The RAF Squadronaires have enjoyed a trio of engagements this autumn, starting with a trip to Wigan to perform on the Bandstand at Mesnes Park on 22nd September 2019. The Victorian setting is used by request of the late William Higham, who flew a De Havilland Mosquito for a Pathfinder squadron in the Second World War. It was Higham’s wish to revive the sound of Military Bands performing on a Sunday afternoon in Mesnes Park, so he generously bequeathed funds to the Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust, which this year invited the RAF Squadronaires to make their debut. Despite the typical northwest weather, punters were not deterred by the odd rain shower and a considerable crowd gathered underneath their umbrellas to hear the Squadronaires play following their long journey from RAF Northolt. A fundraising collection was also made for the RAF Benevolent Fund on invitation from Wigan Council.
The following week, the Squadronaires travelled to RAF Benson to support the Station’s 80th Anniversary. The band performed during the Gala Dinner, which was attended by RAF Benson personnel and their families, industry partners, VIPs from Joint Helicopter Command and two celebrity guests of honour. Squadronaires drummer and vocalist Corporal Matt Walker was modestly unaware of his celebrity renown reaching as far as RAF Benson, but happily provided autographs for his adoring fans following his performance of Bare Necessities. Following the dinner, the atmosphere hit a new level of ‘groovy’ as the band played for the Hangar Dance.
On 2nd October 2019 the RAF Squadronaires gave the first concert of this year’s annual Esprit de Corps concert series hosted by the RAF Music Charitable Trust. Band Leader Sergeant Andy Mears put together a varied programme saluting the ‘Jazz Tenor Greats’ and the Squadronaires welcomed Tenor Saxophonist Mike Hope as guest soloist for the evening. Mike has occupied the first tenor chair in the famous Syd Lawrence Orchestra since 2006, has performed in the West End and is a member of the Empress Orchestra which plays for the British and World Dance Championships. Mike stunned the audience at the Winston Churchill Theatre in Ruislip with fabulous solo playing, which paid homage to legendary jazz musicians including Coleman Hawkins, Stan Getz, Lester Young and Dexter Gordon. The programme also showcased many of the RAF Squadronaires’ own soloists, who all relish performing to an enthusiastic local audience. Pictured below: Sergeant Andy Mears (left) and Mike Hope (right).
Article by Corporal Matt Edwardson
Photos taken by Senior Aircraftwoman Beth Roberts, RAF Northolt Photographic Section (Crown Copyright)
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