Army Music performs for Alan Titchmarsh

Musician Jerickson Villacarlos

Musician Jerickson Villacarlos

Musician Jerickson Villacarlos is the oboist of The Band of The Blues and Royals, one of the 22 bands in the Corps of Army Music (CAMUS).  He passed out of Phase 1 Training in Army Training Centre (ATC) Pirbright in September 2011, Phase 2 Training in the Royal Military School of Music Kneller Hall in November 2012 and completed the Household Cavalry (HCav) Mounted Dutyman Course in June 2013. Here he talks about the experience of being on the day-time TV series Alan Titchmarsh with his band.

Lights, camera, action

Within 24 hours of playing for the Soldiers’, Sailors’, Airmen’s Family Association (SSAFA) charity with the Windsor Military Wives Choir in the Queen’s Theatre in Hornchurch, we set off on the road with bright eyes and bushy tails.  This time, we made our way to the ITV Studios in Central London to appear on the Alan Titchmarsh Show.  The Band has appeared on TV before but this was my first to go in a TV studio. I was thrilled and full of anticipation to be involved in another unique opportunity to represent the British Army.

Maj Jason Griffiths Director of Music The Band of The Blues and Royals

Maj Jason Griffiths Director of Music The Band of The Blues and Royals

We unpacked our instruments, uniforms and other kit with the help of supporting staff from the studio. We were then led to our dressing rooms and the so-called ‘green room’ where a generous amount of refreshments of cold soft drinks, hot beverages, delicious sandwiches and a tray full of fresh fruits awaited us. Needless to say, we were very well looked after.

Not long after arriving, we touched up our uniforms; Brasso cleaned our helmets, straightened our plumes and ensured our boots, spurs and belts had that mirror shine, nothing short of the stringent standards of the Household Cavalry.  I then quickly prepared my reed and warmed up the oboe.  Soon, donning our uniforms, we descended down to the set to briefly run through our segment on the show… by ‘brief’, I mean only 10 minutes!  We stood on stage observing and awaited directions.  It was interesting to see what goes on in the a studio with staff doing their tasks adjusting lights, cameras and microphones.

Band Corporal Major Stuart Marsh on the Drum Kit

Band Corporal Major Stuart Marsh on the Drum Kit

State Trumpeters

Following a warm welcome from Alan Titchmarsh himself and the cues from the studio staff, we proceeded to record.  We prepared a piece called “Fehrbelliner Reitermarsch” featuring four of our State Trumpeters led by our Trumpet Major Phil Bishop and a piece called “Sing, Sing, Sing” featuring our soloists: Band Corporal Major Stuart Marsh on the Drum Kit, Lance Corporal of Horse Tim Garner on Alto Sax and Lance Corporal Evatt Gibson on Trombone.

Maj Jason Griffiths Director of Music The Band of The Blues and Royals talks to Alan Titchmarsh about the future of Army Music

Maj Jason Griffiths Director of Music The Band of The Blues and Royals talks to Alan Titchmarsh about the future of Army Music

After the opening, Alan chatted to the band.  The Director of Music (DOM) Major Jason Griffiths spoke about the exciting times ahead for the Corps of Army Music (CAMUS).  He told him about next year’s reorganisation and that in April 2014, CAMUS will be forming the UK’s first 3 professional Brass Bands, 3 Rock and Pop Bands and the new Corps of Army Music String orchestra.  He went on to say that the Corps is still recruiting and we need quality musicians to join us. He reminded the viewers that all instrumentalists (including guitarists, string players, vocalists as well as the standard wind instrumentalists) are encouraged to apply. 

The producers were happy with the set.  We exited stage left and packed to return to Windsor.  Certainly, it has been an insightful event for me to see what goes on behind the scenes of a TV show.

Tenor Sax

Back in Windsor, we returned to the practice room the following day to prepare for the upcoming Festival of Remembrance.  We provided musical support for the several events and the Remembrance Service in the Garrison Church in Windsor, as well as playing in aid of the Poppy Appeal for the Royal British Legion in three London Railway stations in the same week.  In addition, I especially enjoyed the Lord Mayor’s Show on the 9th of November. We wear State Dress, I played Tenor Sax on one of the many iconic steeds of the Household Cavalry in the City of London.

The variety of events I have been fortunate to participate in as a musician in CAMUS has certainly been very interesting and rewarding… and I have only been in for about six months!  I’m looking forward to what is in store for me for the future.

Learn more about the Corps of Army Music

Playing with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Lance Sergeant John Storey

Lance Sergeant John Storey

Lance Sergeant John Storey is the principal Euphonium player in the Band of the Coldstream Guards, Corps of Army Music. Here he talks about the excitement and privilege and some of the hurdles he had to overcome to perform with the world famous Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

From Sappora to Sloane Square

Over the last 15 years as Principal Euphonium in the Band of the Coldstream Guards, I have been privileged to travel the world and play at great venues with amazing musicians. October 2013 was the time for the Red Machine to make its regular concert tour of Japan.  But……

Three weeks before we were due to leave, I received an email from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO), one of the most famous orchestras in the world, asking if I would be interested in playing with them at the famous Cadogon Hall in Chelsea. I was flattered and excited about the offer to swap the bearskin for Black Tie and jumped at the chance.

After accepting the gig I started to panic. The concert was two days after we were due to get back from Japan. Would I be able to practice? Would I be able to get my instruments back in time? What was I thinking?

I arrived in Japan with a large silent brass mute hidden in my suitcase. This enables brass instrumentalists to play normally while controlling the sound output to headphones. The trouble was the size and weight of the equipment left me a little short on other luggage. Who needs more than two pairs of trousers and one going out shirt?

The tour was pretty hectic and I had to be inventive. I practised in hotel rooms, swapped sushi for scales and ditched chicken Katsu for Cadenzas. One night, I even lay awake playing the music over and over in my head.

Lance Sergeant John Storey sits poised with his Euphonium on the left of the stage

Lance Sergeant John Storey sits poised with his Euphonium on the left of the stage

The concert

Lance Sergeant John Storey performing on the trombone with other brass players of the RPO

Lance Sergeant John Storey performing on the trombone with other brass players of the RPO

The two weeks in Japan flew by. In what seemed like a whirlwind, I was no longer on stage with my trusty band colleagues and old friends. I was rehearsing in a church in Blackheath with a group of other people, mostly strangers. There was no time to think about the things that had worried me up until now.

Before I knew it, the gig was over! I loved every minute of it and was touched by how many people from the band came out to show their support. After a few drinks with old friends, the adrenaline levels fell and I finally got to catch up on the jet lag my body had been so desperately fighting. It had been little over 48 hours since I landed at Heathrow.

I was asked to use this article to reflect on how preparing for and playing on stage with the RPO made me feel. Was I nervous? Did I get a real buzz?  Did I feel proud? The answer to all is undoubtedly, yes!

However, this is not the time to rest on one’s laurels. I am back with my band to prepare for the most important gig of all. It is the one that after 15 years leaves a lump in my throat, sends shivers down my spine and makes me so proud to be a member of the Corps of Army Music – the National Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph, London.

British Army Music travels to Japan Pt2

Musn Rachel Pounder (left) & Musn Abbie Kasparis (right)

Musn Rachel Pounder (left) & Musn Abbie Kasparis (right)

In this the second article about the tour of Japan by the Band of the Coldstream Guards, Musicians Rachel Pounder and Abbie Kasparis talk us through the remainder of this exciting trip, and shows us some of the exciting trips you could be on if you were in the Corps of Army Music

Sushi and Spa

Following the concert on Sunday night we headed south from Sapporo airport for the next leg of the tour, the fantastic city of Tokyo. We were all excited to reach the capital, and with an afternoon free we quickly departed our hotel to explore some of the sights. First off was the stunning temple Senso-Ji. This is situated in the area of Asakusa, which according to legend was miraculously fished out of the nearby Sumida-gawa river by two fishermen in 628 AD. Leading up to the temple is Nakamise-dori, a bustling shopping street boasting a diverse range of Japanese souvenirs including beautiful silk kimonos, chopsticks, teas and rice crackers.

Being in Japan you have to experience Sushi, so 3 of us ladies in the band filled up on a traditional sushi dinner, then jumped at the chance of using the hotel’s relaxing spa facility. A well deserved rest after a busy few days!

Fish before your eyes

Early the next morning a few of us ventured to the famous Tsukiji Fish Market. We navigated our way through countless wholesale fish stalls and food markets. Eventually we stopped at a sushi bar for breakfast where the food was prepared by the chef right before our eyes. An amazing sight and a real treat

Corporal Chris Dymott

Corporal Chris Dymott

After lunch we set up for an afternoon rehearsal at Sumida Trifony Hall.  This is close to Tokyo’s Eiffel Tower lookalike, Tokyo Tower. The large audience of close to a 1000 were again very warm and welcoming. The soloists featured in the concert were Lance Corporal Chris Dymott  on the vibraphone performing ‘Tribute to Lionel’ by Andre Wagnein, Colour Sergeant Dave Wright on his Flugelhorn and Musician Chad Barrigan on his classical guitar, yes we use guitars in military bands, performing together in ‘The Children of Sanchez’ by Chuck Mangione.

CSgt Dave Wight

CSgt Dave Wight

Time for speed

The following morning the Band boarded a shinkansen, more commonly known as the Bullet Train to the city of Nagoya. This high-speed train reaches speeds of up to 300km per hour and ate up the 300+ km journey in no time and arrived bang on time, unlike our daily commutes in London! Our venue tonight was Aichi Prefectural Arts Theatre Concert Hall, previously visited by the band on the 2011 tour.

Bullet train

Bullet train

Whilst engaging with some of those attending prior to the concert, one audience member produced photographs with band members from the concert in 2011 after buying a record-breaking twelve CDs – clearly our number one fan that I expect also follows us online.

Tonight’s soloists were our lead violinist Lance Corporal Helen Betteridge performing an arrangement for violin and wind band of Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens and Sergeant John Storey (euphonium) with Carnival Cocktail by Steve Sykes.

Lance Corporal Sam Smith surprised the audience by sneakily including a well-known Japanese tune, Furasato, in his cadenza as part of Cossack Fire Dance by Peter Graham.

We want to come back!

This tour has been a fantastic experience for all members of the band and When we joined up we never expected to travel to such an exotic and exciting place, we hope we can get to revisit Japan again very soon, raising the profile of the Corps of Army Music and indeed the UK.

Read British Army Music travels to Japan Pt1

Find out more about careers in the Corps of Army Music 

British Army Music travels to Japan Pt1

Lance Sergeant Rob Parry

Lance Sergeant Rob Parry

Lance Sergeant Rob Parry is assigned to the Band of the Coldstream Guards, Corps of Army Music (CAMUS). He is currently on tour with the band in Japan, just one of the many countries musicians from CAMUS has visited in the last 12 months.

I am very lucky that this concert tour of Japan will be my fourth with the Band of the Coldstream Guards (CAMUS). It is a trip that I always enjoy and look forward to time and time again. This time around, 2 weeks of concerts in some fantastic venues and to sizeable and enthusiastic audiences has been slightly augmented with a number of marching band appearances at events connected with Japan400 a commemoration of the 400th anniversary of  Japanese/British Relations.

Best of Bond

After the lengthy 15-hour flight from Heathrow via Incheon Korea, the Band landed safely at Chitose airport on Hokkaido, Japan’s second largest island and at its northern tip, finally arriving in Obihiro at 0005hrs local time. The tour began later that day having unloaded the freight, followed by an afternoon of rehearsals. An opening marching sequence, 18th Century band display, vocalists and the Scots Guards Pipes set all have to be tailored to the individual concert venues. Needless to say, rehearsals went well and the Band was sounding good despite the jet lag.

Our first performance was a short parade in downtown Obihiro. Before we stepped off, the waiting crowds were treated to an excellent performance of singing and drumming by the Tsukushi Kindergarten Marching Band. We then performed a selection of music from the James Bond films, Best of Bond, which proved to be very popular with the crowds.

The full band marches in Obihiro

The full band marches in Obihiro

I dreamed a dream

Later that day, our first concert was held at Obihiro Gymnasium. Not a venue we have visited previously, the Band was made to feel very welcome by an audience in excess of 1000. The 18th century band in their tights and cod pieces were received extremely well with some excellent Japanese compèring by CSgt Martin Brooke – a veteran of 11 Japanese visits!

We are also very fortunate to be joined on this tour by the Korean Soprano – Yoon-Jeong Hwang. She performed with the Band, I Dreamed A Dream from the hit musical Les Miserables. There were also solos from within the Band; Sergeant John Storey played Carnival Cocktail on euphonium, and Lance Corporal Helen Betteridge played Danse Macabre on violin. A quick turn around at the end of the concert was required as we had a three-hour coach journey to one of my favourite Japanese cities, Sapporo.

The concert at Obihiro Gymnasium

The concert at Obihiro Gymnasium

Local delicacies

Sapporo seems so familiar to me and always feels like we, as a Band, have come home. Previous tours have started here and it never fails to get everyone in high spirits. The concert hall here is without doubt one of the finest in the world, the food is excellent and night life – buzzing.

A slightly more relaxed day, however, with the concert starting at 1pm, rehearsals were short and sharp in order to leave plenty for performance. The Director of Music’s Japanese is getting better by the day, and the audiences appreciate the use of their language. Again we were joined on stage by Yoon-Jeong Hwang, who sang a duet with our very own Lance Sergeant  James Scott, called Isn’t It A Pity. Later in  the concert Yoon-Jeong Hwang also sang Memory from Cats and I Dreamed A Dream, which drew lots of applause from the audience again in excess of 1000. Lance Corporal Gav Hall and Lance Corporal Chris Dymott were the lucky soloists in such a fantastic hall, playing the cornet solo From The Shores Of The Mighty Pacific and vibraphone solo Tribute to Lionel.

After the concert, a small group of us went and tried one of the local delicacies. A barbecue pot is placed in front of you with an iron top, which you then cook lamb to your liking, accompanied by rice, bean-sprouts, soy sauce and a glass of the local brew, it was delicious and a great finish to the day. It is with a fond farewell that we leave Sapporo, onwards to Tokyo to another familiar staging area for the Band as we travel from North to the South of Japan.