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The Cathedral Church of St. Thomas of Canterbury Old Portsmouth.

It was a crisp frosty sunny morning and as I cleared the frost from the windscreen, I thought, do I have to go all the way to Portsmouth? We were some 12 miles away in Rowlands Castle, and it took some self discipline to get motivated. Off we sped down the A3M, bright sunshine dazzling us all the way.

We arrived early to find the car park already full to capacity. We managed to find a space in the Residents Only onroad parking area, with a premise that we would be fine there for two hours. Little were we to know how long this Service was going to take! We entered the church to find a dearth of seating available, and just managed to find a couple of seats, but only one Service Sheet! This was long before the commencement of the service so I do not know how others who arrived later than us managed. It was wall to wall bodies on all sides, which must have taken the church authorities by surprise, who had to muster additional chairs from somewhere, which they did surprisingly.

Portsmouth Cathedral
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Pre the Service there was a very accomplished solo by Band Corporal Hart, accompanied at the Organ by Miss E LeGrove. The pieces were played with great feeling, on Trumpet and Flugle, so that was entertaining in itself. Must have been quite an ordeal for the Soloist to be surrounded by some of the fiercest music critics to be found anywhere in the World! But, ever the professional, Band Corporal Hart upheld the finest traditions of the Band Service and gave an excellent rendition and when he left the Stand, he appeared to be a little surprised, indeed shocked to receive a justifiable round of applause!

Portsmouth Cathedral

The Service started in a traditional manner and was enjoyed by all, but why did it have to go on for so long? The welcome address was made by the Dean of Portsmouth. The Sermon was fundamental to present day issues with recent conflicts to the fore. A number of humorous moments were entailed, but lack of memory precludes my repeating them.....

The Citation was read by the P.D.M. Followed by the Dedication Fanfare.

The turning of the pages of Remembrance, and the reading of the names of some of those lost was carried out by the Corps Bugle Major.

The Service was superb, and reminded me of some fifty years ago, (Others too may recall this) when we had a Radio Broadcast from the Depot Church in Deal. The voices all gave their heartiest testimony to the occasion, much as it did in 1953/54 in Deal. That service was conducted by FVD, and the Orchestra was the Staff Band. One of my friends who was a Student at the Birmingham School of Music at the time, recounted to me later, that was a superb service, and how many were in the choir? My friend of course was blind, hence his attending the Birmingham School of Music, but he could see that choir in his minds eye no doubt.

The orchestra this year did a fine job, and at least at one point while those who were nodding off, maybe, were rudely awakened by the Percussion Section, with the Tympani, Bass Drum, Turkish Cymbal and a good sfz. from the orchestra which stirred the slumberers and was found amusing by others, and was referred to during the Lesson!

As more and more eyes were eyeing the clock, and more and more were clenching their teeth, and crossing their legs, the orchestra continued long after the choir had left the nave. Almost at the end of the piece, the Allegro Molto by Sibelius, there was a ripple of applause, as those who had not kept their eye on the PDM, had thought that the piece was ended. Nothing is ever resolved quickly with Sibelius! Musical History comes to mind here, when I believe Sibelius when speaking to a Student said, "Never write any unnecessary notes, because every note should have a life of its own". Well, none of these sfz notes appeared to me to have any life left in them!

On a personal observation, the programme of music was not to my liking. I would have preferred a touch of Elgar, probably Chanson De Matin, or Serenade in 'E' Minor for strings OP 20: Allegro, and / or Larghetto. Perhaps they who select the programme for next year may take note? And now, the dash for the Wine Bar across the street! Why? Well they had facilities for those who needed to relieve their discomfort! Never did see a Ladies or Gents sign in the Cathedral.......

Bill Hartland

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