Picture the large hall of the Alton Maltings Centre with its high ceiling, so wonderful for acoustics. Add beams bedecked with golden lights, snowflakes on the screens and tempting mince-pies in the foyer. The scene is set. Now picture the Alton Concert Band, instruments gleaming, fingers at the ready, and two choirs, the Alton Choral Society and Ancora, sitting in neat rows. Rehearsed and ready, the musicians and singers embark on sharing 'The Wonder of Christmas' with us, their eager audience.
'Ring Out Wild Bells' begins the programme, and then the audience joins in with a rousing rendition of 'O Little Town of Bethlehem'. Ancora follows with three beautiful songs, and the band continues to delight us with 'Oh Christmas Tree'. After a most amusing poem, ably delivered by the exceptional Master of ceremonies, the audience once more joined in with 'The First Nowell'. The first half reached a triumphant close with 'The Jazz Waltz'.
Refreshed and relaxed, the audience returned to the hall for my personal favourite of the evening - 'Sleigh Ride'. Alton Concert Band excelled in this endearing classic, while the percussionist gave a masterful workshop on how to play the sleigh bells! Alton Choral Society followed that with three songs, the last of which was the very amusing, 'The twelve Inebriate Days of Christmas'. 'Jingle Bells' rang out with the band, the choirs and the audience all at full throttle, before Ancora took over with 'Stille Nacht'. A second poem, a celebration of English traditional Christmas music and we reached the climax of the evening with 'O Come All Ye Faithful'. I fully expect all the faithful will be back next Christmas for more wonderful music and entertainment!
Highlights of the evening were 'Tidings of Comfort and Joy', splendidly sung, the poem about the rather large and somewhat controversial visitor to Alton this Christmas(!) and 'Sleigh Ride'.
A dear lady, seated behind us, knew all the words to all the songs and all the carols. She joined in, quietly, with each one even (and especially) when audience participation was not required. She had a splendid evening - as did all of us!
I am confident that a goodly sum will have be raised to support the worthy charity, ' Home-Start WeyWater'. Thank you so very much to all concerned for an outstanding event.
On Saturday 5th October 2019, the Alton Concert band supported by the Kings Pond Shantymen performed a special tribute concert at the Alton Maltings to raise funds for the RNLI. The concert was compered by Nick Wright, Business Manager at the Alton Maltings. Nick opened up with a sombre message reminding the audience that at the same time as they would be listening to beautiful music, many men and women volunteers would be leaving their homes to take to the dark seas in the hope of answering the simple but desperate cries for help. Most, but not all return. The concert was an opportunity to reflect but also to embrace the power of the sea. and the bravery of the RNLI volunteers.
The programme opened with the ACB performing “Padstow Life Boat” - written by Sir Malcolm Arnold who had a clear love of the sea and a deep appreciation of those who served in the RNLI. The piece was written for the launch of a new lifeboat in 1968 and is hugely evocative although technically very challenging for woodwind players and demanding for the brass particularly the opening phrases. It provided an excellent launchpad for the rest of the concert which contained music associated with the sea including the following piece; the hauntingly beautiful theme to the movie “Titanic”.
The ACB offers an opportunity for solo players and this time we heard the young talented Thomas Synge play the Tuba. He played the quirky fusion of themes from Gilbert and Sullivan – “Sullivan at Sea” to huge applause for his flawless performance. The band then went on a trip to China on a slow boat - but at rather a fast big band tempo - playing local composer/arranger Phil Andrews’ arrangement of “Slow Boat to China” There was entertainment by the Kings Pond Shantymen before the audience visited the “South Pacific”, became mixed up with the “Pirates of the Caribbean” and listened to the beautiful French love song, “La Mer”.
The second half opened to the stirring sounds of the “Dambusters March” (scored by Eric Coates) which has become recognisable across the generations evoking a sense of grit, courage and sheer determination of 617 Sqn RAF. This was then followed by the innovative and contemporary music to the “Jaws “ theme. This piece really highlights what an effect music can have as members of the audience were reported to have felt physically scared just by listening! After the wonderful rendition of 2 movements (Air & Hornpipe), from the Handel’s Water Music, the Shantmen returned to provide a relaxing interlude of sad and stirring seafaring shanties including “What shall we do with the drunken sailor” with audience participation.
As the concert reached its conclusion, the programme included the beautiful “Loch Lomond“ melody by Frank Ticheli. Here the melody passes between all the sections of the band and rises and falls effortlessly as sections hand over the theme to each other. The penultimate piece was the 1860 hymn by William Whiting inspired by Psalm 107 “Eternal Father; Strong to Save”. This hymn remains as inspirational today as it did in 1860. Opened by the flutes and then the theme passed to the rest of the band, it was spine chilling and evocative sound. Finally, the classic “Fantasia on British Sea Songs “ brought the concert to a rousing end with much foot tapping and humming by all a la Last Night of the proms.
The weather was glorious, the band was sparkling, the choice of music was engaging. Villagers strolling around the stalls, lying on the grass eating ice cream or sipping beer, in the beer tent were tapping their feet and singing along to some of the well known pieces. From Broadway to the Caribbean taking in Abba, Harry Potter, the Beatles and Henry Mancini on the way. It was two hours full of enthusiasm and energy.
A lovely band playing good music on a beautiful day were comments heard on the green afterwards.
The Alton Concert Band with guests Out of the Blue held their Spring Concert on Saturday, May 11th 2019 at the Alton Maltings. The concert opened with a rousing rendition of Paul Murtha’s arrangement of Duke Ellington and Breezin’ Down Broadway arranged by Goff Richards. Both were stirring pieces and the swinging tunes delighted the audience. The band played superbly and soon the Maltings was back in the 1920s with other numbers including Porgy and Bess’ Putting on the Ritz and a symphonic portrait of Cole Porter. One of the highlights of the evening was an arrangement by Trevor Sharpe of The Late Twenties . This happy piece included titles such as Spread a Little Happiness, Birth of the Blues, S’Wonderful and The Man I Love.
The band led by Musical Director - Ian Morrish has a full compliment of woodwind players and a strong brass and bass sections. The band is assisted by a strong percussionist whose range of instruments provided strong rhythm and crisp sounds in the melody and harmony this was beautifully demonstrated in A Leroy Anderson Portrait. Not all of the pieces were happy, energetic or stirring for example, the thoughtful portrayal of Moon River played so sensitively by the Euphonium soloist Julie Richards and supported by the band is a good example.
Interspersed between the Band pieces were special guests Out of the Blue, a six piece jazz band with vocals, 2 saxes, piano, bass and drums. They performed a lively set of jazz classics including: Anything Goes, My Funny Valentine, Nature Boy and Chattanooga Choo Choo. Foot tapping fun!!
‘Tis the season’ and Alton Concert Band were busy spreading some festive cheer through the town. We performed for the shoppers on Sunday 2nd December for Alton’s Yuletide Festival. If you didn’t see us there, then you may have heard our ‘live’ broadcast on Wey Valley Radio.
We also had a small informal concert for friends and family on Thursday 6th December . It was a chance for some members of the band to perform as smaller groups and we were entertained by “A Good Reed” a quintet of members of our saxophone section, a trio from our flute section and John Elder on his contra bass clarinet.
Thursday 13th December 2018 evening saw the band give the customers of Waitrose a little Christmas cheer with some well-known Christmas carols, to help them with their late night shopping. As with past years, they were well received.
Our festivities ended this year when we lead the “Carols around the Tree” in Alton Market Square on Saturday 22nd December. We were very honoured to have been invited to assist with this event and we hope to be invited again in 2019.
It was called “The Great War” and “The War to end all Wars” and we all know it as World War 1. It began in 1914 and ended with an armistice at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918.
100 years later and Alton Concert Band focused their Autumn Concert on reflecting back to these events through music. The evening included wonderful lyrical work based on a world without conflict and also some pieces from the time of WW1, to remember the events and the experiences of the troops involved from all sides and how music played its part in the War.
The first half included “English Folk Song Suite”, “Overture ‘The Impressario’”, “Bugler’s Holiday” and “Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines” . The Lydian Singers sang some very emotional pieces. A highlight was a piece called “Flying Free” beautifully accompanied by Maureen Vegh on the flute.
The audience were encouraged to join In, in the second half, with “Songs from the Great War”, led by The Lydian Singers. More wonderful pieces were performed by both the band and the choir, including “Shadow of Autumn”, “Bridge over Troubled Water”, and “Nimrod” ending with “Hymn and Triumphal March from ‘Aida’”, performed by both the band and the choir.
A share of the proceeds from this event will be going to The Royal British Legion and Bushy Leaze Children & Families Centre. The Royal British Legion provide financial, social and emotional support to members and veterans of the British Armed Forces, their families and dependants. Bushy Leaze works with families right from the early stages of pregnancy up until starting school, offering a maintained Nursery School with a specialism in SEND. They are committed to working to build a happy, caring and inclusive environment where everyone is valued.
On Saturday 14th July 2018 Alton Concert Band performed at Medstead Village Fete. It was a beautiful sunny summer’s day and the Band provided musical entertainment for the many visitors throughout the afternoon.
The Band’s programme provided a wide variety of music including medleys from South Pacific and Jungle Book, the title themes from the films The Great Escape and Born Free, a compilation of ABBA favourites, some James Bond theme songs, Luftwaffe March, and Tijuana Brass, to name but a few.
Since the event the Band has received some very complimentary feedback and we hope that Medstead Village Fete will become a permanent fixture on our calendar.
Sunday May 6th saw the band playing at the Oakhanger May Fayre – our best outdoor event this year (OK, it’s the only outdoor event so far, but it was a great performance...) This was the sixth year the band have played at this event, and over the years the band has increased in both number and confidence.
Things got off to a rousing start with the theme from The Great Escape - I’m sure I wasn’t the only one picturing Steve McQueen on his motorbike. Abba on Broadway continued the upbeat mood, before Born Free and The Shadow of Your Smile evoked a gentler ambience. Between the latter two we had The Best of Henry Mancini. This started off with the Pink Panther theme, which caused one audience member to remark that with music like that you just felt you had to walk slinkily – we obviously caught the right mood there!
To round off the first set the band played a medley from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein - some great melodies, which everyone enjoyed playing.
So, after well earned refreshments, and time to look around at what else was going on, the band reconvened for their second set. As the weather was so gloriously hot, lots of people were relaxing in the sunshine – how to get their attention? By playing The Luftwaffe March of course! Tijuana Brass in Concert was next – the person standing next to me said it took her straight back to the sixties. The set ended with The Jungle Book – very appropriate given that the temperature had soared!