My Life in the Royal Marines Band Service - Circa 1947-1968

by Michael G. Hutton

Back in the 60s Navy Days in Plymouth was a massive event held in HMS Drake probably the largest naval establishment in the country at that time. My band along with all the others including a couple of ships bands were involved in displays, parades and concerts throughout the two week celebration. The year just flew by and before we knew it we were getting ready for Christmas dinners and parties etc; There are some pictures of the band and some events at that time.

The Christmas Ball at the college was a huge event. I fronted a 14 piece big-band performing in the Great Hall - Edmundo Ross and his band from London were in one of the anti-rooms and the Max Geldray quintet also from the big city were in another. During the festivities the 1st Lieutenant offered me a case of champagne if I promised not to sing 'From Russia with Love' again! I didn't want the band to get pissed - so I did the number.

Term over it was off to Dover for Christmas where all Rhoda's family gathered at her parents house in Odo Road and Simon not yet one year old was spoilt by everyone and got the bounce treatment from his grandma's boobs!

The New year would see us all back in the West Country and the band continued to progress along the right road towards the permanent situation we were all hoping for. I volunteered our services to as many organisations as possible just repeating what had gone on in the previous year and more duties at the college became possible now we had been established for eighteen months or so. Simon was growing fast and we were enjoying our time in Devon and Cornwall, but in May of that year I was informed that after the summer term I was to be relieved of my post to return to Deal having been selected to attend the Royal Academy of Music for the next academic year starting in September.

We were sad to leave the RNEC at Manadon, but perhaps greater things were on the horizon. The band sent us on our way with a fantastic party with many members of the band service in the Plymouth area attending and so the Huttons went back to Deal, bought a lovely new bungalow in Church Street, Walmer and started another chapter in our lives in the RM Band service. Just by the way…the Bandmaster who took my job in Plymouth was John Borrington, one of my cricketing colleagues, but unfortunately his reign at the RNEC was very short as the band was removed from the college just a few months later and all the guys were spread around other bands in the area.

August 1965 I was informed by the Principal Director of Music Col Vivian Dunn that normally there would be two candidates attending the Royal Academy of Music, but this year I would be the only one as part of my preparation for Director of Music and a commission. This would start in September and although I would still be paid as a member of the RM, I would be a civilian student in the conductors course with Maurice Miles and Sir Malcolm Sergeant as my principal tutors.

Life in London at the RAM was fantastic - I was of course a 32 year old student mixing with men and women between 18 & 22 who were studying at the academy mostly on a 3 or 4 year course and the majority of them being already fine young performers. The conducting class consisted of only four of us which was reduced to three after the first term as one left to take up a junior conducting post in Israel. We conducted the 2nd orchestra two afternoons a week having had lessons with Maurice on each of those mornings and it was our task to teach and train the orchestra during those periods. For me it was much easier than for the other guys as I had much more experience on the rostrum than they had, but all three of them were keyboard players so they had a big advantage during conducting lessons. They would play at the keyboard for me but I couldn't reciprocate.

We conducted many of the great classics using all the academy's music library resources from Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms right through to Richard Strauss, Holst and Elgar. Some of the scores we used were originals and some even marked by Sir Henry Wood, who of course became famous for the Prom Concerts at the Albert Hall.


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