Windy and wonderful summer concerts

The band had a busy schedule of summer concerts. We began at Regent’s Park, having been invited back after making such a good impression last year, before moving on to Kinston Lacy only a week later. Our final concert took place at Swanage Amphitheatre and proved to be a fantastic end to our summer season.

Preparations for our summer concerts

The first of our summer concerts arrived in what seemed like barely any time since our spring concert in Ringwood. We had five rehearsals to learn and perfect a range of new pieces before we boarded the coach to our first event.

Regent’s Park

Our first engagement of the summer was at Regent’s Park Bandstand on Sunday 18 June. We’d been invited back after a successful performance last year, as one of only approximately 45 groups given the chance to perform in the famous bandstand.

Band on coach to Regent's Park in LondonWe were all eagerly watching every conceivable weather forecast available during the week leading up to our performance. Some said rain, some said sun, and they all seemed to change every time we looked. It was typical after a month filled with glorious weather, that on our first summer concert it was likely to rain.

The call was made that it was worth the risk to travel. So we all arrived at our rehearsal venue, Queen’s Park Infant Academy, bright and early. We helped load up the coach with percussion of all shapes and sizes, chairs, stands, and all the other equipment a band could need.

Not long later we were on our way. The trip was long and slow, thanks in part to a closure on the M3, but we made it in time to unload the coach, get changed in the nearby gardener’s hut, and set up in the bandstand.

Ready for the British weather

One final check of the weather showed that it was due to rain at 5pm, precisely when we were due to finish playing. The original plan, as we are a rather large band, was to have some of us in the bandstand, with the remaining members in front of it. Of course, the changing weather forecast and high chance of rain made us rethink that idea. Plan B was to split the band, with some people only performing in either the first or second half. This wasn’t ideal, so after some discussion, we moved to Plan C, where somehow all 55 of us squished in to play the full two-hour set without a break!

Conductor and audience at Regent's Park in London

During set-up, a large crowd had gathered, some obviously prepared for anything the British weather could throw at them with sunglasses, hats, umbrellas and raincoats. We were also prepared, with plenty of pegs holding our music down against the strong wind gusts. Unfortunately, while it’s simple enough to peg down music with only one or two page turns, spare a thought for our conductor Simon having to deal with whole scores that couldn’t be pegged down!

We began playing with a fun introductory piece called Discoduction, and moved straight into the crowd pleaser Dam Busters. It was a varied programme with such a wide range of pieces there was sure to be something for everyone.

We performed traditional concert band music such as Seventeen Come Sunday from Vaughn Williams’ Folk Song Suite. Then we moved through musical theatre themes Moulin Rouge and Les Miserables and film music including The Lion King and a medley of other Disney favourites. We slowed things down with the spiritual Oh Lord What a Morning and sped them up again with Titanic’s Irish Party in Third Class.

The rain came down

Two hours of constant playing sped by, and before we knew it we were playing our encore piece, Amarillo, to which the audience enthusiastically clapped along. It was a great concert in difficult circumstances (the wind won a couple of times, with a couple of Simon’s scores making a speedy exit).

Just as we were finishing, the forecast rain arrived. We packed up as quickly as possible, working together to load the coach in record time. Unfortunately the rain thwarted our plans to sit in the park and celebrate. Some people headed to the nearby café, some sat on the coach, and some went for a walk anyway.

We made a stop on the way back so we could grab some refreshments, and after a little incident with the coach door refusing to close, got back to the school at around 10pm.

Kingston Lacy

We had only a single rehearsal between Regent’s Park and our next engagement at Kingston Lacy on Sunday 25 June. Thankfully the weather was forecast to be hot and sunny, although as we were to find out, that pesky wind wasn’t finished with us.

Band performing Kingston Lacy summer concert

Many of us arrived at Kingston Lacy early, enjoying lunch with our friends and families on the lawn. Thankfully we did, as it seemed we were rather popular and parking soon became a problem for anyone arriving later.

We set up, and by the time we were ready to play, a large group of people had gathered to hear us. The wind was gusty, causing music and stands to fall over at inconvenient moments, but we didn’t let it put us off. In a way we were slightly thankful for the breeze as the sun was hot and it kept temperatures slightly more bearable.

We played pretty much the same pieces as in Regent’s Park, although we did have an interval this time due to the heat. The audience seemed to be enjoying themselves, and it was soon time to play our audience participation piece, Tico Tico. We gained a whole new percussion section of children, who were very happy to join in and hit or shake their instruments for the piece.

Time always seems to speed by when performing, and before long we were finished. Many people from the audience came up to talk to us while we were packing away, and we went away happy with our performance, if a little crispy round the edges from the sun!

Swanage Ampitheatre

Our final engagement of the summer was at Swanage Amphitheatre on Sunday 16 July. After three more rehearsals we had mixed up the order of our pieces and polished some problematic areas.

The wind was once again doing its best to thwart us, but apart from that the weather was perfect: not as hot as Kingston Lacy, but thankfully no rain either. This time, determined not to let the wind win, some people didn’t just bring pegs, but large clamps which ensured the music wasn’t going to go anywhere.

The amphitheatre is a stunning place to play, with views of the sea and a gently sloping grassy hill for the audience to sit on. The audience gathered as we set up, some obviously unaware of what was going on but stopping to find out. We soon had quite a large gathering, and we began on time but with a few empty seats. Traffic had built in the aftermath of a crash, but our final band members arrived only a couple of pieces in and we were off into our final concert of the season.

We’re having a few weeks off after our busy summer, so we can return refreshed ready to rehearse our Remembrance Day concert at The Tank Museum, and our ever-popular Christmas concert at Wimborne Minster on 16 December.

By Becca on flute

Check out our Facebook page for more photos and videos from our summer concerts.