ARMY BENEVOLENT FUND ANNUAL CONCERT AT THE NIMBUS FOUNDATION, WYASTONE LEYS, MONMOUTH

Friday 20 July 2007

Review by Lynne Williams, Penperlleni, Abergavenny

This Annual Concert has been a major fund-raising source for this worthy Charity whose need to raise funds was stated to be greater than at any time in its history. Huge success has been achieved in previous years by inviting the Band of the Royal Corps of Signals and Bridgend Male Choir to perform and the organisers were delighted to be able to invite both organisations again. Over many years, the Choir has helped charities to raise many £000’s most recently the RNLI in Belfast and Macmillan Nursing at Penarth.   

Under its lively and animated Musical Director, Captain Guy Booth the military Band commenced with Curnow’s lively Fanfare and Flourishes, following up with the Bond of Friendship March by Mackenzie-Rogan and Verdi’s Force of Destiny Overture. This stirring opening set the tone for what was to be another musical extravaganza for the appreciative audience. Bridgend Male Choir Musical Director, John Jenkins, a former exponent of the trumpet, dynamically brought his singers into the fray with a popular song which has served the Choir well, Enders’ Russian Picnic. It provided an early opportunity for Accompanist, Cheryl Jones to demonstrate her considerable skills on the piano keys. Karl Jenkins’ Pie Iesu and the Derek Jones arranged Every Time I Feel the Spirit showed the versatility of this award winning Choir.

The Band, resplendent in striking scarlet tunics, returned with Anderson’s Belle of the Ball and an item popular with Band and Choir, Woodfield’s Kalinka, which was well received by the large audience. Back came the Choir, with choristers wearing bright red bow ties for its popular Welsh contribution, Rachie, Ar Lan Y Mor and Gwahoddiad. The first half was brought to a close with a Davies/ Jenkins arrangement of Comrades in Arms, conducted by the charismatic Jenkins and featuring the Band and Choir in harmony. Numerous comments were made about the heavy rain and adverse weather conditions, the real disappointment being that several coaches from the Hereford & Worcester region were unable to travel.  

Gershwin’s Strike Up the Band was followed by a Grundman arranged Welsh Rhapsody from this magnificent Band, its Musical Director acknowledging his mother’s birthplace at Llanon and the evening’s concert hall venue on the Wales/ England border. The Choir’s narrator, John Jones then recited verses from Lawrence Binyon’s famous poem with the Choir singing Mike Sammes’ arrangement of For the Fallen accompanied by the Band bugler at its end, recognizing that British Armed Forces are still in conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. A change of mood for Cavatina and This Little Light of Mine made way for the Band’s return with a very entertaining item. Sergeant Steve Smith from Pontypool proceeded to play the Glockenspiel solo, Buffoon which instrument he carried amongst the audience to the great amusement of those present. More humour was to follow, when two of the bandsmen proceeded to “play” a number of comic instruments in a Post Horn solo of The Huntsman. To much laughter, they trotted out a teapot, watering can, traffic cone, dustbin and brought the house down when they introduced a kitchen sink and toilet pan! Another Curnow item, Where Never Lark or Eagle Flew reflected the diversity of these wonderful musicians.

After the instrument soloists entered the Choir’s own Paul Carter, whose fine tenor voice ideally suited the singing of Bui Doi from Miss Saigon. This together with choral renditions of Music of the Night and You'll Never Walk Alone saw the Band and Choir come together again, this time under the direction of Captain Booth. After several minutes of resounding instrumental build up and flashing baton to Sibelius’ Finlandia,  the choristers joined in with those well known opening words, Rho im yr hedd……seemingly taking flight and soaring over the Band and audience in what must have been a truly amazing highlight of the entire evening. The Amen was followed by rapturous applause.   The Band of the Royal Corps of Signals then retained the momentum with two marches, the Corps of Army Music March and Royal Signals March (Begone Dull Care), seemingly where if there had been sufficient room everyone would have been on their feet. The Concert closed with the Anthems and resounding applause, which is still ringing in my ears.

Let’s hope that these wonderful musicians and choristers have the chance to perform together again.