“It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas” – well, it certainly is for the 380 people who went to “A Swing-Along Christmas” concert presented by the Thornden Community Wind Band with their special guests The Spitfire Sisters on Friday evening. This was a wonderful concert and a fine introduction to the week before Christmas.
The concert opened with just a sole drummer on stage. He was soon joined by a double bassist, and then the other sections of the band entered in turn and picked up their places in “Christmas Mambo”. Finally Deputy Director of Music Greg Walker (who had written the piece) took his place on the conductor’s rostrum and brought the piece to its conclusion.
Special mention must be made of the percussion and rhythm section – probably the youngest members of the orchestra (and still in full-time education). An accomplished performance by both musicians, and a valuable contribution that helped to give the orchestra an authentic “big band” sound. “I didn’t even know he could play the double bass” the bassist’s mother was heard to say after the concert.
The programme included several well-known Christmas songs and carols – some of which the audience were encouraged to join in with while others, such as Good Swing Wenceslas, were given the big-band treatment.
The popular songs were fine choices to complement the sound of the band – big-band arrangements of 1950s classics such as Little Drummer Boy and I Saw Mummy Kissing Santa Claus work. I don’t think a big-band arrangement of Wham’s “Last Christmas” or Shakin’ Stevens’ “Merry Christmas, Everyone” would have worked nearly as well.
Special Guests The Spitfire Sisters performed four songs in the first half, and added vocal accompaniment to several other pieces.
The trio of ladies sang in harmonies reminiscent of the Andrews Sisters, but with lyrics of a modern age. They are very very good – this small taste has whetted my appetite to see them in a full concert. I will be keeping my eye out to see when they are next performing somewhere near me.
This was, as ever, an extremely entertaining and enjoyable concert by a very large band. These things don’t just happen, they take hours or planning, preparation, and rehearsal – and all from volunteers who enjoy playing with others, led by musicians who enjoy giving people this chance. Thornden Community Wind Band is an ensemble we can all be proud of.
Friday’s concert was in aid of George’s Trust, a charity set up following the sudden and unexpected death of George O’Brien from an undiagnosed illness in 2008. As well as raising funds for research and treatment of cancer (£100,000 has been raised for the Teenage Cancer Trust Units in Southampton General Hospital), the charity helps teenagers and young adults reach their full, potential by making grants to youth organisations and providing awards for choral scholarships to Romsey Abbey Choir.
Thornden Community Wind Band’s next concert will be on 1st April 2017 at Thornden Hall, when they will perform with The 14th Eastleigh Scout and Guide Band (The Spitfires) in support of Hampshire Scouts’ voluntary work in Tanzania in the summer.
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