Friday: We’re off
The day had finally come! Bags packed – check, instrument – check, music – check and so off to the Scout Hut where the coach awaited.
Many an hour beforehand rehearing in the coldest most exposed areas in Lancashire had lead up to this moment. We hopped on the coach, after a team effort on the loading front, and we were off.
Once on board many entertainment that Steve usually provides, often Cool Runnings, whilst others sat back and relaxed for the busy weekend to come.
A quick pit stop at, ironically, Warwick Services where we filled our boots with a variety of fast food they had to offer, then back on the coach and we were off, Windsor bound.
We arrived and as soon as we walked into the hotel there was a roar of ‘Ooo this is fancy’, that is usually a good sign.
We checked in then made our way to the rooms. After a short while it was a quick run back down the stairs, back on the bus where we travelled to the local Salvation Army HQ where we brushed up on preparation for the following evening’s concert.
When we arrived back at the hotel, we quickly showered and smartened up and made our way the function room where food awaited.
This was lovely, an indoor barbecue. What could be better before a couple of days hard work? Then came the quiz. The teams assembled and the quiz began, the highlight round being “sing when your winning” where the teams had to name as many songs mentioning the word music in the title, or in a lyric. Bonus points if you could perform it with your group.
Saturday Daytime: Final preparations
As the sun rose over the, not yet fully constructed, town of Bracknell, the many tourists awoke from their peaceful slumber with eager anticipation for their day ahead at Legoland.
Well I say peaceful … it would have been had the band not already formed up in their marching lines on the rooftop of a multi-storey car park nearby.
What could make a better accompaniment to your eggs and bacon than a rousing rendition of good ol’ ‘Slaidburn’?
Noisy as it might have been, it was the last opportunity for a quick run through of the programme for tomorrow’s big event, so heads were definitely switched on.
A few laps of the car park,not forgetting the occasional emergency stop and three-point turn, got the band warmed up and it was on with the pieces that the band had lined up to entertain the crowds.
Never before had the people of Bracknell been treated to ‘Toccata in D Minor’ whilst nipping to M&S on their Saturday morning shopping spree.
But, as an avid member of the band’s cornet section, I must mention our Strictly Come Dancing audition.
Standing seven storeys above the bustling Saturday morning shoppers, cornets in hand, we unleashed our inner ‘Andrews Sisters’ as we performed our choreographed routine to ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’.
What a sight for those poor awakened tourists. With a few closing laps of honour, it was instruments away and onto the bus for the band.
A short drive into Windsor, with the coach swerving in and out of the Heathrow bound jets, we arrived at the foot of Windsor Castle.
For those of you who have never visited, Windsor is a bustling town filled with quaint little tearooms and boutique shops.
But the band’s choice of afternoon entertainment … Crazy Golf! Sporting their finest ‘deckchair’ inspired trousers, each player teed off with aspirations of the Ryder Cup at the forefront of their minds.
It is safe to say that the band were less Tiger Woods and little more Happy Gilmore, but all managed to avoid the water feature.
Let’s hope the band is on par tomorrow for Her Majesty.
Saturday Evening: Concert at Holy Trinity Garrison Church in Windsor
What can you do but have great expectations of our band when you know how much practise they have done and you know just how entertaining they can be?
We walked into Holy Trinity Garrison Church with the sun streaming in behind us, and were greeted by an amazingly decorated church with flags hanging from the balcony; an intricate painted pattern on the ceiling; and plaques on all the walls detailing fallen soldiers across many historic battles. The church was full.
A concert like this could only begin with ‘Conquest’. The whole piece is such a strong statement of a confident band that can stand as individuals or as sections and play.
It’s great to see the audi- ence anticipation as they look around and wonder who will be walking to the front next.
Graham didn’t use the microphone because it was crackly and about to give up, but obviously he was still able to maintain his rapid flow of humour even without the microphone.
We enjoyed five solo pieces – Oliver Sikora with ‘Georgia on my Mind’; a welcome back to Luke Dempsey who played ‘Over the Rainbow’; Ryan Bolton with ‘Blaydon Races’; Josh Brown performed ‘Children of Sanchez’; and George Hanson playing ‘The Bare Necessities’.
They played such a wide variety of tunes, but they all looked very comfortable and bold performers. We were so proud.
My favourite piece was ‘You are the sunshine of my life’. A small group was standing at the back of the church and played with the whole band. I felt as though I was listening to surround sound.
I could pick out some of the musical parts which I can’t usually do. The band completely filled the whole church with sound. Many of the audience were jogging their shoulders and tapping their feet.
And how can you finish such a fantastic concert? With Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. The standing ovation and long applause at the end said everything – a wonderful end to a wonderful evening.
So many people from the Windsor area commented on how much they had enjoyed the concert. We all thought that the band had played their best ever.
Sunday: Windsor Castle
The day kick started with a full four star hotel breakfast. No time to dwell on what the day would hold as we were whisked back up the five flights of stairs to the top of Bracknell’s multi story for a brisk 9am rehearsal.
A buzz of excitement rose when we were sent to change into our brand new scout uniforms and gather our belongings as we would not be returning. This was it.
As we approached the grandeur of the castle itself, the coach ground to a halt. We continued our short journey on foot the reason for the emer- gency stop came more apparent. Parading towards us came the Scots Guards, their striking red jackets marching towards us. Each step in unison.
The enormity and expectation of the day had finally hit us.
We presented our special red cards that allowed us admittance to the event and set up base in the ground’s vacated stables.
As more and more Scout leaders and offi- cials crowded the courtyard, we got a sudden shout to clear the way. We made a dash to get out of the path.
We couldn’t believe what happened next. Who came past? None other than the Duke of Edinburgh driving his horse and cart. We felt so lucky, but only minutes later he came past again in his fancy BMW.
The band was called to form up as the clocks neared 1. All those hours of preparation came down to this.
Michael brought us to attention. “By the centre quick march” We were off.
Everything was going brilliantly. We had reached the narrow archway where we all squeezed through,
just about, and entered the splendour of the quadrangle of Windsor Castle. What a sight to behold.
No time to gander or gawp, as we were paraded straight onto the luscious, harlequin grass.
It was like standing on a cloud, almost soft enough for you to stop in your tracks just to enjoy the luxury. But the band marched on. ‘Montreal Citadel’, ‘Water of Tyne’, ‘Joy’, ‘Peace and Happiness’. Far too quickly we were marching back through the narrow archway back towards the sta- bles.
Just before the clock struck 2, Michael paraded us back into the quadrangle but this time accompanied by the Scots Guards. On the strike of 2, the National Anthem was played – by the Guards’ band – and out came Prince Michael of Kent with Bear Grylls to speak to all the Queen’s Scouts.
While this was taking place, ourselves and the Scots Guards played alternately. ‘Toccata’, ‘All Night Long’ and a John Williams’ medley fea- tured in the short set.
The whole parade, lead by us, made its way down to St George’s Chapel in the grounds, where we took our seats in the Knights of the Garter.
We all sat there in awe, admiring the magnificent gothic architecture as the service commenced.
A sudden hum of excitement washed through the band as only a few metres away stood Bear and the Prince with their entourage of officials. The Prince kept very official whereas Bear gave us a cheeky thumbs up.
As the final hymn was sung, we reformed outside the impressive chapel.
After a short speech from Mr Grylls, we led the parade back to the stables and it was all over.
Months, weeks, hours of hard work had paid off and we’d done ourselves mighty proud. As we boarded the coach for the final time, everyone agreed on what an amazing weekend that was had and how proud we were to be the 2nd Rossendale Scout Group Band.