Tuesday, 19 November 2013

REMEMBRANCE WEEKEND

REMEMBRANCE WEEKEND

Having served 22 years with the Royal Artillery Band as a trumpet player I have played the Last Post, Reveille and Rouse more times than I can remember whether the Cavalry of Infantry version played on the Bugle or Fanfare Trumpet, I never took it for granted it has always been a challenge to perform it well. It can be such a difficult piece to play at times whether you are at a graveside or a memorial.

Since leaving the Royal Artillery Band in 1987 I have still been called upon to play the Last Post on many occasions. But a regular occurrence is the Remembrance Weekend. It starts for me on Saturday evening with a local engagement approximately a couple of miles from my home, a Remembrance Mass at Our Lady of the Angels Church in Erith, Kent. It is always a good workout for me as there are a lot of hymns and descants. There is also a small choir who I perform alongside too, whether it is Sanctus from The Armed Man or Hallelujah. There is of course the laying of the wreath, which is carried out by Commander J. Mankerty (retired) and the playing of the Last Post and Rouse. Hopefully I will be asked again next year which will make it my 14th.

Sunday morning is an early start; I leave home at 8:30am with all the uniforms, music stands, instruments etc for a brass quintet engagement for The London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. My group - Thames Fanfare Brass play on Shepherds Bush Green where the War Memorial is. This year was a bright sunny morning a little cold but dry and no rain which is always good for us. Our group has been so lucky in the 10 years we have been playing here as it may have rained before and after the service but never during.

We start playing just after 10:30am while people take their places for the service. This year we played Dvorak- Humoresque, Sullivan’s – The Lost Chord, Abide With Me, Amazing Grace and finally A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square. There is also a parade of soldiers that make their way from Shepherds Bush Road to The Memorial on The Green. Leading the parade is Piper Bob Ash and our own TFB Drummer Tim Saxby. The parade of soldiers fall out and take their places at the memorial. There are a few introductory words from the Reverend Canon David Tann and then into the first hymn – All People that on Earth Do Dwell. At 11:00am I signal to Tim our Drummer for a drum roll which is the signal for the 2 minutes silence. Oscar Hurst who sits next to me times the 2 minutes, he lets me know 10 seconds before it finishes to stand by then I play the Last Post. After that the Deputy Mayor gives his reading followed by Mrs. Joan Edwards from the Burma Star Association, she reads the line “When you go home tell them of us and say for your tomorrow we gave our today”. The flags are then raised and I play the Rouse. Then Bob the piper plays while all the services lay their wreaths.  Next is an address by Rabbi Geoffrey Shisler, followed by more hymns and a blessing. I then cue for a drum roll and we play the National Anthem.

We then play a couple more pieces of music while the soldiers form up for a march pass. Then that is us finished for another year. Load up the car then back home.

On Monday 11th November this year I was playing at a new venue, for the last few years I have played at a service at Bromley High School for Girls all 1500 of them. The Head of Music Kath Ridgeway had moved schools so this year I found myself at Blackheath High School and playing indoors which was a change. The Headmistress gave a nice PowerPoint presentation which leads me into playing the Last Post and Reveille. Then Kath played an intro into Abide With Me and in the second verse I play a lovely descant part which always brings a tear to her eye. I always say “It wasn’t that bad was it”.

Now my Remembrance Weekend has come to an end. That evening while I was watching the news I saw my friend Martin Hinton, Principle Trumpet of the Royal Artillery band playing the Last Post at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan.

It’s never easy playing the Last Post as this piece of music holds lasting memories for a lot of people who have buried loved ones. But I am honoured each year to be asked to play at these services to pay our respects for all those men and women who past and present gave their lives for their country.


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