REUNION 2019 - 'Take two!'
By Mike Hutton
Having attended the reunion in Portsmouth last weekend I’m in two minds about this annual event.
I’ll start with the Sunday Memorial Service which was just excellent. The opening music from Glazunov’s 5th Symphony and the Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana were superb – all performed by the combined orchestras of the Royal Band and HMS Collingwood Band directed by Major Davis. The Cathedral Choir conducted by Dr David Price as always was without fault.
At this point I would like to add that after the service I congratulated WO1 B/M Hutchinson ( Corps Bandmaster ) on the performance of the ‘Dedication Fanfare’ which I’m sure was the best rendition of that difficult fanfare that I have heard for many years. I was also impressed by Col Burcham’s reading of ‘Ode of Remembrance’.
Now the Saturday evening gathering, that was somewhat different. Having paid my £20 and been informed that the venue was not in the CPO’s Mess as in previous years with comfortable seating, plenty of room, Band Display, PDM speech about the RMBS, food and light music entertainment .... It would be held in the ‘School of Music’... I was intrigued about what to expect this year.
From the dockyard gate there was a fair distance to walk before arriving at the infamous cell blocks that are part of the School of Music and access to these buildings is far from easy as many of our older members and wives noticed (in fact wheel chairs were unable to enter.) There was however a glass of wine or juice on entry where we all stood chatting waiting in the lower cell block for the welcoming speech from Col Burcham as the PDM was unable to attend. The Colonel appeared one floor above most of us and we could just about see him through the thick rope netting normally used to prevent bandsmen and women from falling from the second and third floors...( originally prisoners of course! ) It was at times difficult to hear his speech as the mic system didn’t seem adequate. However we were informed ( not of the exploits of the Band Service during the past year ) but that the ARMY were sending some of their Pongo’s to the RM School of Music to be trained apparently by their own teaching staff!! So we are led to believe that over the coming years the RMSM WILL change as Army individuals eventually infiltrate the RMSM. However I do recall just a couple of weeks ago at the Ripple gathering the PDM told us that whatever the future may hold in Portsmouth the Royal Marines School of Music will lead in the HM Services Music world. There was a Brass group playing at the end of the ‘cell block’ during this first hour which was very nice if a bit loud at times.
We then moved on to another part of the building where there was some ‘Drum Beatings etc’ in a space apparently not big enough for a ‘Band Display’!! (I recall when I was a B/Cpl in a Ships Band of 18 on HMS Gambia way back in the last century we could manage a Beat Retreat on the Quarterdeck, on a beach in Male having to wait for the tide to go out, and even in the fuckarwe grass if necessary, so no excuses from the modern Band Service.) Then into the concert hall where there were large round tables and chairs where many of us were able to sit and chat, plus the standard ‘Curry Meal’ arriving later. Very unlike previous reunions where the PDM had everyones attention for his address where as this one I don’t think that many heard the words of wisdom from Col Burcham. The bar was a dingy area outside that only seemed to have canned beer! I could have done with a large Brandy at that stage. There was music in the background which was lovely but sometimes too loud, I’m sure a piano, violin & cello trio would have been lovely (I even thought back to the times when Dougie Drake, Dave Elliott and myself had done gigs all over London to far bigger crowds than was here!!) After a couple of hours of chat with many old friends and some of the serving guys & girls as well I managed to find my coat and on the way out was escorted by two charming young girl bandsmen back to the dockyard gate and thence to my hotel.
It was great to meet up with many old friends especially Bob Rawson who I joined up with along with many others way back in January 1949 at Burford. If this is how future reunions will be organised then it's not for me. However I will always attend the Memorial Church Service.
Michael Hutton. Former Bandmaster Royal Marines.
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