REVIEW: Chichester City Band Christmas Concert, St Paul's Church, Chichester

Hard to realise that Chichester City Band is now celebrating its 120th birthday, and has widened its membership to three separate bands.

Chichester City Band
Chichester City Band

No surprise then that all three were represented in their annual Christmas Concert, performing both separately and together, under conductors Rom Stanko, Alan Rodger and Bob Ainsworth. (All they need now is a designated new home in which to rehearse and provide storage facilities…)

Rom’s Senior Band kicked off in style with Amparito Roca, bringing us Mexican warmth and energy on a cold December night. A contrasting stylish piece followed, this time the medieval English carol “Gaudete” (Rejoice), made famous by another band – Steeleye Span in the 60s (I remember it well….) and Wassail Song – a lively drinking song, suggesting groups of revellers calling round to villagers for liquid refreshment!

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Back to South America for Soul Bossa Nova, recognisable as the Austin Powers theme, again performed with lots of verve. Rom had the brilliant idea of featuring each group of players in turn between the full band items, beginning with the Trombones playing the popular American hit Let it Snow, and Euphoniums and Baritones playing Have yourself a Merry little Christmas. Other group items were given by back and front row cornets, and the Basses played Santa Claus is coming to Town

Rom has arranged a lot of music especially for the band, (are you going to make a CD, Rom??) and the next piece Coventry Carol Interlude demonstrated his expertise in this direction. This will no doubt feature in Coventry celebrating its new status as European City of Culture! John Rutter is also a class arranger and composer, and the jaunty Shepherd’s Pipe Carol was one of his first hits. Hernando’s Hideaway, we were told, is the name given to the smoking room in the House of Commons! The Horn section then gave a lovely account of Mary’s Boy Child before Rom’s own lively Christmas Spirit – signalling time for refreshments?

Alan’s Community Band, a fun band for those not quite ready or willing for contesting, entertained us with two lively pieces by Matt Kingston – Three Kings Rock and De Virgin Mary had a Baby Boy. Meanwhile Bob’s Elementary Brass had waited patiently for their turn, and the youngsters, suitably attired in festive gear, played Jingle Bells and the James Bond Theme with great panache. They were also very excited that the Mayor was there to present them with their hard-earned exam certificates

The Concert Band returned for Stop the Cavalry, then a quirky version of the 12 Days of Christmas followed by the majestically sonorous Ein’ Feste Burg (A Safe Stronghold) by the master J.S. Bach, also skilfully arranged by Rom

All three bands assembled for the Grand Finale – The Christmas Parade March, the traditional German Schneewalzer (with which the audience was encouraged to join in singing and swaying – they would no doubt have appreciated being invited to participate in some favourite carols) and finally We Wish You a merry Christmas. No local band concert would end without Sussex By The Sea, and tonight’s was no exception – it even made it as a local radio station request earlier in the afternoon!

Marilyn Hurdwell