight from London Gatwick, the team touched down at Bermuda airport at 2200 hours local time. We were met by Major Dwight Robinson, Director of Music of the Bermuda Regiment and a former resident at Kneller Hall having graduated from the three year Bandmasters course held there in 2003.  Accompanying him was the Band Sergeant Major, Warrant Officer Class Two James Van-Lowe.  Serving over 30 years in the Regiment Band, WO2 Van-Lowe was no stranger to UK military music having completed his Band Sergeants’ course at the Royal Marines School of Music in Deal, Kent, in 1986.

After settling in at Warwick Camp and spending a day acclimatising at Bermuda’s famous Horseshoe Bay, we eagerly awaited the arrival of the Band and Drums members. Indeed, when they arrived, there were a few more familiar faces, Cpl Paul Smith and LCpl Kallan Thomas who had both completed training at the Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall.

Within the first few days we were introduced to the Regimental Sergeant Major WO1 Gavin Rayner and the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Foster-Brown, a serving British Army officer originally from The Royal Green Jackets (now The Rifles) Regiment. They were both extremely pleased to have us on the Island and made us feel very welcome.

Within hours of the Band starting their annual camp, I found myself on an engagement at the Bermuda Cathedral in Hamilton with the rest of the STTT.  The event was to commemorate the start of WW1 and pay respects to the fallen and in particular, fallen Bermudians who had served in both world wars with the British Army.

Throughout the two weeks, the team also took part in the South Shore Serenade each day. This involved marching out of the Camp and performing to the morning and evening traffic on one of Bermuda’s busiest roads and, on occasion, marching round the local residential areas in Warwick.

Me working with pupils of the Bermuda Youth Orchestra at Cedarbridge Academy.

Me working with pupils of the Bermuda Youth Orchestra at Cedarbridge Academy.

One of the most rewarding engagements we took part in was at Cedarbridge Academy. Here we helped the Band strengthen its relationship with the Bermuda Youth Orchestra, a source of possible recruits for the Band. The team spent some time with their individual sections, instructing on basic musicianship principles. This also helped to show some of the Regiment Band members how to run sectional rehearsals, a skill that would come in useful.

The Band also performed at the Bermuda Police Service (BPS) parade, marching through Hamilton to celebrate the Service’s 135th anniversary and also publicising the upcoming Tattoo performance.

Preparing for the tattoo

One of the aims of the next couple of weeks for the Band and Drums was to prepare for the BPS Tattoo. This was to be an extravaganza involving a massed Bands performance with the Royal Bahamas Police Force Band, The Somerset Brigade Band (a band primarily made from ex-Bermuda Regiment Band members) and the Bermuda Islands Pipe Band.  Before all this though, the STTT were required to assist in designing a display for the Bermuda Regiment Band.

Rehearsals for the BPS Tatto at the Bermuda National Sports Centre

Rehearsals for the BPS Tatto at the Bermuda National Sports Centre

 

Musn Mattias Andersson performing at the Bermuda National Sports Centre.

Musn Mattias Andersson performing at the Bermuda National Sports Centre.

Drum Major Smith took charge of designing a display for the Band and Drums and rehearsals were plentiful and included lessons on band drill, instrument deportment and musical rehearsals on the parade ground. Drum Major Smith also put some of the members of the Band and Drums through their paces with some basic Drum Major tuition. The Band and Drums have traditionally attended the Drum Major course held at The Army School of Ceremonial in Catterick and after Drum Major Smith’s lessons, there was no shortage of volunteers.

WO1 (BM) Simons, assisted Major Robinson with rehearsals on the Tattoo music which included challenging pieces for the Band such as the 1812 Overture, and Stevie Wonder’s Sir Duke.  In amongst these rehearsals, and in between the Band’s military training, the team delivered lessons on music theory and basic musicianship principles, an experience that I found quite daunting as I had not previously taught music theory to a large audience. However, the Band was very receptive to our efforts and enjoyed our sessions with them.

During these rehearsals, we received a visit from the Governor of Bermuda, His Excellency, the Honourable George Fergusson and Bermuda’s Premier, Mr Michael Dunkley. They spoke to members of the team and Band and were very appreciative of all our efforts over the last few days and looked forward to seeing the finished product.

Team Building with a bit of football and volley ball

Team Building with a bit of football and volley ball

One of the other goals of the Band and Drum’s annual camp was to develop unit cohesion. To that end, there were several team building exercises laid on throughout the two weeks. Fortunately, we were invited along to all of them and they included golf, bowling, a production of The Pirates of Penzance and my personal favourite, kayaking along the coastline in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Bermudian weather

To quote Band member Sgt Marie Trott, ‘If you don’t like the weather in Bermuda, just wait ten minutes!’ Unfortunately the weather took a turn for the worse with the arrival of tropical storm ‘Fay’ which battered the Island and sadly resulted in the BPS Tattoo being cancelled.

During this time, The Bermuda Regiment was ‘embodied’ by the Government to help cope with the post-storm relief effort. This ‘embodiment’ was in direct support of the Regiment’s mission to: ‘Support the civil authority with the security of Bermuda, its people, property, livelihood and interests in order to maintain normality.’

Several members of the Band were also recalled to support the relief effort and the sense of professionalism and team spirit shown by the Regiment at this time was very impressive.

So our time in Bermuda had come to an end. Before the Band went their separate ways, we all said our farewells and exchanged gifts. Major Dwight Robinson was hugely appreciative of what the CAMUS STTT had provided to his Band and hopes to host another team in the near future. Thanks must go to Major Dwight Robinson and all members of The Bermuda Regiment that made our trip possible.

As this blog is being written, hurricane Gonzalo has just made it to the UK after battering its way through Bermuda. The STTT would just like to take this opportunity to say that we hope that our colleagues in The Bermuda Regiment are safe and continue to perform admirably.

Life changing experiences in Malawi, Botswana and South Africa

Corps of Army Music

Corporal Simon Lindley, Corps of Army Music Short Term training team member

Corporal Simon Lindley is a trombonist and singer in the Corps of Army Music. His current role is Force Development Assistant at the HQ of Army Music.  He and a number of other members of the Corps of Army Music recently went to Malawi, Botswana and South Africa as part of a short term training team to help develop the musical capabilities of  the Armed Forces in those countries.

Army Music training team visits Malawi, Botswana and South Africa

Malawi

The Corps of Army Music Short Term Training Team (STTT) led by Warrant Officer Class One Shane O’Neill arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi after a 14-hour flight via Johannesburg. With lots of queuing in airports in between, we finally arrived at the Sunbird Hotel, where the team relaxed and prepared for a rewarding 2 days work with The Malawi Defence Force Band (MDF Band). The team arrived at the 2nd Battalion Malawi Defence Force camp in Lilongwe, home of the MDF band and were introduced by their Director of Music, Captain Levison Chisambi, himself a graduate of the Royal Military School of Music Bandmasters course.

The team quickly became acquainted with members of the Band and sat down to join in with their full band rehearsal. Part way through the morning the OCs of both our team and the MDF Band left to go on a recce for a joint engagement for a charity golf event for the Malawi War Veterans charity. Rehearsals for the engagement continued under the direction of Sergeant John Storey and myself.  After lunch we each took sectional rehearsals of the MDF Band working on music for the engagement, as well as covering some basic musicianship skills, and answering questions on a variety of subjects. After a hard day’s work we returned to the hotel for a well-earned rest.

With part of the day free before the engagement at the British High Commissioner’s residence the we took the opportunity to visit Lake Malawi, which was an amazing site and also visited a local village community market and saw first-hand the talented people had carved wooden gifts to sell for their community. After returning to Lilongwe the team headed to work where both the brass quintet and the wind quartet provided musical entertainment to all the guests as well as performing the all important national anthems of Malawi and Great Britain. We were then invited to enjoy some fish and chips and chatted with various guests before retiring to the hotel. A second day of training with the MDF band went ahead, with final preparations for Saturday’s joint engagement being the focus. After a full band rehearsal the team again took sectional rehearsals continuing to work with the MDF Band on music as well as covering instrumental maintenance. At the end of the day the team all had photos with our new friends in the MDF Band.

The War Veterans Commemoration Event at Lilongwe golf club, which was attended by many senior MDF officers as well as the British High Commissioner and the newly elected Vice President of Malawi, was a great success. The band provided musical entertainment all morning on the 18th green and then further music was provided during dinner by the wind quartet. At the end of this joint engagement with the MDF Band, the team said fond farewells to our new friends in the MDF band and returned to the hotel to pack for the drive to Blantyre in southern Malawi. Next day we  packed up and headed off in our two trusty vehicles fully loaded with bags and instruments on the six-hour drive to Blantyre… After some excellent navigation, we arrived 9 hours later with 4 tired drivers who had to show their off road skills on multiple occasions and good use of the emergency stop to avoid goats that appeared to have suicidal tendencies as we travelled through the country. After checking in to our second hotel, the team settled for the evening. On the 9th June we went to Blantyre hospital to work with the Sound Seekers Charity providing music for the event and working with hearing impaired people helping them to have fun and express themselves with various musical instruments, a very worthwhile cause and a satisfying day was had by all.

Corps of Army Music training team

Training by the Corps of Army Music short term training team

Johannesburg

Arriving safely in Johannesburg after flying from Blantyre, the wind quartet were straight out on an engagement, at the British High Commissioner’s residence in Pretoria whilst the rest of the team enjoyed their new surroundings. The team met with the South African National Defence Force Ceremonial Guards Band based in Pretoria for a day of training. After watching the Band perform a marching display and small ensemble performance we and the SANDF CG Band joined up for full band rehearsal under the direction of our Bandmaster and enjoyed another successful day. There is a high degree of satisfaction when both the training and rehearsals go so well.

On 12th June  the brass quintet performed at the British High Commission in Pretoria over lunch before the whole team headed to the Soweto Theatre to spend the afternoon working with local musicians. Next day, with part of the day free, the team took the opportunity to take in some of the recent history of South Africa visiting the Constitution Hill Museum and Court  and learning much about the country’s transition from apartheid to democracy. Later that evening we supported another Dinner Night before retiring for the evening.

The next day we began the drive north towards Botswana stopping en route to spend part of the day with Modderspruit Sunrise Hospice who work with children and families living with HIV and Aids. This was without doubt the most harrowing and moving part of the whole trip, but it was a privilege to be able to provide a little entertainment and ‘musical therapy’ for the children and families living with this disease.  The end of the visit culminated in the performance of the British and South African National Anthems, the children gathered together and sang their anthem as we played. Having performed anthems at both Wembley and Twickenham, I can guarantee that these pale in comparison to the passion and energy for life that the children sang with. Very moving.

Community engagement by the Corps of Army Music

Modderspruit Sunrise Hospice

Before continuing on to Botswana, the team took the chance to go on an early-morning game drive taking in some of the wildlife of South Africa in their own environment. After enjoying the spectacular sights and sounds, the team continued the journey to Garbarone in Botswana, arriving at the hotel late in the afternoon.

On the 16th June the team spent the day with the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Band Garbarone, after introductions the team assisted with an Officer Commissioning Parade rehearsal and provided feedback to the band afterwards. In the afternoon the bandmaster took a full band rehearsal of the parade music, then later in the evening the team joined with the BDF Band performing a concert for the Officer Cadets.

Next day it was the turn of  the brass quintet who performed at a Queen’s Birthday Party at the British High Commission enjoying some traditional British food and providing background music. Our final day of training with the BDF Band proved to be an interesting one, despite major issues with a power cut the team still managed to provide some tuition to the various sections of the band. The team were later taken on a tour of the BDF zoo where they keep animals for the purposes of training and educating their soldiers about wildlife they may encounter in the field.

The team with a statue of Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg

The team with a statue of Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg

After leaving presentations and photos with the BDF Band the team headed back to the hotel for a final meal and to pack for the journey home. The team packed up the vehicles and drove from Botswana back to Johannesburg for the flight back to the UK. The team arrived home full of amazing memories, life-changing events and feeling thoroughly satisfied that we had completed the trip and leaving the musicians we trained with plenty of new skills and things to think about over the coming months.

 

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Army Rock and Pop music mixes with Monster Trucks

 

Singer Corps of Army Music

Lance Corporal Suzy Pearce Corps of Army Music a singer in the Band of the Army Air Corps

Lance Corporal Suzy Pearce is a singer in the Band of the Army Air Corps, one of the newly formed Rock and Pop Bands of the Corps of Army Music. The Band were recently centre stage along with the monster trucks at this year’s TRUCKMANIA at Beaulieu, where the Army was also showing off some of its vehicles to the public.

TRUCKMANIA! With the Band of the Army Air Corps

Setting up

On Saturday 24 May the Band of the Army Air Corps (Corps of Army Music) travelled down to Beaulieu Motor Museum in Hampshire in order to provide musical support to “Truckmania” alongside other Army recruiting agencies.

The weekend had been long awaited by those drawn to monster trucks, and once we arrived our two vans were dwarfed by these huge vehicles and the deep tyre marks stamped into the ground. But for once it was nice to see these tyres actually on the trucks they were intended for, rather than watching them being flipped and pushed around by the Parachute Regiment during PT back in Colchester…

We were appointed a troop carrying vehicle which was parked on a grassy bank facing the main arena alongside the rest of the Army trucks, and there we began unloading.

Bands are often faced with problems when it comes to outside engagements, the weather being the most obvious, but today the sun was on our side, however, the lack of power was not. The question “Do you need power?” which came as the PA, amps, monitors, drum kit, guitars and keyboards got hauled onto the truck did cause a heavy silence and disbelieving glances throughout the band, but in true Army style a generator was produced from somewhere and we were able to continue unfazed. With the sound check complete we retired back to barracks to relax before the main event.

Band of the Army Air Corps

The Rock and Pop Band of the Army Air Corps, Corps of Army Music, entertaining the crowds at Truckmania 2014

In comes the public

The gates opened at 10am on Sunday and the first truck the public encountered as they walked in was Optimus Prime from Transformers. Although it may not transform, it brought a smile to many an adult and childs face, as did the fancy dress Bubblebee happily posing with families. Even our Band Sergeant Major was eager to get his picture taken in Optimus Prime’s driver’s seat.

Optimus Prime

The Band Sergeant Major with Optimus Prime from The Transformers movie

 

Back in the Army area, people enjoyed looking at the various trucks and rocket launcher, although a clear favourite was the inflatable assault course which attracted quite a few excitable children…and dads.

One of the main events of the day was the awesome ‘Big Foot’, whose massive tyres effortlessly crushed the scrap cars which had been lined up for sacrifice. The crowd cheered enthusiastically every time Big Foot trampled them further into the ground, although there was a chuckle when one of the (now flat) estate car boot’s slowly opened in an act of defiance towards the end.

 

Big Foot

Big Foot entertains the crowd at Truckmania 2014

Throughout the day our musical sets were accompanied by revving engines, air horns and the hum of generators around us. The only unwanted sound was the silence of our own power supply when it inconveniently decided to take a break just before our last set. Luckily an engineer was on hand to help us and we began for the final time that day, much to the relief of our Bandmaster and the crowd that had stopped to sit on the grass and listen to us. It was particularly rousing to see the other members of the Army climb on top of their trucks and take a break for a little while to enjoy the music and clap along.

The weather turns nasty

Bank holiday Monday began with high morale at breakfast as the band assessed each others windburn from the day before. Unfortunately, the weather was too bad to play our first set of the day, so we took the time to visit the National Motor Museum which holds over 250 motor vehicles, reflecting the history of the car on the roads and circuits of Britain. One car which particularly caught the eye of visitors was “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” from Ian Fleming’s classic children’s book, complete with the wings folded underneath.

Spectators armed with multi-coloured waterproofs seemed undeterred by the rain and continued to enjoy the activities available. These ranged from Mini Truck World in the Grand Marquee where remote controlled vehicles could be seen in action, to the free dodgems which were also a highlight.

By lunchtime the rain had permanently set in, so the sponsors decided that due to health and safety reasons we were best to pack down and get on our way before the ground became too churned up to leave.

It was unfortunate that we were unable to give further musical support to the other Army stands who were continuing to work hard in Gortex, but we were still pleased with the response we had gained the day before.

The future

It was a great opportunity to participate in such an enthusiastically received event. We were able to demonstrate the new capabilities of the Corps of Army Music to both public and Army alike and we look forward to continuing this at similar events in the future.

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Army music making in Ethiopia

Musn K Compson

Lance Corporal Kayleigh Compson, Corps of Army Music

Lance Corporal Kayleigh Compson is currently assigned to the Band of the Scots Guards, part of the Corps of Army Music. She is normally seen in red tunic and bearskin on major ceremonial events around London but volunteered to go to Ethiopia with a Corps of Army Music Short Term Training Team.

Week 1

What we did for music in Ethiopia

On day one the Ethiopian National Defence Force Band (ENDFB) were on the parade square demonstrating their marching band and Corps of Drums. This helped establish a starting point for training and areas that we could develop and expand upon. We were very impressed with their marching and how they played together as a band. The Corps of Drums was very polished and impressive. This led us to break down into smaller groups for sectional rehearsals. Instrument maintenance is very basic within the band, so we also each gave a lesson on how to clean and look after instruments correctly, and to make best use of equipment they have within their stores.

On the second day our Bandmaster Warrant Officer Class Justin Teggarty gave the ENDF Band a Power Point presentation on CAMUS, our role and the effect of Western military music. They were all interested in learning about our bands and asked lots of questions afterwards about the different groups which the army has and were very pleased to see that the British army had pop groups. We then all came together and had our first full band rehearsal. We had brought along the hymn Abide With Me the band played this extremely well. Their own conductor conducted this piece and the Bandmaster would give useful points how to rehearse a band to get the best out of the musicians.

Next day arrived and we could hear all the sections practising the warm-ups we had gone through with them on the Tuesday. This was very pleasing to hear. The morning was spent with the BM giving them an insight into Western music. They enjoyed learning out how our music had evolved and they liked listening to our music over the years. We then went out on the parade square and the Lance Sergeant took them through some drill. This included slow marching and breaking into quick time, without any instruments.

Week 2

Solos were outstanding

On the following Monday morning we were introduced to their Big Band. The Ethiopian band has a great passion for jazz and big band music so we thought we would give them In The Mood (Glenn Miller) to learn and work on. After lunch we briefed the band about the ‘Flashmob’ idea (Something CAMUS has successfully delivered across the UK in 2013) and they were all really keen to do it. Their CO Colonel Kilbrom, had the perfect place for them to perform, and everyone including the staff were excited The big band were putting their final touches to In The Mood. They clearly had been practising as the piece sounded great and the solos were outstanding. We then took the Big band outside and they performed it to the remainder of the band. This was the first time they had performed a new ensemble to their peers and it went down a storm.

ethiopia2

ENDFB Big Band rehearsing Glenn Miller’s In The Mood.

During the trip the ENDF Band made history, and performed their flashmob at the Ethiopian National Defence Force Army Ground Force Headquarters. Once we arrived at the camp the band got into their positions and hid from the rest of the camp. I started off with a ‘drummers call’ to sound that something was happening. People came out of their offices, out of the coffee shop and surrounded the parade square. One off the Ethiopian Band drummers came to the centre of the parade square to play the solo at the start of Highland Cathedral. Section by section the band came out until eventually the whole band was there. The flashmob was a great success and the band said they would do this again around the city.

Three miles to get to school

On one of our days off we travelled to the Menagesha Suba National Forest Park. This forest was the first National Park in Africa and dates back to the 15th century. After almost three hours of travelling in our 4×4, we finally got to the forest. We then travelled a further 5kms through the forest by vehicle and then walked the rest of the way through the forest and up the mountains. The views were breathtaking from 3080m above sea level. The air was very thin and we all admitted we found it harder to breath. Along the way we managed to get talking to some children who lived up in the mountains.

They were more than happy showing us around, telling us about their lives in the mountains and how they have to walk three miles to get to school each day. On the way back from the mountains we travelled through vast areas where transport was horse and cart, children were carrying wood for fires, women and children were walking for miles to get to the water pumps, carrying at least 3 water containers each. We all were extremely shocked, and the mood changed in the vehicle to be more subdued. We had only seen city life in Ethiopia so far, but today we saw what living in Africa is really like.

Week 3

We were now on our final week of the three-week tour this week was all about putting the final touches on to the performance that will be shown on Friday morning. We started off with full band where we were working on the Mask of Zorro. The band was only used to marching so all their music is played at the same tempo and in a similar style. For the parade on Friday we wanted to start the marching display off with a fanfare. The fanfare we chose was from the opening of Olympiada by Samuel Hazo.

The afternoon was spent with some new recruits from the Somali region of Ethiopia. These recruits are based at the camp for two years to learn how to play an instrument, read music and march. The Bandmaster gave them a presentation on ‘Practice and Performance’. All the information was completely new to them but it was a presentation that will be a great help to them in the future. This morning started off with a session of full band where we worked on the fanfare from the day before. This will be played outside on marching band so the percussion were trying to learn it off by heart.

ethiopia3

ENDFB Marching band rehearsal

We then went outside and Lance Sergeant Vertigan took us through his ideas for the marching display. The band hadn’t really done any complex moves before so this was exciting for them. The Drum Majorettes had a lot of pressure on them for this display as they were leading the band.

We had a recommendation from the embassy to go to an Ethiopian restaurant. We were not disappointed when we got there. The food was amazing and an Ethiopian band and dancers performed all night, even when the power went out. We were all shocked at how energetic their dancing is and even a couple of us got up to have a go. Our dancing didn’t last very long as we soon realised we weren’t very good at it. We all went home feeling extremely full and had a great evening. On our final day we all had mixed emotions. We were all looking forward to the final ceremony but also knew that this was the end of a fantastic three weeks.

Emotional goodbyes

We had grown close to the band and were sad to be leaving them. We got to the camp and did a rehearsal of the ensemble pieces and the marching band. The band then put on their extremely bright green and red uniforms and started warming up before the guests arrived. Lots of guests were coming to the show, including the Defence Attaché of the British Embassy, Colonel Mike Scott. The Commanding Officer of the camp Colonel Kilbrom, all the training instructors of the band and all of the Somali Police recruits were there to watch.

The ensembles were played perfectly, we all couldn’t have been more proud of them. The guests then had some traditional coffee while the band got ready for marching band. The marching band was a great success they had remembered everything we had taught them. Their marching and the music were faultless. As the parade came to a close the Defence Attaché presented some of the seniors of the band with some certificates we had made for the band. We then all went up one by one and got presented a traditional Ethiopian shirt, and the women also got a scarf. We all were extremely grateful and humbled to be receiving gifts. The guests left and we were told to put on our gifts as we presented the band with our presentation. We had got them a CAMUS plaque and we had made a picture collage of photos we had taken throughout the three weeks. They like the photos and were all keen to find themselves on it.

It was then time to leave; we packed up our office and said some very emotional goodbyes. The STTT have had an amazing three weeks here in Ethiopia and we have all said we could come back here in a heartbeat. Not only have we given our knowledge and experience to the band, we have made some great friends here. We all are looking forward to returning to the UK but secretly wish we were staying for longer.

ethiopia4

The Corps of Army Music Short Term Training Team Ethiopia 2014

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Musicians Mobilise in the Metrocentre

LCpl Damian Dunphy

LCpl Damian Dunphy

Lance Corporal Damian Dunphy is a trombonist with the Heavy Cavalry and Cambrai Band (HC&C Band) based in Catterick. Having served such a length of time in Yorkshire Damian’s roots are well and truly established. He plays for a number of orchestras in the North East in addition to a number of brass bands, he is also the Musical Director of a local brass band and has conducted a number of other bands in the area.

The threat of a visit to Gateshead’s Metrocentre will invariably either fill your heart with joy or fill it dread, depending on your attitude to shopping and more than probably your gender.  Add to the threat the fact that the visit is in December on a Saturday and you are likely either to jump for joy or tremble in trepidation with the thoughts of the impending crowds and crushes at the tills. But……

On Saturday 7 December musicians from the Heavy Cavalry and Cambrai Band, the Band of The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and the Royal Signals (Northern) Band were tasked to visit the Metrocentre for something far less mundane than assembling this year’s Christmas presents, this was the Corps of Army Music’s third flashmob event.

For those unfamiliar with the concept the dictionary definition for the term flashmob is as follows: “A group of people mobilized by social media to meet in a public place for the purpose of doing an unusual or entertaining activity of short duration”

Okay, granted you cannot assemble 60 musicians spontaneously via social media, indeed the events take a great deal of choreographing, but the result has the appearance of spontaneity about it.

Festive mob

Festive mob

Rehearsals

The sixty musicians, regular and reserve, met for the first time at 8am on the morning of the event. Any thoughts of grabbing a bacon butty were quickly put aside as it became clear that time was to be a bit of an issue, with the mall opening to the public at 9am. The Director of Music and Drum Major met with the film director to discuss camera angles, choreography and the overall look of the film, whilst the Band found their positions on the floor.

Drum Major Smith heads up the performance

Drum Major Smith heads up the performance

The overall shape of the Band once assembled was to be that of a Christmas tree and the best way to rehearse creating formations like this is to work backwards from the finish position.  To that end musicians were herded into position, given a marker and in some cases tape-markings were placed on the floor.

The show was to start with a soprano saxophone ‘busker’ being joined by a brass ensemble and then musicians were to emerge from various parts of the mall in an apparently random fashion before forming our Christmas tree shaped marching band.

After half an hour or so a crowd of curious and bemused Metrocentre workers had gathered to see what all the commotion was about, their elated reaction to the first run through verified that we had chosen a popular programme for the event!

The massed bands then returned to the St George’s Army Reserve Centre, in Newcastle, for a musical rehearsal and some well earned pastry based confectionery, courtesy of the Band of The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.

Performance time

The performance was scheduled for peak shopping time (1pm) in an atrium in the mall. Musicians gathered together in various service bays and fire escapes out of sight of the crowds waiting for their musical cue, which was to be Lance Corporal  Andy Lightfoot on soprano saxophone playing the introduction of ‘A Winter’s Tale’.

For the occasion Lance Corporal Lightfoot was dressed as an Elf, and prior to the flashmob he was to be busking next to a Christmas tree.  Nobody had quite expected him to look so adorable, and combined with his excellent busking skills, the public were donating money quite quickly, which caught him somewhat by surprise, he hadn’t planned for that element of the event. The money will be donated to Help for Heroes the next time the Heavy Cavalry and Cambrai Band perform for the Pheonix House Recovery Centre in Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire.

With the predictability of the rising sun the cleaners had removed the tape markings from the floor and the fact that the mall was now full of people made finding visual references a tad more difficult. It all went as planned though, and the sight of military musicians playing whilst descending an escalator will no doubt live in people’s memories for a long time.

Cpl Brown meets surprised children.

Cpl Brown meets surprised children.

Christmas

The Band performed ‘A Winter’s Tale’ and ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ both from Ian McElligot’s excellent selection simply entitled “Christmas”, to a warm and appreciative audience.  The feeling from the ‘shop floor’ was that this crowd really enjoyed the performance.

The Band left the atrium to Rodney Bashford’s march Wassail and the music and the performers disappeared as swiftly as they had arrived. They say it’s always good to leave the audience wanting more and that was definitely the case with this performance.

Following the flashmob on Saturday the Heavy Cavalry and Cambrai Band stopped at the Metrocentre to entertain the crowds with some more music.  Whilst we performed to the public, the Army Media Team were editing the video ready for distribution.  By the time the bands had got changed and boarded the transport for home the video was already online and had already generated thousands of hits both on Facebook and YouTube. By the time the bus arrived back at Catterick the event had been shown on the local news.

Good news does indeed travel fast.

Lastly we would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas from all members of the Corps of Army Music and Army Reserve Bands.

Watch the action unfold in this video of the event: 

Visit The Corps of Army Music and learn about its role within the British Army

Flashmob – Birmingham taken by surprise

LCpl Daniel King

LCpl Daniel King

Lance Corporal Daniel King is in the Corps of Army Music and is currently assigned to the Band of the Royal Corps of Signals. Here he writes about being part of one of the latest crazes to hit the streets – Flashmobs.

When I saw my parents last weekend I told them that I had just taken part in a “flashmob” in the centre of Birmingham. My Mum’s response was “Did they catch you this time?”. I quickly corrected her and explained that it wasn’t what it sounded like but instead a public show that is designed to be spontaneous and a surprise to passers-by.

On Saturday 21 September the Corps of Army Music gave it a go, and what a success it has proven to be.  Three bands, consisting of one regular including my band, the Band of the Royal Corps of Signals (Corps of Army Music) and two reserve bands; The Nottinghamshire Band of the Royal Engineers and the Band of The Mercian Regiment descended on Chamberlain Square in Birmingham.

For us the flashmob started on the Friday with a trip from Blandford in Dorset to RAF Cosford in the Midlands.  What would normally be a nice easy three or four-hour journey turned into a delightful seven-hour trip due to traffic on the M5. We should have arrived at Cosford for our evening meal but due to the delay missed our opportunity to eat in the facilities at the camp.

Due to my reputation of being a food lover, I was nominated to find somewhere to eat. Of course I chose curry, and according to my phone this was going to be a 1.1-mile walk from camp. This goes to prove that phones lie… 50 minutes later we had arrived at Albrighton Balti Bazaar for our evening meal. The band must have trebled the restaurant’s business for the evening!

Out of sight

The following morning the two Reserve bands arrived and the bands started to put together what was going to happen. Due to the nature of the job it is very hard to do this as you have little idea about what it is going to be like on the ground. Plan A was put in place and after a couple of hours’ rehearsal, we had lunch and got on the bus to Birmingham.

WO1 Estelle Gouws - Bandmaster of the Band of the Royal Corps of Signals

WO1 Estelle Gouws – Bandmaster of the Band of the Royal Corps of Signals

When we arrived in Birmingham, section leaders of each band went out with the Band Sergeant-Major to have a look at the area we would be performing in. This is where Plan B, C, and D were formed! The initial plan was to have the Signals band on the steps behind the fountain and the TA bands in front. Due to the size of the fountain it was decided that this would not be ideal so everyone was to form in front. We also decided to change where we would form up for the marching band part of our plan at the end of the event.

As the band hid in different corners of the square out of sight of the crowd, our performance was started by our percussionist, Musician Wayne Harvey. Dressed in overalls he wheeled a big green bin out into the middle of the square and started playing the drum rhythm to our chosen tune of Louis Prima’s “Sing Sing Sing”, which as I write already has over 5500 hits on YouTube.  He was soon joined little by little by members of the Signals Band. At the drum solo in the middle of the piece the band were joined by members of the two Reserve bands making a total of 60 Army Musicians, an impressive sound and sight. By the end of the piece the massed bands had formed into a marching band formation to finish.

Appear from nowhere

After the surprise flashmob the bands then gave a 20-minute impromptu concert before departing the square to a piece of music called Saint Louis Blues.

The crowd appeared to love the whole event and many looked genuinely surprised to suddenly see a band in uniform appearing from nowhere to entertain them. This was a fantastic event to be involved with and seeing the online success and telling my family and friends about this is great. I hope I can be involved in similar events in the future.

CAMUS flashmob

CAMUS flashmob

CAMUS flashmob

CAMUS flashmob

CAMUS flashmob

CAMUS flashmob

Watch the action unfold in this video of the event:

Visit The Corps of Army Music and learn about its role within the British Army

Inspection time for The Band and Bugles of The Rifles

Emma Peacock

Emma Peacock

My name is Emma Peacock, I’m an Army musician and I play flute and piccolo in The Band and Bugles of The Rifles. I have been here two years, after completing Phase 1 training at ATR Pirbright and Phase 2 at The Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall.

 

Recruiting showcase

It has been quite a quiet time for the band recently so this has given us a lot of time to focus on individual music practice and lots of ensemble and sectional rehearsals, and to catch up with various administration tasks required to run a band.  My admin role is as recruiting assistant and we’ve managed to complete a lot of work recently.  We started off with a recruiting drive at ‘The Platform’ in Swindon.  Swindon Music Services were running a day of performance with many bands coming and showcasing their talent.  We set up a Band and Bugles stand and I spent the day in Ceremonial uniform speaking to many young musicians about The Corps of Army Music.  We managed to generate a lot of interest in Army Music.  It was also an enjoyable day for me as I spent it listening to some very talented youth music groups.

Additionally, we ran an Insight Day for 3 musicians who were interested in joining the British Army.  After picking them up from the train station and some introductions they joined us for a full band rehearsal.  They showed great ability and potential for joining the Corps.  After lunch we gave them a tour of camp to show them the sort of environment they might train, live and work in.  They were very surprised to see how nice the accommodation was and it helped break some common misconceptions about Army life.  That afternoon Musician Wood and myself gave a short recruiting presentation and then we held a question and answer session. Later on that day, one of the Insight Day participants even got up and played in front of all the Corps trainees during performance experience training.  All in all, it was a very good day and I think those who attended got a lot out of it, as well as enjoying themselves.

Perfecting the display

 

Group photo with Gen Sir Nick Parker

Group photo with Gen Sir Nick Parker

We’ve also had two very big inspections recently.  The first was the Colonel Commandant’s Annual Inspection.  This is a big deal for us, with General Sir Nick Parker taking the inspection, so a lot of time had gone into perfecting the marching band display.  To announce his arrival the massed Bugle Platoon and two Bugle courses played a fanfare, and after this was a group photo, followed by the presentation of the new Sounding Retreat.

As usual he enjoyed it but had a few comments to make and changes had to be done.  After this was the Bugle Competition.  The buglers had been tested already that morning on drill and turnout and the top ten were then picked to move on to play a bugle call, The Last Post and then Mechanised Infantry.  From this the top buglers were picked.  In first place came Lance Corporal G Merchant, in second was Rifleman R Loudon, and in third was Rifleman A Creighton.  Well done to all who took part!

Band and Bugles of The Rifles

Band and Bugles of The Rifles

Gangnam Style!

A week later was The Corps of Army Music inspection, which meant we were on the drill square again to present the new Sounding Retreat.  After this we were in the practice room for a new part of the inspection. For this the Principle Director of Music sat in a rehearsal to watch the development of a piece from sight reading to performance.  Both the Director of Music, Major Lawrence Sale, and Assistant Director of Music, Lieutenant Lauren Petriz-Watts, conducted a piece and they seemed to run smoothly enough, with the final results being very good.

We have supported a number of Pass Off Parades of late in Winchester and supplied musical support  for a boxing night at The Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.  The evening went very smoothly, with some very good bouts.  In between the first and second half we played some background music.  This included ‘Gangnam Style’!

Recently we travelled to sunny Exeter in Devon to play for a Homecoming Parade.  For us it was a little strange as it was a heavy paced march, so we hadn’t taken any buglers.  Consequently, the coach journey down was very quiet! There was a good crowd for the parade and then we were welcomed to the gathering afterwards where the town mayor spoke to a few members of the band.

A couple of days later we headed down to The Royal Military School of Music in Twickenham to be duty band for a few days.  This involved us being the band for student bandmasters to practice conducting with.  This is always a good, but challenging, experience as the student bandmasters are learning and the music is usually new to us!  A few members of the band also helped out the phase 2 trainees with their repertoire band and marching band.

Having recently been issued our new General Service Respirator (GSR) it was time to try them out.  Once we put them together and checked that the vacuum was sealed we went over the drills.  The new unit seems really good, however most of the members of the Band and Bugles struggled to get them on in time, especially while wearing the issued gloves.  When the practice was over it was time to do the real thing in the Respirator Testing Facility.  This is a glorified shed which fills up with CS gas! If we complete the drills correctly we don’t feel the effects of the gas, however, do something wrong and you come out with very tingly skin, eyes watering and snot running down your face!  Luckily the Band and Bugles all performed up to scratch and came out with no harm done.

 

Find out more about Army music on the Corps of Army Music website

Read more of Musician Peacock’s blogs here