I have always enjoyed playing Christmas Carols, a tradition which started when I was a boy playing for the Rowntrees Cocoa Works Band some 55 years ago. The years have rolled by and the tradition still remains. Let me share with you Christmas 2013.
This year it started on the 5th December for the Kids for Kids Candlelit Christmas Concert at All Saints Church in Fulham, London with my Thames Fanfare Brass Ensemble. The church was packed out, we started the proceedings off with a Christmas Fanfare and segue into Once in Royal David's City, which was then followed by an introduction to the evening by Eammon Holmes, Patron of the Charity. There were several readings given by celebrities throughout the evening such as Richard Wilson OBE, Julie Etchingham and Ruth Langsford. Ruth Rendell was in attendance who is a strong supporter of the cause. Patricia Parker, founder of the charity gave a very emotional address about the work the charity had managed to do that year. There was also a lovely violin solo from Ruth Palmer and some lovely vocals from the Danes Hill Choir and the St Andrews Singers. It was a truly lovely evening and £9000 was raised which was great news. My group and I had a very enjoyable evening.
Next up for me was the 10th December I had been asked to play at the Royal Albert Hall for the concert Christmas with the Stars which was to raise money for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research. I was to play in Frank Renton's Concert Brass this was my third time playing in this group for this occasion. It doesn't get any better than playing at a packed out Albert Hall, also on stage with us were the Sydenham High School Choir, Fanfare Trumpets of the Scots Guards and many famous faces from television series such as Downton Abbey, Coronation Street and Emmerdale. These celebs gave their time to either sing read or just introduce the next item on the list, there was Caroline Quentin, Nicole Faraday, Heather Pearce, Clare Teal to name a few. Frank Renton was on top form with his conducting and presenting skills. I do remember when Frank was Director of Music for the Royal Artillery Band of which I was a member, our band played for this event it was Frank's first one and that was some 28 years ago and to his credit he has kept them going ever since. At the end of the concert the celebrities and the band go up to the balcony for champagne and nibbles and you get the chance to mingle with the stars which is always interesting. Another fantastic night of making music and raising money for another good cause.
On the 12th December I would be working at St Paul's Cathedral for a concert for the VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas). I would be there with 4 of my Thames Fanfare Brass Fanfare Trumpeters. There would also be The City of London Choir performing directed by Hilary Davan Wetton. I was very excited at playing in St Paul's again as it was some 25 years ago when I last played there. Sir David Green the organiser of the event told me the Cathedral would be packed out and when the evening arrived he was not lying St Paul's was full to the brim. I stood there with my fellow Fanfare players and we opened the proceedings with the fanfare “Crowning” it sounded great even if I do say so myself. There were many famous faces there giving readings, Griff Rhys Jones, David Suchet, Hayley Mills, Mick Lyons and Sue Macgregor. Angelique Kidjo sang an African song which was stunningly good a solo voice filling the whole of St Paul's it was fantastic. Simon Johnson the organist played and we played Sir David Willcocks descants trumpet parts. It was a great evening not to be forgotten, after Sir David told me that they raised £180,000 what a great result.
To bring my festive carol playing season to an end on the 14th December I played with Kent Festival Brass at Mote Hall in Maidstone, this time Marie Curie Cancer Care was the charity we were raising money for. The evening was a great success and the carols went down very well with the audience.
So as long as I don't lose all my teeth I will look forward to playing carols in 2014 whether it be at such prestigious venues such as St Paul's Cathedral or The Albert Hall or even on the platform at Euston Station or on Regents Street I look forward to it all again.