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Royal Air Force - 100th Anniversary
Central Band of the Royal Air Force; Band of the Royal Air Force College; Band of the Royal Air Force Regiment; Royal Air Force Squadronaires; Royal Air Force Swing Wing/Wing Commander Duncan Stubbs and others
rec. 2005-2017, The Church of St Michael and All Angels, RAF College, Cranwell; RAF Uxbridge, London; RAF Music Studios, Northolt, London
CHANDOS CHAN10973(2) [56:16 + 64:50]

Since its inception Chandos has cherished a soft spot for brass and military bands. The present 100th anniversary double, at two-for-one price, sits comfortably in that spot alongside other issues such as British Classics (CHAN 10847) and 633 squadron (CHAN 6585(.

Disc 1 has plenty of bite, as you can hear in 633 Squadron but also rings some swooping changes in the harum-scarum swing track that is Come Fly With Me. There's a completely convincing Matthew Little on vocals. In Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines there's no holding back for those raucous burping 'whaups'.

I liked Andrew Pearce's F35 Lightning II very much, not least because Pearce has the hang of vividly conjuring limitless dawn skies before the Lightning powers across them. There's a touch of minimalism here too, not to mention a dash of John Barry in Bond mode. It's less an evocation of the Lightning as of its tireless victorious trail. Philip Sparke, a denizen of the wind-band world, produced an excellent piece in The Way to Heaven. It has all the coiled subtlety of the Andrew Pearce piece. Roy Davies' Skywatch is another swinging march with a brightness in its progress.

Hubert Bath was a concert-hall British composer. It's good to hear his Out of the Blue even if he does play up to the march genre with more of a nod towards Offenbach than to his own classical roots. His Symphony for Brass (1922) has been heard but what about his choral-orchestral works, his operas which include the full-length three-acter on Gerald Du Maurier, Trilby, his Sea Pictures (1909), a Symphonic Poem, Visions of Hannele (1913) and six early one-movement piano quintets. Another Bath march, Honour and Glory (1931), could have been placed on this disc. Bath also provided cinema scores for Blackmail (1929, the first full-length British talkie) and Wicked Lady; he was working on the latter when died.

Speaking of film music - although we bewail Walton being supplanted for The Battle of Britain score, Ron Goodwin's march for that film is very good and it is most brilliantly cawed, polished and spat out here. This is familiar turf for Chandos as its full orchestral Goodwin collection appears in the film music series. Walton gets the last laugh in track 15 of CD 1 with a suite running hard by seven minutes. He is a class act and for the first time there's some devastatingly touching writing. Those eldritch quiet screeches, recalling the supernatural garden of Kastchei, are played with utmost skill and relish. The hard-nosed air-battle is superbly put across. This is up there with John Wilson's performance, achieved with full orchestra, at the Proms five or so years ago. You can compare the two scores (Walton/Goodwin) on a Ryko CD if you can find it.

CD 2 opens the engagement with Robert Wiffin's The Shining Sword which is splendidly momentous - a touch of Saving Private Ryan here. Malcolm Lockyer's quick-time Pathfinders March keeps the blood moving around over a trudging ostinato.

Goff Richards' The Jaguar takes us back to the skies again with some foghorn whoops along the way. These are delivered Malcolm Arnold-style, as in his Padstow Lifeboat. Stuart Stirling's Global Cooperation (now there's a title) is from his Peacekeepers Suite. It would have been good to have heard the rest. This time the band, conducted by the composer, is joined by a full choir.

More swing comes in the shape of with Abe Olman's Oh Johnny with Corporals Beverley Rees, Cara Trott and Tracy Hodgetts succulently taking the part of The Andrews Sisters. The hair is let right down for a Queen Medley but we are soon back to the 1940s for the Benny Goodman version of Sing, Sing, Sing which is done no holds barred; likewise the Songs That Saw Us Through medley.

Duncan Stubbs lets fly with his own Diamond Nine, a catchy piece with plenty of peppy rhythmic detailing. It's more of a character piece than his Air Cadets March which is just a shade conventional. Unusually, for this disc, a flute solo (Sgt Neslihan Jordan) and harp are heard in Hess's ubiquitous Ladies in Lavender. The brass band operates with utmost sensitivity and Hess conducts. Alford's Holyrood March has a languid pier-end smugness and Sims' College March feels as if it came from the same deck-chair concert programme as the Alford.

Barrie Hingley makes slow and inventive capital out of the RAF March Past for his Elegy, which he conducts. Chandos are not going to resist temptation when it comes to the last item, The Dambusters March. It goes with a swagger, not that I would want you to miss Boult's stately full orchestral version on Lyrita.

The music-making on this disc is crackingly done and recorded. The only demerits involve the 'careful' playing time and the fact that we are given very little information about the individual pieces. The RAF bands are profiled in the booklet, as is their history including a sketch of the career of the conductor Wing Commander Duncan Stubbs OBE. Stubbs conducts most of these tracks. It was a nice touch to have each disc use the RAF rondel as a design feature.

Rob Barnett

Contents List
Sir Henry WALFORD DAVIES and Sir George DYSON Royal Air Force March Past [1:47]
Conductor: Wing Commander Duncan Stubbs

William WALTON Spitfire Prelude [3:36]
Arranged by Rodney Bowman Bashford (1917-1997)
Wing Commander Duncan Stubbs

James VAN HEUSEN / Sammy CAHN Come Fly with Me - Frank Sinatra/Count Basie version Transcribed by Jon Harpin (dates unknown) [3:28]
Squadron Leader Matthew Little (vocal)
Leader: Corporal Andrew Mears

Ray BAUDUC and Bob HAGGART South Rampart Street [2:14]
Transcribed by Garry Cooney (b.1969)
Leader: Corporal Andrew Mears

Ron GOODWIN 633 Squadron [2:48]
Conductor: Squadron Leader Matthew Little

VARIOUS Songs of the Early Airmen
[7:23] Arranged by Barrie Hingley OBE (b. 1938)
Conductor: Squadron Leader Richard Murray

Ron GOODWIN Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines [1:45]
Conductor: Wing Commander Duncan Stubbs

Andrew PEARCE F35 Lightning II [3:49]
Conductor: Wing Commander Duncan Stubbs

John MARTINDALE To Lusher with Love [3:50]
Conductor: Squadron Leader Matthew Little

Roy E.C. DAVIES Skywatch [2:52]
Conductor: Wing Commander Duncan Stubbs

Hubert Charles BATH Out of the Blue [2:38]
Conductor: Squadron Leader Piers Morrell

Kenneth ALWYN Fighter Command March [5:02]
Conductor: Wing Commander Duncan Stubbs

Ron GOODWIN The Battle of Britain March [2:33]
Conductor: Flight Lieutenant Christopher I'Anson

Philip SPARKE The Way to Heaven [4:32]
Conductor: Wing Commander Duncan Stubbs

Sir William WALTON Battle of Britain Suite [6:42]
Music from the Film Arranged by Barrie Hingley OBE
Conductor: Wing Commander Duncan Stubbs

Robert WIFFIN OBE The Shining Sword [2:01]
Conductor: Squadron Leader Christopher Weldon

Malcolm LOCKYEAR Pathfinders March [4:30]
Conductor: Flight Lieutenant Christopher I'Anson

Abe OLMAN Oh Johnny [2:47]
The Andrews Sisters / Solos: Corporal Beverley Rees; Corporal Cara Trott; Corporal Tracy Hodgetts
Leader: Warrant Officer Gary Stevens

Goff RICHARDS The Jaguar - March [3:03]
Conductor: Flight Lieutenant Christopher I'Anson

Stuart STIRLING Global Co-operation (Peacekeepers Suite) [3:12]
Conductor: Wing Commander Stuart Stirling

Brian MAY and Freddie MERCURY Queen Medley [7:47]
Arranged by Stuart Morley (dates unknown)
Conductor: Wing Commander Duncan Stubbs

Duncan STUBBS OBE Diamond Nine [3:40]
Conductor: Wing Commander Duncan Stubbs

Duncan STUBBS OBE Air Cadets March [2:18]
Conductor: Squadron Leader Richard Murray

Nigel HESS Ladies in Lavender [3:55]
Conductor: Nigel Hess

Louis PRIMA Sing, Sing, Sing [7:30]
Benny Goodman version
Arranged by Jimmy Mundy (1907-1983)
Leader: Chief Technician Kevin Miles

Kenneth J. ALFORD Holyrood March [3:58]
Conductor: Wing Commander Piers Morrell

Albert Ernest SIMS College March [1:31]
Conductor: Squadron Leader Richard Murray

VARIOUS Songs that Saw Us Through [8:53]
Conductor: Wing Commander Duncan Stubbs

Barrie HINGLEY OBE Elegy on the Royal Air Force March Past [4:37]
Conductor: Wing Commander Barrie Hingley OBE (Rtd)

Eric COATES The Dambusters March [3:57]
Conductor: Wing Commander Duncan Stubbs

 

 




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