I used to be player manager of the world renowned Wallace Collection who’s leader John Wallace is now the Principle of The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. In the 1990’s the Wallace Brass Ensemble were undertaking lots of work with the British Council playing concerts and taking workshops and master-classes in many countries.
We had visited South Africa on a couple of occasions, working in Durban, Soweto, Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town.
The British Council knew about my Military background and approached me with an idea. They wanted me to carry out a solo visit to Cape Town; I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. I was to go to Cape Town for one week then John Wallace would follow on to over see the Cape Town Brass Congress for four days.
Plans were made and I was put in a five star hotel and was to be looked after by a Jack Simpson who was a Staff Sergeant of the South African Staff Band. When Jack met me at the airport he handed me my itinerary and showed me to my car. Wow what a schedule I couldn't believe my eyes they had managed to pack in master-classes, recitals, radio interviews, coaching and conducting The South African Staff Band, The Royal Navy Staff Band and the Salvation Army Band plus lectures at the Cape Town University, local schools, bands and Townships. You name it, it was on there. I was going to have to use everything I had learned to get through this week.
It was a very hectic week but very enjoyable, I don’t think I slept with all the preparation needed.
My army background came in very useful for the Army and Navy Bands and they were very interested in the history of my army band The Royal Artillery. Both bands played at a very high standard and it was a privilege to conduct them. I also had the pleasure to conduct The Salvation Army Band too and after I played “Carnival of Venice with Variations” for them which went down very well – I was just happy to get through it.
The local schools were very interesting but so behind and the lack of resources made things difficult they had to share instruments which were in a terrible state although everyone had a good time and the Township Bands were great fun.
I talked at length with Jack and we put together a draft proposal to try and get local business to sponsor A South African Staff Band Music Academy for the under privileged kids hopefully it would help change the image of the army too. We hoped to educate children from surrounding areas to have access to music tuition through small Satellite Community Teaching Centres. Jack was really up for the changes we had a great week and he really looked after me.
When John Wallace arrived he asked me how it went I told casually, yeah it was ok, as if I had been doing this sort of thing all my life. I can tell you the next four days with John seemed a doddle in comparison.
Teaching one of the tiny community bands in Cape Town.