“The start of Christmas” was how Pete Hendy described the Chalford Band Christmas concert. More players than ever were shoehorned on to the Sub Rooms stage as the entire combined bands, starting with A Christmas Overture. This was then followed by the first of three Philip Harper arrangements on the night: Star Carol, by the master of Christmas, John Rutter. The next item was introduced as a “solo for two players” as Katie Murray and Evie Nunn squeezed either side of MD Steve Tubb to play Peter Graham’s Away in a Manger“. The combined set then concluded with the “rip-roaring” Breezin’ Down Broadway by Goff Richards.
After a brief break the Youth Band took to the stage, starting with a confident performance of Alan Fernie’s Pulsar. They followed it up with a collection of Christmas favourites: Jingle Bells, Frosty the Snowman and Merry Christmas Everyone.
Another stage change, but this time no band on stage. Pete introduced the band, and on came Will Hurn, took a bow (a very good one!) and then started as a solo drummer, followed by players playing from and appearing from all over the auditorium to The Gloucestershire Wassail. After the applause died down, MD Steve Tubb took the mike and after a few jokes about the need for a conductor, highlighted the challenges faced by the band this year, and gave heartfelt thanks to all the band. There then came another new piece for the band, What’s This? – an excellent, somewhat quirky, arrangement by Naomi Styles of a song from “The Nightmare Before Christmas”
Stephen Parker then stepped up for a euphonium solo The Very Best Time of Year, another John Rutter composition. Steve Tubb then dedicated the next piece, Sparkling Diamonds, to Pauline Chappell, daughter of Bill Hayward who had a long association with the band – not sure what what she made of solo trombone player Dave Nairn’s opening solo, with blonde wig and very long glissando!
The next piece, Nordic Polska, was Steve’s favourite piece of the night and the seven soloists didn’t let him down. The senior band closed their set with yet another new piece: Matthew Hall’s clever and exciting Nightingale Dances.
After a brief interval came the act: billed as “Amy’s had her tonsils out”, Steve explained that there almost hadn’t been an act this year – until it was pointed out this was the 35th year of an act at the Christmas concert. So “The signs of music”, first seen five years’ ago was reprieved, with percussionist Helen Acock taking Amy’s role – Amy really had had her tonsils out!!!
All players then back on stage for some great arrangements of a couple of Christmas staples: Angels From The Realms of Glory & The Holly And The Ivy. Then, the awards were handed out: young player of the year went to Evie Nunn, who’d featured earlier in the evening; the senior players’ bandsman award, voted for by the players, was presented to a surprised Lianne Burnell on soprano.
This was followed by Darrol Barry’s inventive A Christmas Bolero, before a tribute to the fallen of World War One. The entire cornet section stood to play the open Reveille, before the audience joined in to sing along to Songs From The Great War. As the applause rang out at the end, an encore was demanded, so the evening closed with All I Want For Christmas Is You.