Last week saw the welcome return of the Central Band of the Royal Air Force and the usual loyal followers of this brilliant bunch of musicians were again treated to a variety of music ranging from the classics to the popular.
The theme of this year’s concert was The Best of British and with a title like that there was plenty of scope to provide the audience with a great night of entertainment - and they didn’t disappoint.
The band was under the leadership of Squadron Leader Matthew Little, who has been the principle solo vocalist for a number of years, and the audience was expecting to see Alan (Deadly) Dedicoat (Voice of the Balls for the National Lottery and announcer on Strictly Come Dancing) who has been the regular compere.
However, on to the stage walked the lovely Lyn Bowles who is Ken Bruce’s side-kick on his BBCR2 show and who also presents the travel news. Lyn explained that Alan had lost his voice and she would be taking his place for the evening.
The first two musical numbers fell into the classical category; O Fortuna, perhaps not easily recognised by the title, but well known by the music, while 1534 - A King’s Supremacy was probably less well-known, containing popular tunes at the Court of Henry VIII which, I think fair to say, not many of the audience were around at that time to be aware of them. There was no such problem with the next piece of music, The Devil’s Gallop written by Charles Williams as the signature tune for Dick Barton - Special Agent. There then followed a sparkling euphonium duet Brilliante featuring Senior Aircraftman Michael John Howley and Senior Aircraftman Louis Musson. I’m not quite sure where the next piece of music fitted in to the evening’s theme but it was a delightful tribute to Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass including Spanish Flea and Tijuana Taxi.
Coming nearer back home we were introduced to new female vocalist, Sarah Francis, who was making her debut with As Long As He Needs Me from Lionel Bart’s Oliver, which topped the charts in 1960 for 30 weeks with Shirley Bassey’s recording. Some of the best British films over the past 50 years were remembered in a medley supplemented by many visual memories projected on to the screen behind the band.
Matt Little handed over his baton to Flying Officer Tom Rodda while he paid his vocal tribute to Matt Monro with The impossible Dream and the first half concluded with the soundtrack from Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V.
The second half opened with signature marches of the RAF, Those Magnificent Men, 633 Squadron and The Dambusters March followed by a medley of British comedy show themes which brought back happy memories. Senior Aircraftwoman Louisa Gawn gave a brilliant solo clarinet performance with Libertango followed by a tribute to the Beatles. SACs Michael Howley, Ed Dyer and Owen Wallage demonstrated their expertise with solos in The Life Of A Dream, Hunter’s Moon and Capriccio.
A new commission for this tour to mark the recent acquisition of the most advanced multi-role fighter in the world, the F-35 Lightning II, composed by Andrew Pearce and accompanied by some stunning aerial graphics added a further dimension and after tributes to British musicals and the Queen on her 90th birthday the band finished off with the RAF March Past.
However, this wasn’t enough for the audience and, having asked for more, they were invited to join in with Sleigh Bells Ring by rattling their car keys which sent them home in festive mood. Once again this superb RAF band thoroughly entertained their loyal supporters with a great programme of varied music and although it is unlikely that we will see them next year due to the temporary closure of the Congress Theatre I am sure that the audience will flock back in their hundreds when they eventually return to Eastbourne. By Harry Lederman.
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