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Review: The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines, Collingwood

20/12/2018

Stuart Reed writes:

The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines concert at the Collingwood Millennium Hall was an object lesson on how to fill a theatre and entertain an audience. Every seat was taken at all three concerts on consecutive days in December 2018.

The wind band and the drummers and buglers put on a show which can only be described as spectacular. It had everything: a first-class ensemble, thrilling music, top-notch soloists, comedy, audience participation, enhancing synchronised lighting effects and a great conductor/compere in the form of Captain Tom Crane.

Tall and slim, the aptly named Captain Crane kept the audience’s attention throughout the evening with his jolly, Vaudeville-style banter. As one would expect from such a highly qualified musician, his conducting was energetic and pinpoint accurate. The wind band, comprising brass, woodwind, percussion and keyboard, was razor sharp and totally disciplined.

The programme was full of festive numbers but what made it sparkle were the arrangements. Some of these arrangements were written by Royal Marines bandmasters past and present. Brass and woodwind are fully at home in the major flat keys. Consequently, the harmonies are subtly different from the usual string orchestra sounds. One number called Minor Alterations Number 1 was a fine example of clever arranging.

Five members of the Corps of Drums played along to the Little Drummer Boy, put on a terrific display of ceremonial drum beating and blew their bugles note perfect to the Evening Hymn.

There were carols, of course, giving the audience a chance to join in. There was humour involving an audience member pretending to sing in a key higher than a male voice can go and a sketch with someone dressed as a snowman. But none of this tomfoolery detracted from the thrilling music performed.

Undoubtedly one of the highlights of the evening was Band Sergeant Rachel Botham playing a beautiful trombone solo called Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. This was one of her last performances before leaving the Band Service after seventeen and a half years. Rachel has a chest full of campaign medals earned by serving overseas during the Ebola crisis in Africa and also in Afghanistan and the Middle East. She is a crystalline example of RM musicians having vital roles to play in times of war including that of being stretcher bearers and first aiders.

What is sometimes overlooked is the value of RM bands is their contribution to community relations. In the South West of England, in Portsmouth, Fareham and in Scotland the Royal Marines Bands enrich local life enormously by reaching out to civilians with no links to the Services. They also help today’s recruiting effort.

The Collingwood RM Band’s concerts are so popular that next year on certain Sunday afternoons in February, June, September and December they will be performing at the bigger venue of Ferneham Hall in Fareham. For more details please visit www.fernehamhall.co.uk.

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