The Band of the Parachute Regiment commemorated the 25th Anniversary of the Falklands conflict with a magnificent concert in Ely Cathedral. Dressed in vibrant red, these skilful musicians filled the Cathedral with glorious sound. They presented a series of spirited and moving pieces with dazzling precision.
Under the directorship of Captain Glen Jones and WO1 (BM) Freeborn, this band demonstrated tremendous agility and versatility. In the opening and closing procession of standard bearers, the “Dambusters March” never lost momentum while in “A Festive Overture” by Reed contrasting moods and textures were fully explored.
The vibrant atmosphere in the Cathedral was further enhanced with challenging contemporary pieces such as music from the “Pirates of the Caribbean”. The compelling percussive beats foretold doom and destruction.
Solos were astutely included in the programme. The first movement of Martin Ellerby’s Clarinet Concerto was phenomenal. The technical gymnastics this piece demanded in its tightly constructed short and detached phrases were rapidly and cleanly executed by the soloist and the band. Other notable solos were the trumpet and alto saxophone solos. The trumpet solo reflected beautifully the name of the piece: “Brilliance” by Barker. Clear articulation and controlled brilliance smoothly evoked its pure Brazilian character. The mellow tones of the alto saxophone solo evocatively presented “Carnival” by Sparkse and a euphonium duet added new warmth to the poignant song: “Softly as I leave you” by Devitas.
It was soon clear that this fine group of performers also enjoyed the lighter side of the band repertoire; their “Tribute to Count Basie” throbbed and vamped like the best of them, never missing an opportunity to branch easily into the schmaltzy indulgence of the style. The agreeable tones of the lead singer in “The Lady is a Tramp” by Rodgers and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” by Porter inspired the imagination with the heady night club atmosphere of halcyon Frank Sinatra days.
However, all was not glamorous showmanship. Some of the most moving and effective instants were those when the band played incredibly softly and contemplatively in memory of the fallen. “Hymn to the fallen” by Williams transfixed the audience. We soon became aware of the constant current of powerful emotions that permeated the vitality of the evening. The evocative strains of “Mount Longdon” by Tyler further reminded us of the struggles in the conflict in the Falklands. The cruel, brutal reality of war that these good men and women were willing to endure struck home and our thoughts were unavoidably touched.
The sparkling virtuosity of this magnificent band endured. The fervent passions of Spanish rhythms in “Malaguena” by Lecond and the compelling drive and joyfully spirited turns in the Gaelic melodies of “Gaelforce” by Graham left un in no doubt that this had been a highly enjoyable and successful concert that touched the heart of every listener.