On Saturday 29th March 2008, my Dad and I went to the annual music spectacular of The Central Band of The Royal British Legion at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon, under the directorship of Captain David Cole. I was especially keen to go this year as I knew Hayley Westenra was to be the guest artiste. In 2004 the Central Band of the Royal British Legion celebrated its Diamond Jubilee, sixty years of music dating back to the horrid times of the Second World War. It started out as the Band of the 56th Surrey Battalion of the Home Guard based in Epsom, Dad’s Army Band as it was affectionately known.
The Central Band is the Legion’s premiere and “Flagship” Band and as such, represents the Legion on all its high profile occasions as well as fulfilling a large number of varied engagements around the country. It participates in the famous annual Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall, London, and is on BBC TV’s Songs of Praise. The annual Gala Concert at the Fairfield Halls in Croydon is one of their highlights of the year.
The band is lead by the very animated and larger than life Captain David Cole who started his music career in the Salvation Army, and played in the London Schools Symphony Orchestra on tuba, he managed during the evening to play a rather lovely old brass Sousaphone, (which is a kind of wearable Tuba which coils around the body when he wasn’t conducting,) which was interesting.
David Cole has had a successful career in the Royal Marines finishing in 1992, when he was appointed Director of Music to the Band of HM Royal Marines Portsmouth and aboard Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia; he stayed with them until the Royal Yacht was decommissioned in 1997. He then became the Director of Music to the Royal British Legion in 2006, and also the assistant producer of the Festival of Remembrance, which is broadcast on both BBC television and radio, a very moving event indeed to watch. The Band performed some great pieces during the evening, including the march from "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and hits from the movies, and some popular West End music by Andrew Lloyd-Webber. and of course 76 Trombones, and the famous Sousa march (inventor of the Sousaphone) Hands across the Sea, written in 1899.
Hayley performed six vocal pieces in the second half of the evening, which was a real treat,
Hine E Hine
Abide with Me
Both Sides Now
Lascia Ch’io Pianga
she sang “Abide with Me” unaccompanied which was impressive to say the very least, and she didn’t drop a single note. She posses Perfect Pitch recognition, many musicians literally have no Pitch Recognition whatsoever, even though they are listening and playing music constantly.
My Dad taught me a simple test to see how good you are, listen to a musical tone at random, (we have a set of tuning forks), with your eyes closed and then try to identify what you are hearing. Play your favourite music CD, preferably one of Hayley’s, and listen carefully to any selection. Then try to identify, what key the music is in? E Major? . . . A Major? . . . F# Minor? . It can be great fun for a winters evening, instead of watching the television. Try it sometime. Hayley’s perfect pitch was noticed by her primary school teacher when she was only 6 years old