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

by Michael G. Hutton

Back at the RAM - as well as conducting at college both 2nd and 3rd orchestras plus the newly formed Wind Band I was playing in the Fulham Symphony Orchestra and became deputy conductor for a couple of concerts with them. So my time was full with many musical engagements, but during the summer I did find time to relax occasionally sometimes taking a boat out in Regents Park just behind the academy where all was peace and quiet. I managed to compose some music in those moments and had it played by the students, but it was never published and is probably hidden away somewhere in the RAM library. It was also just a short walk to Lords so would pop in there for a couple of hours to watch some county cricket when possible. (If only I'd known then that my Great Great Grandfather Hayter Thornton Reed had been a member! Perhaps I'd have got in free!)

During the summer term and before exams started I was asked by Maurice Miles if I would be interested in the position of orchestra manager of his orchestra in Ulster, Northern Ireland. This was a very tempting offer and he added that I would also have some conducting opportunities as his deputy. The orchestra were planning a European Tour in the coming months which would involve me and the offer would be a three to five year contract. I discussed the possibilities with Rhoda, colleagues in Deal and London including Sir Vivian and Sir Malcolm and after a great deal of thought opted to stay in the band service as I was in line for a commission within the next two years meaning a continuing career in the RMs till I was at least 50 years old.

Exams started in June with piano heading the list. I forgot to mention my teacher Miss Mildred Litherland who lived in Dorking and travelled daily to the academy by Green Line Bus and smoked forty Capstan Full Strength each day! She spent most of our year together helping me to learn a couple of fairly easy exam pieces but more important as a non keyboard player to read and play from a full orchestral score - which is quite difficult when the piano is your 4th instrument! Anyway I did learn from her even if I did have to suffer her longing for nicotine! I was of course at the time a smoker myself but not quite in her class. All exams were passed and even though there were only three of us in the conducting class I felt honoured to receive the conducting prize.

So my time at the Royal Academy of Music came to an end in July of 1966 and I returned to duty in Deal as Bandmaster of the premier band, the Staff Band. My immediate boss was Sir Vivian Dunn so I was going to be quite busy over the coming couple of years leading up to his retirement in 1968.

During the latter part of that year I was able to take and pass all the musical qualifications for RM Director of Music following my LRAM and ARCM diplomas gained during my time at the RAM. There was now only one exam I had to pass in order to get my commission - that would come in a couple of years time.

The first few weeks of 1967 were taken up with the annual Sgts Mess pantomime - the name of it escapes me, but looking at the photograph it must have been 'Ali Ba Ba and the ½ dozen thieves!' we didn't have room on stage for 40! Although looking again at the picture there were quite a few guys involved and Pete West's wife in the centre always did the make-up. One of the star attractions of this event was the 'Corps de Ballet' made up of eight drill or PT Sgts dancing in hobnailed boots to ballet music from 'Sylvia or Swan Lake'. Second in from the left is Bill Sykes then Roger Tyack a couple of good mates at that time who were not bandsmen.

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