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Kenneth ALFORD, MASTER OF MILITARY MUSIC

ALFORD: By Land and Sea; Cavalry of the Clouds; Colonel Bogey; Dunedin; Eagle Squadron; H M Jollies; The Voice of the Guns; The Thin Red Line; The Standard of St George; On the Quarterdeck; Colonel Bogey on Parade (potpourri) arr. ALFORD: A Life on the Ocean Wave; Dance in the Twilight (E COATES); Lilliburlero. STRACHEY: In Party Mood. HUBERT BATH: Out of the Blue. Various bands etc. mostly cond. Alford 55’ approx. CD CMM (Mc TMM) from This England, P O Box 52, Cheltenham, Gloucester GL50 1YQ (e-mail sales @ thisengland.co.uk; www.thisengland.co.uk) £8.95 encl. Post & packing in UK (£7.50) musicassette ditto).

Alford is renowned as Britain’s "March King" yet unlike John Philip Sousa, who composed at least a hundred and thirty examples, his reputation rests on just eighteen marches. He also wrote a handful of xylophone solos plus a few other non-march pieces and was responsible for many arrangements. But he was his own man. No-one would mistake one of his marches for one of Sousa. The most Sousa-like piece on this disc is Bath’s Out of the Blue, familiar for many decades as the signature tune of BBC Radio’s "Sports Report". Alford’s marches still stir the blood. Occasionally he jerks in an appropriate reference to other tunes, like a snatch of The Star Spangled Banner in Eagle Squadron and A Life on the Ocean Wave in H.M. Jollies.

Alford the arranger is represented here, too, and the disc is filled out with other more or less appropriate items. Some may complain at the not over-generous measure. More disappointing, to my mind, is the lack of detail about the dates and performers of these tracks. These are historic recordings (from the sound of them, some date from the 1920s), played with great spirit and well transferred. We may perhaps assume that the majority of them are played by the Royal Marines Plymouth Band directed by Alford himself (who died in 1945). But This England with its care for and interest in the English heritage, usually so carefully pursued, should do better in the matter of documentation. That said, I have enjoyed its Alford "revival" and invite others to share my pleasure.

Philip Scowcroft

 


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