What do we expect from a Town Band? Seasonal Oompahs, buckets of enthusiasm, Jerusalem, and the odd dropped note, perhaps? Not a full on professional sounding wind orchestra, surely. After all, town bands are an amateur thing, aren’t they?
I went to see Devizes Town Band’s ‘Heroes and Villains’ show at the Corn Exchange on Monday. Their current Musical Director is Sharon Lindo, a professional violinist and multi-instrumentalist, who came out of the trombone section to take up the baton in 2012. The night was compered by Ian Pugh, chirpy toastmaster and Fantasy Radio personality, and on this occasion there were forty-four musicians, amateur and professional, wind and percussion, in the band. Proceeds from the event went to local charity Altzheimer’s Support.
The programme consisted of classic film themes, all introduced with a paragraph about plot, and illustrated with images on a big screen behind the band. The night started with Superman, then we had The Godfather, Chicago, Les Mis, Gladiator, Bonnie and Clyde, The Magnificent Seven, Schindler’s List, and a bit of Aida. In the interval we heard about Altzheimer’s Support from Laura Fenson, Community Fundraiser, and in the second half we had The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Mack the Knife, Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty, Over The Rainbow, Chicken Run, Skyfall, and Oliver.
What is it about these songs that stirs us so? The triumphant and melancholic cadences, the nostalgia? We’ve heard them so often they could be deemed to be corny, but the reason they have endured is because people love them, and most have memories associated with them. Fun, sorrow, victory, mischief, romance, nights at the movies, Sundays by the television, days gone by… whatever it is that appeals, it brought people out in droves, and on a school night, and not all of them over fifty.
Solo performers were Alan Evans on French horn, playing the poignant ‘Bring Him Home’, Jenni Scott, flautist and vocalist, singing ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ to the tune of gunfire, Sharon Lindo’s sensitive rendition of the Schindler theme on violin, Bruce MacDonald on tenor sax playing ‘Over The Rainbow’ and, my favourite moment of the night (sniff, something in my eye, etc.) Richard Tannasee on trumpet, playing ‘Il Triello’, oh so beautifully, in front of screen images from The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.
Dropped notes? Maybe a barely perceptible hiccup somewhere in the first half, but that really is nit-picking. The band had been rehearsing since January, and it showed. The quality of sound was great, the energy levels were high, the conductor was a joy to watch, the kazoos were on point (!), and the tunes were well chosen. With the exception of one elderly lady, who said that rock bands were more her cup of tea, everyone I spoke to loved it. ‘Very good’, seemed to be the consensus. ‘Very enjoyable’ said the man who had come all the way from Bedfordshire to see his daughter play the clarinet.
I must be getting old. I liked it a lot.
And I got to play with Ian Pugh’s gavel afterwards.
© Gail Foster 24th April 2018
PS What is it about Ennio Morricone?
You can catch the really rather wonderful Devizes Town Band at Poulshot Church in June, at the Beer Festival in July, and at Hillworth Park in September. And if you’re interested in finding out more about the work of Altzheimer’s Support (let’s face it, we all might need them one day), you can contact their Devizes office in Sidmouth Street.