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.

 

Read more CAMUS blogs

Find out more about the Corps of Army Music

Hot music training in the Middle East

Musn O'Brien

Musn O’Brien

Musician Perry O’Brien is a member of the Band of The King’s Division. He was recently part of a short term training team along with members from the Heavy Cavalry and Cambrai Band sent to Kuwait to assist with music training of the Kuwait Army Band.

Maestro masterclass

The Heavy Cavalry and Cambrai Band were recently tasked to provide a short-term training team for the development and positive forward direction of the Kuwait Army Band. Aided by members of the Band of The King’s Division, a team of five personnel ventured to the middle-east.

Upon arrival at Kuwait Airport, we were hunted down in the crowd by Kuwaitis from the British Embassy. We were humbly escorted to the VIP lounge to drink Turkish coffee and Chai (drinks we were to consume thousands of during our stay) while our baggage was being retrieved and visas obtained on our behalf.  We met with our point of contact who briefed us on local etiquette, discipline and culture before moving to the Moevenpick Hotel. We were very well catered for at the hotel and we could see that the Kuwaitis were very grateful to have us over there.

Our first day with the band added another 12 glasses of Chai (an extremely sweet tea with extra sugar but no milk). We met the band who demonstrated their day-to-day schedule and performed how they usually would.  Their ensemble consisted of 2 ‘Maestros’, 17 trumpets, 2 Flutes, 12 Clarinets, 6 saxes, 4 Trombones, 3 Euphoniums, 2 Tubas and a 10-strong percussion section.

Our aim was to focus on the improvement of the ‘Maestro’s’ technique and confidence to enable them to carry on improving the band after we had finished our short time there.  This was no easy job for the Director of Music Captain Riley as the Maestros did not speak English. Captain Riley was no silver tongue in Arabic, either! However, the local translators from within the band did a fantastic job of conveying his lessons to the Maestros.

The band in Kuwait

The band in Kuwait

Short term training for the Kuwait Army Band

Short term training for the Kuwait Army Band

Almost instantly – with the help of the team sitting within the sections, a stern approach to reducing dynamics and the number of musicians performing at one time being decreased – we established the progression of significant musical improvement and our ambitious goal of improving the standard of the Kuwait Army Band soon became vastly more realistic. They already produce an incredibly high standard of pipes and drums so there was no reason why the wind band element could not be as successful.

By the end of the first week, the Kuwait Army Band had demonstrated significant improvement and set up a meeting to perform for the Chief Of General Staff, Kuwait Army.  With the help of the brass quintet and under the direction of Captain Riley, the performance was a huge success; The Chief of Staff was very pleased with the improvement of the band and it was clear to see that the work of the training team was having a monumentally positive impact on the standard of musicianship.

Back to the classroom

Over the next couple of weeks, we were hosted by British Officers of the British Military Mission. Our team formed a brass quintet to allow us to perform as a small ensemble whilst we were in Kuwait. We performed with dozens of talented British children to raise money for a charity supporting orphans in Argentina.  We also performed at the Raddison Club for the public and one night in the desert near Iraq, with cyalume® (light sticks) being our only source of light – this was the most interesting performance I have ever been involved in.

We were also due to provide musical support at the Queen’s Birthday Party, but this was postponed out of respect for the late Margaret Thatcher.

We visited Kuwait English School and The English School to deliver educational workshops to classes of children.  This added another interesting dimension to our already diverse visit.  The children thoroughly enjoyed our lessons on all of the instruments, even if it was just the teachers that were old enough to remember “Pigbag”!

Our drivers were on call 24/7 and had our every need catered for before we could even ask.  We were made to feel comfortable and welcome everywhere we went, visiting museums, bazaars, beaches, traditional cafés and impressive national buildings. There were only a few square inches of Kuwait city that we didn’t get to see!

Overall, Kuwait offered an extremely interesting and valuable experience to each one of us.  Not only did the Kuwait Army Band benefit from the effective and positive direction we delivered, but we gained a wealth of knowledge in return.  It was amazing to see the effect we could have on the Kuwait Army Band and to see their improvement as a direct result of our input. I suppose the 35 degree sun, incredible hospitality and interesting culture were the few added bonuses to a very rewarding mission.