Female bandmaster swaps music for mentoring in Kabul

Female bandmaster swaps music for mentoring in Kabul

Bandmaster in Afghanistan

Warrant Officer Class One Esther Freeborn, Bandmaster from the Corps of Army Music

Part 2

Warrant Officer Class One Esther Freeborn is a Bandmaster in the Corps of Army Music. She has performed music at venues around the world and in front of Royalty on many occasions. She is now assigned to work with the Afghan National Army at their Officers’ Academy in Kabul.

International World Women’s Day at the Afghan National Army Officer Academy

Two months in – five to go

Well, I am in my second month at Camp Qargha and everything is going well. My fears of coping in this small vicinity and with a small amount of comforts have been allayed. We are very lucky to be able to receive post from friends and family, and from internet companies that will deliver to a British Forces Post Office. Receiving post generates enormous morale for everyone here, whether you have received a letter from a loved one, or a box full of toiletries from your mum. It’s amazing how grateful you can be for a nice bottle of shower gel!

Women’s Day

At the beginning of March, I was very honoured to represent our site at the Afghan National Army celebrations for International Women’s Day. It was amazing to see how many women were involved in the Afghan Armed Forces, including the first Afghan female pilot. The Afghans are obviously very passionate about Women’s rights and quite insistent on developing roles for women in all services.

Generating lesson plans in multiple dialects

I have many responsibilities here at Qargha, but mainly deal with the production and development of lessons for the Afghan National Army Officer Academy. As you can imagine the lessons for its 42-week course consist of anything from Foot Drill to Afghan Military Tactics. The British Army and partner nation forces mentors immerse themselves in the Afghan doctrine (policy) and write the lessons. Obviously, the lessons are written in English, and, although the Officer Cadets learn English as part of their course, all lessons have to be translated. The Afghanistan population speaks many different dialects, often depending on what part of the country they are from. Dari and Pashto are the two most spoken dialects, but the Academy has chosen for all lessons to be in Dari. Although I cannot speak Dari (apart from ‘hello’ and ‘how are you’), I find that I can recognize certain words and I have even learnt how to write ‘hello’ – سلام.

Command tasks at the Afghan National Army Officer Academy

Command tasks at the Afghan National Army Officer Academy

Small location could drive you mad

It is amazing how many different people you meet whilst on operations, in a camp that is only the size of a few football pitches. As I mentioned previously, there are partner nations here, such as Australian, New Zealand, Norwegian, Danish and American who perform many different roles.

I have to say, my favourite section is the dog section. I have a Springer Spaniel called Tyler and I miss him very much; fortunately I am able to visit the dog compound and give all the dogs a fuss.

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Kenzie the Springer Spaniel who used to visit me. He has now gone back to Camp Bastion

I think the most interesting part of the job is being able to talk to the Afghans, both military and civilian, learn about their families, what type of house they have, and even the type of cars they drive (usually a Toyota!) It is only unfortunate that we are unable to explore the surrounding areas a bit more, and see life on the streets of Kabul for ourselves. Nevertheless, I am content with my surroundings and the beautiful view of the Kabul mountains as the snow slowly melts in the gradually warming spring weather. The job is not too bad either!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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: 

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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.

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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

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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.