Callum Foad Column: Band of the Corps of Royal Engineers
For the second of the lunch time concerts held by the University in the week beginning 13th November, it was a great honour to welcome the Band of the Corps of Royal Engineers to Canterbury, to play an hour long set unabridged. The occasion unsurprisingly drew a near to capacity crowd to the ancient church, and even verified an opening speech from the Vice Chancellor of Christ church University itself, Mr. Rama Thirunamachandran.
The band played an open and varied set, beginning with a performance from a selection of the military saxophone quartet. All dressed in the red coats of a military band, it would be forgivable for the audience to expect to hear the familiar drones and rhythms of marching music, however it soon became clear that this was not the case. The band quickly launched into an incredibly light hearted and amiable set, beginning with a collected rendition of famous Hollywood film scores that instantly set the audience smiling and laughing along contentedly with the music so recognisable to them.
The rest of the set played by the opening saxophone quartet continued in this decidedly jovial fashion, featuring a collection of the best loved works by composers such as George Gershwin and Edward Elgar, which were inevitably well received. The saxophone quartet finished with ‘a fun potpourri’ of instantly recognisable themes, beginning with the William Tell overture and then segueing into a variety of familiar television programme themes amongst others, such as a particularly buoyant Rule Britannia. As with the rest of the set played by the saxophonists it was incredibly well received by the audience, who clearly enjoyed every minute of the performance. Upon completion of this medley the quartet bowed cordially and left the stage, allowing the next section of the military ensemble to come into the spotlight.
The rest of the performance was split between two full brass bands, the first directed by Oliver Jean Camus, and the second by Staff Sergeant Joe Barrett. Once again draped in the formal uniform of a military band, albeit this time largely extended, the band played the work of German composer Samuel Scheidt, music which dates back to the fifteenth century, and therefore predating many of the instruments used in the performance. The music, however, lends itself very well to an ensemble of this description, which is no doubt the reason for its inclusion. Certainly, the performance was a strong one, and despite lacking the warm familiarity of the set played by the last band the audience remained no less engrossed throughout. Upon the completion of the piece the conductor gave a short bow and was replaced by the next with little ceremony. Accompanied by the new conductor the band returned to the light-hearted theme of the ensemble preceding, playing a piece by modern composer Chris Hazell, dedicated to the cats that were living with him at the time of composition. This piece has become a standard amongst most brass bands operating today, and it was obvious why. The music is designed in accordance with the different temperaments of Hazell’s different muses, and therefore is varied both in mood and tempo. It amply demonstrates the order and ability of the band, and soundly closed the performance.
After their own performance, the band were kind enough to play once more, featuring students from the Christ Church music programmes. They also provided a short talk for these students on taking their music further, and perhaps even into the military. It would appear that this was an opportunity greatly savoured by the music students, and at which point it only remained to owe a debt of gratitude to the military band for their service and time.
– Callum Foad