As the inaugural Festival of Music closes, I can't help but reflect on a fantastic week's training followed by a fantastic performance by the RAF Air Cadets’ National Concert Band (NCB). 46 cadets from around the UK met again at the start of the week having not played together since Easter and, day by day, their confidence grew and the standard of playing increased, culminating in a performance to a sell-out crowd of over 600 people in Lincoln Cathedral.
Members of the NCB are challenged to turn their hand to many different musical styles and genres from jazz to classical, rock and pop through to musicals. Playing favourites such as Hamilton and Gibraltar March alongside the challenge of more classical works such as the finale of the Saint-Saens Organ Symphony. At the concert, we were lucky to be joined by Sir Andrew Parmley who happens to be my first music teacher. As I have gone on to forge a professional career in music, it just shows the impact and importance of music educators in young people's lives.
The NCB was one of three National music ensembles represent at Lincoln Cathedral. Also performing was the National String Ensemble under the direction of Flight Lieutenant Chris Crebbin and the National Choir under Flight Lieutenant Ben Richards. This is the first time that these three branches of RAFAC Music Services have performed at the same event.
Also training and performing last week was the RAFAC National Marching Band who were under the direction of Squadron Leader Andy White RAFAC. In residence at Beckingham Training Camp the cadets worked with members of the Royal Marines Band Service, many of whom are former members of the band, plus representatives from the Royal Corps of Army Music.
Izzy Hughes is a musician in the RMBS, she is also a former air cadet and is helping the Marching Band this year as a Service Instructor. She said:
“ I love coming back to help the cadets as I know how important it was for me when I was a cadet and it is great to have that professional involvement.
“I am looking forward to seeing how the cadets progress as now the the display has finished it’s great to see how much they have already improved and what they get out of it.”
WO2 Band Master for the RMBS in Scotland, Rich Sharp said:
“ It has been a great start at the music and sectional rehearsals; It’s been really good – the cadets have engaged and bought in to what we have been getting them to do. I was a cadet previously but I wasn’t part of the national band unfortunately. Being an air cadet inspired my career choice as I love music and knew I wanted to join the military. I have had a wonderful career, Royal Weddings, trips abroad, the Kings Coronation but one stand out moment was playing on Saturday Night Takeaway with Ed Sheeran. For any cadets considering getting in to music as a profession It's well within your reach to do what I am doing. I was where you are- it took hard work but there is so many opportunities within the military and military music and you won’t regret it.”
WO2 Band Master for the RMBS in Scotland, Rich Sharp
Members of the Countess of Wessex’s String Orchestra are supporting the String Ensemble with uniquely available musical development opportunities with RAF Music Services personnel providing similar opportunities supporting the Concert Band.
All four ensembles gave a total of approximately 150 cadets from across the UK the chance to play music, learn new skills, develop as individuals and, in some cases help pass on their knowledge to the next generation of cadets.
As much as the cadets make the band what it is, behind them there is a dedicated team of RAF Air Cadets volunteers and service instructors who have forgone their annual leave and put in so many hours behind the scenes to make this event happen. I would like to personally acknowledge and to thank the staff for their efforts.
Cdt Sgt Will Bishop from 2182 (Dorchester) Sqn, said that he was thrilled to be playing the cathedral’s magnificent Willis organ that was originally dedicated in 1898. He shared the playing duties with Sir Andrew Parmley, Director of the Royal College of Organists, a past Lord Mayor of London as well as Sqn Ldr Godwin’s first music teacher.
One of the younger performers was Cadet Corporal Jasime Lamb (13) from 23 (South Elmsall) Sqn. A Soprano, she said “it has been really, really fun and was looking forward to performing the medley of songs from Les Misérables. As well as learning new music I have also learned better breathing techniques to help my singing”.
RAFAC’s Principal Director of Music is Wing Commander Gil Singleton, RAFAC. He said that “it has been a busy week for all concerned and, as usual, the cadets have worked incredibly hard, responded well to the training and really risen to the occasion for the concert. The Marching Band travelled to Pirbright in Surrey to support the final parade at the RAF Air Cadets’ Drill and Ceremonial Camp and produced a superb performance despite dreadful weather conditions”.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Band of His Majesty’s Commando Training Centre, Royal Marines (including many ex-Air Cadets) performed their Beating the Retreat ceremony for those on both camps which was followed by a Question and Answer session with their Director of Music. In addition, staff from the Countess of Wessex’s Orchestra, Royal Corps of Army Music have also been on camp providing invaluable support and guidance to the String Ensemble.
Sqn Ldr Godwin added, “I would also like to thank the audience and our supporters, many who have travelled great distances to join us at the Cathedral. Keep an eye out for our 2024 concert programme and hope to see you there!”