Tuesday 19 November 2013



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.

Tuesday 22 October 2013


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.

Tuesday 17 September 2013


In 1966 I was a member of The Royal Artillery Band stationed at Woolwich South East London. I played the Cornet/Trumpet. I was very fortunate to be in this prestigious band as most of the members were what they call Double Handed which means they are able to play two instruments a wind and a string. When I joined in 1965 I was accepted on just the one instrument, and I did not think I was very good on that.

In 1966 summer had been quite a busy time for the Band, playing at the Royal Tournament at Earls Court and the Edinburgh Tattoo, after which we all went on summer leave. On my return from leave I was told I would be attending Kneller Hall, for a 1 year pupil’s course. I was thrilled to bits to get the chance to study at this establishment, and have my first ever professional trumpet lesson. There were quite a lot of us from Woolwich starting, although I would be the only one from the Main Band. The others were from the Royal Artillery Junior Musician Troop, who had started there at the age of 15. They were all a bit disgruntled to have to do another year of lessons as they assumed now that they were 18 they would be going straight to the main band as they were now classed as men.  I was elated to be there, it was a golden opportunity for me to learn and boy did I grab it with both hands. I believe there were about 200 pupils attending the 1966/67 course from all bands in the land and several from overseas including the Ghurkas, Canada and Australia.

When we arrived on our first day we were split into Four Company Bands A B C D. I was put in A company. We all had to audition for our position in the band; I was put as principal cornet of about 15 cornets. We then had to audition for Herald Fanfare Trumpets – I was accepted into the Kneller Fanfare Team, most of them were student bandmasters on a 3-4 year course I was accepted as they needed a couple of pupils to make up the numbers. Then we were placed in our positions for the full band of about 250 musicians including student bandmasters. To my surprise I was placed on the first stand of cornets next to the principal trumpet who was student Pyke. Wow top position out of 60 other cornets – thrilled or what.

I was told that I would be having trumpet lessons from Jack Macintosh – Jack was a brilliant trumpet player and a legend – and he played for the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the New Philharmonia. My first lesson – I was waiting outside the professor's bunk when he turned up on his bicycle – bent down took his bike clips off looked at me and said “Alright son, How are you?” it was as if he had known me for ages. We got on well straight from the start and I loved my lessons with him – if anyone pulled out of their lesson for any reason I would be straight there taking their place. Some of the Ghurka's found it a real strain but I loved every minute of it. The music that Jack could play on his trumpet he had amazing lip flexibility and was well known for his Cowboy Cadenzas.

Again I was lucky enough to be chosen to play in the Student No1 Band which meant many radio broadcasts conducted by Lt Col Basil Brown.

In November of that year I was very nervous I had to play Last Post and Reveille in front of the whole school. I did it thank god and it went well.

My A Company Band played at several concerts around the Richmond area including The Star & Garter and the Darby & Joan Club; these were all good experiences for the band.

Christmas was nearly here and time had just flown by my trumpet was hardly away from my lips from first thing in the morning till late at night, playing all kinds of repertoire – church music, large dance band music, brass groups, jazz, Dixie and pop you name it I had a go at it and really got involved. I could not get enough. I had to make myself put down my trumpet at 9pm so I could go and meet the lads at the pub and catch up with them (on the drinking front) we had many laughs in the Duke of Cambridge – which was the local pub just opposite the Guard Room.

When the end of January came around a film crew came to Kneller Hall for five days to film a documentary “Look at Life”. I am still waiting to see it. It would bring back such happy memories for me.

I even got into the school football team; I hadn't played since my school days. I bought my first pair of real football boots (I think they are still in the shed now) we had a good team and we managed to win the league, I've still got my medal.

Then the competitions started, first up was the Concert Band. We played Rienzi – I remember because it started with a solo trumpet and we won. Then came the Marching Display, it was the year that Sandy Shaw won the Eurovision Song Contest with Puppet on a String, so our Student Bandmaster arranged it so we could play it on our Marching Display.

May was the start of the weekly Bandstand Concerts (On The Rock) as it was called – hour upon hour would be spent rehearsing for these concerts and at the end of every month there would be a Grand Concert when a named musical celebrity was invited to conduct the large band, such names as Geoffrey Brand, Harry Mortimer and Frank Wright. On one of these concerts Gilbert Vinter would be the Conductor and I would be playing a cornet solo “Roses from Picardy”. On another occasion Derek Garside, principal cornet player for the CWS (Manchester) Band would be the guest soloist for the concert. It was my job however to play his part in all of the rehearsals for the concert. The two pieces Facilita and Cleopatra were very difficult to play but it was a great opportunity for me and I gained a great deal from the challenge. At the last Grand Concert of the year the guest Conductor was Trevor Sharpe and on this concert I was to play a solo called El Silencio, these Grand Concerts proved to be very popular and on average 4,500 people would come to listen and see the large firework displays at the end.

My year was nearly up, just one more competition; it was for the Cousins Memorial Medal.

1st Prize Pupil Henderson Gordon Highlanders 89%
2nd Prize Pupil Wood Welsh Guards 88%
3rd Prize Pupil Bilham Royal Artillery 87%

No medal for me, but I gave it my best shot. My professor of trumpet Jack Macintosh gave me a “Very Good” in my report and my Commander gave me a “very auditable result”

I had a wonderful year at Kneller Hall and I would not have missed it for the world. I loved my lessons with the legendary Jack Macintosh and did learn my rudiments of music and my scales. The year was a very rewarding experience and I met a lot of great guys and students. I guess I must have improved enough not to be posted to Larkhill or Germany RA Bands. I stayed at Woolwich for 21 years and finished my service as WO1 Band Sergeant Major and Deputy Band Master.

This article was brought to you by Thames Fanfare Brass

Tuesday 16 July 2013


Back in 1971 while I was serving with the Royal Artillery Band news came in that the band would be visiting San Francisco in the first week of October, I was thrilled as this would be my first every trip to America.

The day arrived for us to leave we flew by British Airways 707. Travelling with us was HRH Princess Alexandra who of course was travelling first class away from us rabble. Also on board were the Royal Scots Pipe Band, British Bobbies and Beefeaters. We were treated as if we were in first class as it was free drink for the whole flight over, so as you can imagine that went down very well with everyone. We were even given 200 Rothmans King size filter cigarettes to hand out to local people during our visit.

British week in San Francisco at the time was to be the biggest commercial and cultural event staged in the city by another nation. When we arrived we were taken to Fort Mason which was to be our accommodation for the week. Wow what a magnificent view we had to the left was The Golden Gate Bridge and to the right was Alcatraz.

The Royal Artillery Band had a busy schedule for the week with concerts and marching displays this meant that on occasion the band had to be split into two bands A&B.

HMS Blake a Guided Missile Cruiser of the Tiger Class was also scheduled to visit at the same time as us her 100 strong Royal Guard with the Queen’s colours would parade for Princess Alexandra at the City Hall before she officially opened the promotion. There was even a Rolls Royce on display and the Flying Scotsman Locomotive had been transported over for the event.


1st October
10.00am Opening Ceremony Full Band Marching with 8 Herald Trumpeters
2.00pm   Union Square Full and Concert
4.15pm   Bank of America Plaza  A Band
5.15pm   Cannery  B Band

2nd October
10.00am Golden Gate Park Highland Games Full Band Marching
12.00pm Post Street, Maiden Lane Full Band Marching
12.45pm Masonic Auditorium Full Band Concert
2.30pm   Golden Gate Park Full Band Marching
4.45pm  Civic Centre  A Band
4.45pm  Union Square  B Band

3rd October
10.00am Golden Gate Park Highland Games Full Band Marching
12.00pm Union Square  A Band
1.00pm  Stonestown Fashion Show  B Band
2.30pm  Golden Gate Park Full Band Marching in presence of Princess Alexandra
5.00pm  Grace Cathedral One Trumpet playing Last Post Reveille
5.30pm  Cannery  B Band

4th October
12.15pm  Zellerbach Plaza  A Band
12.15pm  Ghirardelli Square  B Band
3.00pm   Union Square  B Band
6.00pm   Union Square  A Band

5th October
Day Off for A Band
10.00am Shrinners Children’s Hospital  B Band
2.30pm   Union Square  B Band
5.00pm   Bank of America  B Band and Pipes

6th October
12.00pm  Union Square Full Band Marching and Concert
2.30pm   Stonestown Fashion Show  B Band
4.30pm  Civic Centre  A Band

7th October
Day Off B Band
12.00 Zellerbach Plaza  A Band
5.00pm  Grant Avenue, Maiden Lane  A Band

8th October
12.00pm Standard Oil Plaza  A band
12.00pm Union Square  B Band
6.00pm  Union Square Full Band Concert

9th October
11.00am  Union Square  A Band
2.30pm   Stonestown Fashion Show  B Band
3.00pm  Ghirardelli Square  A Band
7.00pm   Union Square Full Band Pipes and Closing Ceremony and Retreat.

I remember during the week one trumpet player out of the band would have to go to Arizona this was between me and Ken Davidson – Ken got the nod so off he went to play a fanfare for the opening of London Bridge which had been transported over to Havasu City in Arizona and taken 3 years to re-construct. That was a nice little date for him one which he would never forget.

A fantastic week was had by all – lots of happy hours spent in a wonderful city. We had time to see the Giant Redwoods and drive over the Golden Gate Bridge. I loved the cable cars, no wonder they retain their place in the affections of residents and visitors alike. We went to Chinatown which was a very busy and lively place to visit and live. We also took a shine to Fisherman’s Wharf and their fabulous seafood restaurants.

British week in San Francisco was a memorable visit; I returned home absolutely knackered but thrilled to have been part of this one off event. I still have many stories and anecdotes rattling around in my head from this tour.


Monday 17 June 2013

Royal Dinner - The Army Benevolent Fund - The Variety Club of Great Britain

In the presence of H.R.H. The Princess Anne, Mrs Mark Phillips, GCVO Royal Artillery Mess Woolwich Thursday 24th July 1986 The evening marked the retirement of General Sir John Mogg as president of the Army Benevolent Fund. This would be my last Royal dinner in the Woolwich Officers Mess. The scene was set for our special Royal visitor. There were two 25 pounder Guns on display outside the Mess and Herald Trumpeters announcing the Arrival of Princess Anne.

The Officers Mess has been on this site since 1783 making it one of the oldest in the British Army with its magnificent chandeliers and priceless silverware on display. The Mess servants known as the “white waiters” were dressed in Georgian uniforms from the original colour of the Livery. The evening started with a Sunset Ceremony by the Band of The Royal Artillery marching on parade to the Royal Artillery Slow March. Then came some incidental music of Trumpet Tune and Air followed by the playing of Sunset. Finally the Band marched off to their own quick march “British Grenadiers”.

My evening was going to be spent playing dinner music with the Royal Artillery Orchestra, under its Director Major Frank Renton. The music program was as follows: “Marching Strings” Ross Overture “Die Schone Galathea” Suppe Symphony No 92 in G Major Haydn (The Oxford) Adagio, Allegro Spiritoso Adagio Allegretto Presto Selection “Guys and Dolls” Loesser Selection “Dam Yankees” Adler “A Birthday Bouquet” Arr. Renton March “Florentiner” Fucik Regimental Marches Post Horn Gallop I had played in the R.A. Mess on numerous occasions during my 22 years service and at the end of the dinner the trumpet player had to perform the Coach Horn Solo followed by the Post Horn Gallop, luckily for me my solo went well and was well received.

The menu for the evening was as follows: Fresh Melon Marsala Eggs Mimosa Darne of Scottish Salmon Hollondaise Lorette Potatoes Broccoli Spears Mange-Tout Lemon Sorbet Canapes St. James Petit Fours Coffee It was a very successful evening and much needed money was raised for the Army Benevolent Fund Childrens Section

. brass ensemble

Tuesday 7 May 2013

Playing at Wembley

Myself and many of my colleagues have probably spent more time on the hallowed Wembley turf than England captain Bobby Moore. Not playing football but playing our musical instruments.

On the 20th April 1968 The Royal Artillery Band played  for the Amateur Cup Final at Wembley. This was my first time playing at the world famous stadium. My next time would be for a School Boy International football match. I remember the noise of 95,000 school kids all screaming and cheering the noise was unbelievable. England won 2-1 against Germany and I was paid an extra £1-10s for playing wahooo.

Before the match started the band played from the centre spot, a selection of popular tunes and community singing led by Bill Scott Coomber.

Next we played the National Anthems of both sides and then marched off into the tunnel ready for the half time marching display. Our marching display was called an Arrow Head which included slow and quick marching at the same time and the band ended up looking like an Arrow Head hence the name.

After the display we never stayed to watch the football as we would have to get straight on the coaches for the journey back to the barracks at Woolwich.

Here is a list of the international matches which I played for.

12th March 1969 England 5-0 France
22nd May 1974 England 2-2 Argentina
12th March 1975 England 2-0 Germany
7th September 1977 England 0-0 Switzerland
29th November 1978 England 1-0 Czechoslovakia
7th February 1979 England 4-0 Northern Ireland
13th May 1980 England 3-1 Argentina
25th March 1981 England 1-2 Spain
16th June 1982 England 3-0 France
15th December 1982 England 9-0 Luxemburg
1st June 1983 England 1-0 Scotland


In the centre of the giant Wembley Stadium more than 200 Herald Trumpeters and Buglers raised their instruments for a giant fanfare. The Military Musical Pageant of 1973 was underway.

As the last notes of the fanfare died away a great mass of men began pouring into the stadium. The massed bands of the Foot Guards followed by the Mounted Bands of the Life Guards, The Blues and Royals, Household Cavalry and The Royal Artillery.

     This was the biggest show ever staged anywhere by British Bands and in one word it was SPECTACULAR.

The two men behind the Musical Pageant were Major Aubrey Jackman, the producer and Lt Colonel Rodney Bashford, The Army’s Senior Director of Music and Director of Music at The Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall.

After the spectacular opening there was the Gaelic Gathering of the massed pipes, drums and Irish Regiments. Then in complete contrast was the massed bands and bugles of the Light Division, marching at their distinctive rifle pace, they performed the Light Fantastic which was a brilliant display of marching in slow and quick time.

Then the musicians gathered together to form the biggest of big bands, more than 1500 musicians belting out tunes from the 1970’s.

But the high spot of the evening for me was the 1812 Overture. There were men in period dress firing muskets, The Guns of The Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery firing as the music reached its dramatic climax, while the Armies of Bandsmen re-enacted The Battle of Borodino in music.

For the finale all the bands gathered on the turf to play together while giant search lights picked out the scenes and fireworks were launched.

It was the start of many musical pageants and many many more hours standing on that Wembley turf.

I played at another five of these pageants before I retired from the Army and each one was as good as the last.

Friday 12 April 2013

Lord Mayors Show 1965 Most Embarrassing Moment

While serving in the Royal Artillery Band in 1965 The Lord Mayors Show was to be one of my first big engagements with the band.

This is a show which is an annual parade that marks the inauguration of the Lord Mayor of London. This parade is a very precise event and every band, float, horse; car etc in the procession had an exact gap between each other which was measured out by one man. The event was also timed to perfection; the procession would take over 1 hour to pass any one point. The three mile procession fits into 1.7 mile route. It travels via St Paul’s between 11.05 and 12.30 and returns by the Embankment between 1.00 and 2.30 which makes this a street parade on a massive scale.

So back to 1965, the assembly area for all the various bands which included mounted bands, pipe bands, majorette bands and service bands was a huge six acre grass area in the grounds of the Royal Honourable Artillery Company. Oh boy was it cold on that day, we all lined up in order for the parade, hundreds and hundreds of musicians, with only a few toilets. I recall standing around for well over an hour before the first band was called forward to join the parade with the floats etc.

It was now our turn to join the parade with a band of over sixty musicians
all in full ceremonial dress. This included a Busby with plume and gold chain. New blues jacket, which was tight around the neck, a gold cross belt and sword this meant that underneath the jacket you had to wear a leather strap that would come out the back of the jacket through a slit which meant the sword and scabbard could hang from it, all very uncomfortable. The trousers were made to fit like a glove and at the bottom of them there was a buckle and strap which meant they could be fastened under your new George boots which had spurs on. So when you put your braces on you had to pull them up as far as they would go so that your trousers were as tight as possible. Then a new pair of white gloves which had to be buttoned up at the wrist.

So there I was in all my glory holding my cornet which had all 12 double sided march cards attached to a music lyre.

My embarrassing moment was about to begin. On this occasion the RA was using a very large band of about 80 I was at the very back with the other cornets. We had been waiting a good hour before it was our turn to march off I was very excited to be involved knowing that all the streets would be full with thousands of spectators. Here we go The Drum Major brought us all to attention and shouted Band by the Centre Quick March. At this everybody brought their instruments up to start playing as I did but I brought mine up too quick and the whole twelve marching cards splattered all over the road the band was now playing and marching off away from me there I was bending down to try and pick up my cards with my gloved hands which was nigh on impossible, when I felt the ping of my braces coming off their buttons then at the same time my bloody Busby fell off landing on top of the cards I could see the band getting further away. And panic came washing over me I was now trying to remove my gloves which was proving to be impossible then to make matters worse I heard a booming voice above me say FOR GOODNESS SAKE GUNNER MUSICIAN WHATEVER YOU ARE HURRY UP YOU ARE HOLDING UP THE WHOLE LORD MAYORS SHOW. As I looked up I saw this officer astride a huge horse looking down at me with pure distain, and at that point to make matters even worse I felt a warm wet trickle run down my neck which was the horse’s saliva. Saying sorry sir sorry sir I gathered up all my stuff and tried to run back to the band while wiping horse saliva off my neck trying to put my cards in some sense of order and putting my Busby back on my head. I could hear the crowd laughing and pointing at me. I caught up with the band not knowing which march we were playing and winging it until we got to the halfway point where I could put myself back together again. I just wanted the ground to open up and swallow me whole. The back line of the cornets could not stop laughing and telling everyone about the new lad who had just joined the band. Luckily for me my drum major never found out.

It was quite an experience and I was well knackered at the end of it. While serving with the Royal Artillery Band I performed in 19 Lord Mayors Shows plus one with the Royal Yeomanry Band and one with Thames Fanfare Brass Dixie Band, which was a lot of fun, we were working for Esso Blue, playing their advert music theme ‘Esso Blue For Happy Motoring’ and Dixie numbers in between for 3 miles.

So to finish this story I never dropped my march cards again it really was very embarrassing and I will never forget it.

I am still involved with the Lord Mayor, not in his show but performing with my brass ensemble Thames Fanfare Brass at banquets held in the Mansion House, the home of the Lord Mayor, which he attends. I have now been performing at the Mansion House for 50 years, how time flies when you’re having fun.

Tuesday 9 April 2013

Brass Ensemble Instrument Care and Repair

Roy Bilham director of Thames Fanfare Brass and British State Trumpeters has been a professional brass musician for over 50 years playing in Brass Bands, Orchestras, Wind Bands, Brass Quintets and Brass Ensembles. He has also been a  teacher of brass for over 40 years.

Regular maintenance on your instrument is very important, a little time and effort will certainly pay off and should avoid problems which could lead to a very costly repair bill. However be aware of attempting to repair your instrument yourself however small.  If you have any doubts consult a qualified instrument technician for advice.


These cleaning principles can cover Fanfare Trumpets – All Trumpets/Cornets – Tenor Horns/Flugels – Baritones/Euphonium/Tubas.

The two most important factors to remember in caring for your brass instrument are cleanliness and regular lubrication.

1.      Flush out your instrument at least every 4-6 weeks with mild soapy water. For example a trumpet would only need a few drops of fairy liquid down the bell followed by a sauce pan of warm water poured down the bell after. This works well and you get a continuous flow through the cornet/trumpet. Then rinse with cold water and dry thoroughly. Do not use hot water as this could be dangerous to you and the lacquer on your instrument.
2.      A flexible cleaning brush should be used to clean out slides and tubing, but make sure this is renewed once a year to avoid breakage inside the instrument.
3.      Use a valve case cleaning brush to clean out the valve casings.
4.      Use a lint free cloth such as cheese cloth as a swab. This may also be used to wipe the pistons which should be carefully removed and special care taken to replace them in the right order (clean one valve replace and so on).
5.      Use only a quality tuning slide grease when lubricating the slides and a minimum amount of valve oil on the pistons. The use of inferior lubricants can affect the performance of your instrument.
6.      Make sure that the mouthpieces are cleaned thoroughly with warm water a dirty mouthpiece or mouth pipe can be detrimental in the response of your instrument.
7.      Care should be taken when polishing lacquered and silver plated instruments. Harsh abrasives must be avoided at all times and only the correct cleaning cloths should be used.
8.      Try to keep your instrument in an atmosphere of even temperature and humidity. Do not leave it in direct sunlight or near a radiator even when it is in its case.
9.      For trombones fill the complete slide with soapy warm water and activate the slide up and down several times. Remove the water and rinse through with clean clear water as necessary.
10.  The inner and outer slides should be disassembled and cleaned using a cleaning brush in conjunction with any good slide cleaning kit to make sure that the cleaning reaches the bottom bow of the outer slide.
11.  A small amount of good quality slide cream should be applied to the inner slide stocking and sprayed with clear water.
12.  Ensure that the bell and tuning slide are kept clean by running them through with lukewarm water and a tuning slide swab. After drying with a lint free cloth apply tuning slide grease before reassembling.


Al Cass fast valve slide and key oil.
Superslick care kit for trumpet/cornet.

Yamaha trombone maintenance cleaning kit cork grease and brush.
Herco slide grease.


Phil Parker – Dawkes Music

So the bottom line ladies and gentlemen boys and girls – as teachers we don’t want to see sausage, egg, bacon and chips lining your mouthpieces.

Friday 8 March 2013

British State Trumpeters: Uniforms - Formations

It was a privilege to meet an outstanding Bagpiper many years ago his name is Bob Murphy. He was forever featured on television-adverts-films-TV series. He has played on the film The English Patient, TV series Edward the King, The Years of Waiting and Til Death Do Us Part to name a few.

When Bob completed his army service with the Gordon Highlanders he formed his own group called the Caledonian Pipers and Dancers, he also formed a brass group to accompany the pipers they were dressed in bearskins and red tunics just like the guards, so with the pipers in Scottish dress kilts n all and the brass group in their red tunics it was a very colourful sight.

Bob and I formed a very happy working relationship which lasted many years; we collaborated on marching displays for hospitality and corporate events and even spent several days in Aviemore Scotland for a car launch. Very popular with Hotel cabarets with the dancers.

During a telephone conversation with Bob I asked him what he was going to do with all those brass uniforms now he had retired. He said ‘sell them’ so there I was ‘buying them’ ending my conversation with 6 bearskins and a huge box of red tunics and black trousers. I got them home took one look at my wife’s face and knew they had to go up into the loft pretty quick and there they stayed for a few years.

Being a former Band Sergeant Major of the Royal Artillery Band I was interested to hear about the change in the Category 4 rules, this meant that band musicians would not be paid above their army pay for private functions – the money would go back to the Ministry of Defense. Now if you know musicians you will know that they are not keen on working overtime for nothing. I realized now that my civilian fanfare team could now get some of this work.

I woke up one morning very early with the bright idea of British State Trumpeters. I could give that military look of bearskins red tunics sashes and swords and not have to pay the Ministry of Defense a penny.

Firstly I had to register the name at Companies House. I thought I might have a problem with the word ‘State’ but it turned out that the word ‘British’ was going to be the problem. To use the word ‘British’ in any company name you have to prove that you are pre-eminent in your field. After writing to several contacts that I have met along the way they kindly wrote letters to the Sensitive Names Department at Companies House stating that I was pre-eminent in this field and worthy of using the word ‘British’ in my new company. Several weeks passed and I received a phone call from the Sensitive Names Department letting me know that I had been granted permission to use the word ‘British’ and there would be a letter in the post to confirm this. I was over the moon. Next came registering the domain names for BST I managed to secure all the important ones .com, .co.uk, .net and .org.

Thames Fanfare Brass ensemble is now in its 26th year and its website was a bit frayed around the edges and in need of an update. So with the help of Rocketfish and SEO and web Design Company we set off building a new website. I was told this would only take approx 8 weeks, 18 weeks later we were up and running better late than never I guess.

I realized that I would be needing more bearskins as I only had 6. I searched around on e bay and asked some old contacts but there were very few about and the ones that were, were very expensive, so I decided to give Bob a call again and ask him if he had anymore. Luckily for me he had another 6 so I took them and also bought 2 wonderful Wilkinson swords.

I now had all the tunics cleaned and new gold braiding sewn on them. I didn’t want to go with the white belts so I had red sashes made up and designed new banners for the Fanfare Trumpets.

I was in contact with Prestige Promotions and they were organizing a Super Car Rally ‘The Italian Job’ from Chilston Hotel, Kent. I told them I had formed a new Fanfare Group called British State Trumpeters, they liked the idea so they booked two trumpets to start the Rally. This was a great opportunity to get some pictures for publicity.

I decided it would be a good idea to get some video footage of BST to put on you tube, so off I went with my group to play fanfares at various venues. I also thought it would be a good idea to get some new photos of Thames Fanfare Brass; fortunately we had a booking for the F1 Team Lotus end of season gala. This event was a great success and we managed to get some great photos with the F1 Lotus car. Then came the Royal Film Premier of the film The Hobbit, yet again we managed to get some brilliant photos of our Herald Trumpeters at this special event.

The website is now live and looking pretty good, there is lots of pictures and fanfares to listen to, we are now on facebook, twitter and Google +. Fingers crossed we will be getting enquiries and bookings soon. We now need to work even harder than we have been doing over these past months to get the work in. Hopefully in the near future British State Trumpeters will be busy just like its older sibling Thames Fanfare Brass. 

Tuesday 5 March 2013

Christmas Caroling

Brings back happy memories Hark the Herald Angels Sing—trumpet fanfares—descants—brass bands—choirs—decorations—the works.

 I have always enjoyed playing Christmas Carols, it all started when I was about 14 years of age and was a member of the Rowntree's Cocoa Works Band in York. Every year the band played carols for the city's various hospitals and nursing homes. This tradition continued every year until I left the band.
 When I was 20 years of age I joined the Royal Artillery Band in Woolwich, London so for the next 22 years there was always lots of Christmas Concert performances.

 I became player/manager of the world renown brass group The Wallace Collection so for the next 13 years there were Christmas Carol concerts to be performed. The high light every year was performing at the Royal Albert Hall with The Bach Choir with Sir David Willcocks the conductor keeping us all together. We played two concerts back to back to a packed Royal Albert Hall. By the way Katherine the Duchess of Kent always sang with the choir but only on the afternoon performance—she always loved it. Sadly this time came to an end when John Wallace CBE was appointed Principle of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, a position he still holds to this day. The Wallace Collection years had came to an end.

 When I left The Royal Artillery Band I decided to form my own brass group called Thames Fanfare Brass Ensemble which by the way is now in it's 26th year so my own group still manages to play carols at Christmas. Only two years ago we were engaged to play carols for three days at the St. Modwen Shopping Centre at the Elephant and Castle, London and for the Regent Street Association a couple of days in South Molton Street.London.

 Three years ago my Herald Trumpeters were asked to perform a fanfare for the start of a celebrity Christmas concert for the charity Kids for Kids, the concert was a great success and the following year we returned again but this time with my brass quintet Thames Fanfare Brass. The concert was again a great success and much needed money was raised.

 After the concert I talked to the founder of the charity Patricia Parker MBE and I suggested that we might be able to raise money next year by playing carols at one of the railway stations, so around July time arrangements were put in place for us to perform at Euston Station before the celebrity concert date.

 29th November  I made my way to Euston Station for a 12-30pm start armed with trumpet, music stands, carol books amp, backing cd's father Christmas hats and with warm clothes on, I was  allocated a spot at the station  where we would be allowed to perform and we should not move from there  (health and safety reasons) lets put this way it was cold, draughty and not the best position to be had, never mind we just got on with it.

Out came all the old favourites rocking around the Christmas tree, Jingle Bells, Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole then I would play for half an hour on the trumpet, this combination went on until 4-00 pm when I was joined by another two trumpets......trombone, French horn and a euphonium ,so now with the added instruments and a bigger brass sound the collecting buckets were starting to rattle. 7-00 pm arrived I was well shattered and could not feel my lips any more, the lads were great and very supportive of the cause.

 The very next day bright and early I received a telephone call from Patrice Parker who was truly over the moon with excitement that we had managed to raise £679-33p.

Now on the 16 December my brass group were performing at All Saints church Fulham, Candlelit Christmas Concert sponsored by Sciteb Ltd hosted by the celebrity Eamonn Holmes of Sky television and readers The Baroness Rendell of Babergh CDE.Lord Cope of Berkeley PC,Alistair Burt MP and Richard Wilson OBE.

 What with Richard Wilson, Ruth Rendell the choir of the Danes Hill school, St Andrews Singers, saxophone solo and the very popular Post Horn gallop played by yours truly, carol descants and fanfares and the witty TV presenter Eamonn Holmes we were in for a great concert  and a night to remember which we did knowing that the charity Kids for Kids had raised just under £10,000 and I remember leaving the concert with a good feel factor Christmas period had arrived,

 Why is a goat/donkey so important in Darfur?

 Because without a goat/donkey life is virtually impossible in the vast  expanse that is Darfur even small children walk miles across the desert to reach water -a goat/donkey is a life saver, transforming the life of a thirsty child.