Hull has a lot to offer, even if much of its light is hidden under a bushel, and one of the jewels in its crown is the magnificent thirteenth-century Anglican Minster nestled between Market Place and King Street in Trinity Square, boasting amongst other things some of the finest Medieval brickwork in the country, being the largest parish church in England, and the baptismal location of William Wilberforce, the first to say “Black Lives Matter,” over 250 years ago.
So, what better place to host another iconic institution, a glittering diamond in this country’s musical heritage, and currently headed by an alumnus of the greatest educational establishment in the region?
A typical Saturday afternoon was in full sway in Hull’s Old Town on 4th February as revelers started their evening’s drinking, shoppers were gradually filtering away, and youngsters taking part in a quest for Alice in Wonderland’s virtual treasure hunt lingered, finding the last of their clues. The Land of Green Ginger was host to the first stars of the silver screen, as Apple commenced filming “The Blitz,” and almost fittingly, elderly ladies and gents in regimental ties, proudly displaying service medal ribbons, together with a throng of other supporters and fans made their way to Hull Minster.
Strauss, King, Alford, Saint-Saens, Elgar, and Russell – a feast of musical entertainment awaited those lucky enough to have obtained tickets to see Captain Sam Hairsine lead the truly sensational Royal Marines’ Band Collingwood in a performance that stunned an audience of all ages and backgrounds.
The Band had spent the day in Hull, visiting the Albemarle Music Centre and meeting local young musicians. Capt. Hairsine commented in his address to the audience how lucky Hull is to have such an establishment, offering a centre of musical education to local youngsters. As Capt. Hairsine noted, without musical education and the encouragement of natural talent, there would be no performances such as the one he was treating us all to that evening.
Royal Marines’ Band Collingwood at Albemarle Music Centre (Photo: Donna Clifford)
The evening’s programme opened with a rousing performance of Festmusik der Stadt Wein by Strauss before Capt. Hairsine – who appears not to have aged a bit since the late 90s in spite of tours of duty in Afghanistan among other more salubrious locations – spoke to the audience and gave us a little taster of the thrills that were to come.
And what thrills they were! I cannot put into words the emotions that coursed through the very being of every single person in that audience that afternoon. The clarinet solo was performed by Cpl. Sophie Perriam, in the Artie Shaw Clarinet Concerto, was mesmerisingly brilliant. I have never seen fingers move so quickly or heard such a magnificent tone from this single reed instrument of which I have never been too fond! Her fingers simply danced over the keys.
The dexterity and discipline of the Royal Marines’ Drum Corps were something to behold. The Royal Marines’ Band is the only military band to have its own drum corps, and while an intrinsic part of the overall band, they can perform totally autonomously. Watching the speed, and perfect synchronisation of their white-gloved hands is magnificent.
Drum Corps (Photos: Ellie Hardy)
Some reading this will recall Michael (Windy) Gale playing the organ in assemblies at school, and his incredible talent from such an early age, something that inspired me, and his performances of Widor’s Organ Toccata & Fugue were a common request among his admirers. It led to me being a firm admirer of ecclesiastical organ music and those who have the skill to harness the awesome power of the mighty pipes.
Saint-Saens’ Organ Symphony No 3 was performed during my time in the senior school orchestra, and I remember the nervous moment of the piccolo solo as the pitch means it can be heard above every other instrument. As darkness fell over the city of Hull on Saturday 4th February, and the illuminations of Hull Minster set the scene, the organ roared forth with seeming omnipotence and the notes penned by Saint-Saens transfixed those seated before the perfectly attired bandsmen and women of whom we should be so proud. I suspect WO2 Jamie Gunn gave those ivories a workout they have never previously experienced, and together with the precision of the other musicians, it was certainly a performance few will ever forget.
Royal Marines’ Band Collingwood, Hull Minster (Photo: Kirsty Chatterton)
The “Sunset Ceremony,” signals the end of the military day, and also the end of our truly splendid experience courtesy of the Royal Marines’ Band Collingwood. The Drum Corps returned to the front and delivered a haunting, and perfect performance, before the band closed with the very definition of England: Elgar, Boyce, and Russell. Turning to face the audience, Veterans, serving personnel, and tri-forces cadets were all on their feet, standing to attention as the retreat was called – the sound of the bugles sent a shiver up my spine, and seeing these proud men and women on their feet made me feel incredibly humbled. We owe them all our respect and pride.
Taking the bow – WO2 Jamie Gunn & Capt Sam Hairsine
Written by Jonathan Dunning-Davies, OH 1987-97
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