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Report - by Stephen Misson
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The recent bad weather failed to suppress the enthusiasm of 120 former Royal Marines Band musicians as they presented their 16th annual charity All Stars Band concert at the Winter Gardens, Margate on Sunday 6th March 2005. Concerts the previous two days at that venue had been cancelled but this was never in the minds of the stalwart members of this band. During the course of the evening, Stephen Misson, one of the organisers of the concert, regaled the audience with some statistics relating to the band, remarking that many of the musicians had travelled considerable distances to be with their former colleagues. This year there were players from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Devon and the Channel Islands, two from Australia and one from New Zealand. "It is absolutely amazing that these people give up their time and travel such vast distances completely at their own expense to take part in what has become and annual pilgrimage for so many", said Stephen. He also commended the public for attending and remarked that there were very few empty seats in the auditorium which just shows how much respect is accorded to what has become an event not to be missed.

Twenty seven members of the band are over seventy years of age and three are octogenarians; all are still well able to perform as the Royal Marines trained them, sometimes many years ago. It is this electric atmosphere that attracts the audience to this band so much. There had been a brief rehearsal in Walmer two weeks prior to the concert to which roughly one third of the band attended, then the main rehearsal was on the concert afternoon for three hours. This brief amount of time was insufficient to play through all the items on the programme so some were performed unrehearsed; another reason why the audience like this concert so much. The programme was chosen to represent music which would typically have been played by the serving members during the 1960s and 70s which, explained the band's Director of Music Lt Col Paul Neville, helps to reduce the amount of time needed for rehearsals.

Amongst the more traditional items of marches, overtures and selections from the shows were pieces that featured the trumpets in Trumpet Filigree, the clarinets in Clarinets to the Fore and the twenty-strong trombone section in Tricky Trombones. Mike Scurfield, the current president of Dover Operatic and Dramatic Society, put down his trumpet to sing a selection of songs from the First World War, an arrangement by former Lieutenant Ray Woodfield who is now a very established composer in the UK.

Towards the end of the evening cheques totalling £8250 were presented by Pamela Misson culminating in the two major beneficiaries; the Deal Memorial Bandstand Trust whose Honorary President, Cllr Sue Delling, Mayor of Deal received a cheque for £2500 and the Royal Marines Band Benevolent Fund cheque for £4000 which was received by The Commandant of the Royal Marines School of Music, the Principal Director of Music Royal Marines Lt Col Chris Davis. Colonel Davis applauded the band for their playing and their fundraising efforts which have now totalled £127,850, then presented them with the Commandant General's Commendation, a very prestigious award.

During the course of the evening it was noted that the average age of the band at 61.8 years was increasing annually and that there was a need to recruit younger, retiring members of the Royal Marines Band Service. It was also stated that the total amount of the years service in the Royal Marines by those on stage was a staggering 2237 years!

With the sixteenth concert behind them, the band members said a fond farewell to their ex-colleagues, mostly with the parting words, "See you next year".

Stephen Misson

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