Held every year in May, the Soloist Competition showcases the high calibre of musicians in Royal Air Force Music Services. Not only do musicians compete for the coveted RAF Charitable Trust Soloist Award but the winning compositions composed during the Training and Development Course are performed for the invited audience.
As ever, the RAF Charitable Trust Soloist Award, which is presented to the most outstanding soloist in RAF Music Services, was hotly contested. Adjudicators, Kevin Gowland and Emma Johnson MBE listened intently to the soloists; each represented their band in the competition.
We were delighted this year to have a representative from the Royal Auxiliary Air Force Band in the competition. Senior Aircraftman Elliot Devivo performed the 3rd Movement of Clarinet Concerto No. 2 by Oscar Navarro, a first from this band formed in 2015.
The audience and adjudicators were treated to three other soloists. Corporal Adam Rosbottom from the Band of the RAF Regiment performed I Remember Clifford by Benny Golson accompanied by the RAF Shades of Blue. The soloist from the Band of the RAF College was Senior Aircraftmnn Freddie Stringer, who performed The Golden Age of the Xylophone by Floyd Werle. The winner was Senior Aircraftman Jack Wilson of the Central Band of the RAF with his performance of Virtuosity by Kenny Baker.
"He [Jack] showed great virtuosity, lovely singing sound in the middle section and went up to that final top E flat with great aplomb."
Emma Johnson MBE
Once the soloists had given their performances it was the turn of the composers. There are three categories for composition in the competition; best fanfare, march and original composition. The RAF Music Charitable Trust Award for the best fanfare was won by Corporal Cristan Richards with Fanfare for the Meteor, dedicated to Pilot Officer George Furniss and inspired by the first flight of a Gloster aircraft, powered by Sir Frank Whittle’s jet engine.
The TradeWinds March Competition Trophy was awarded to An Island Under Siege by Corporal Michael Howley. The march was written in tribute to fighter pilots from the RAF who played a vital role in the defence of Malta during World War Two.
The brief for the composition prize was ‘Royalty’. Sergeant Hamish Dean won the Pooley Sword Composition Award for his piece, A Right Royal Celebration! inspired by Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
Besides these awards there were two presentations from the Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers. The Worshipful Company make an award to a Corporal or Senior Aircraftman/woman for their outstanding professional contribution to RAF Music Services. Corporal Cristan Richards was nominated in 2020 but due to COVID-19 was not officially presented with his award and Corporal Joe Kemp was the winner in 2021, both were delighted to receive an engraved crystal decanter.
The Band of the RAF Regiment performed throughout the event and were praised highly by the Adjudicators:
"We were absolutely bowled over by the balance of sound [of the band], the intonation, it’s so tight rhythmically. Absolutely stunning playing so thank you very much."
It was up to Flight Lieutenant Michael Parsons and the Band to bring the event to a close, and what better way than with a radiant performance of You are the sunshine of my life by Stevie Wonder arr. Jerome Naulais.