3 December 2023

Last week turned into a real cultural extravaganza! While I only had two formal engagements as mayor, both were at the end of the week, and both were invitations to attend local musical events.

The beginning of the week was “personal time” for me and my family. My youngest son and his wife were visiting us from Lancashire. We hadn’t seen either of them since their wedding earlier this year, so it was really good to be able to spend a few days with them. Our commitments down here and their work in Lancashire had meant that this was the first opportunity since June that we all had for some “family time” together.

I’ve got to say (and it is rather topical at the moment) that I really love being part of a multi-racial, multi-cultural, and multi-national family. two sons, the eldest married to an Indian and living in Melbourne, Australia; the youngest (who was with us last week) married to a Filipino and living in Lancashire; and one daughter, born in Germany (and until relatively recently a German citizen) who’s recently returned to the UK wither her family after living, marrying, and raising children for fifteen years in Australia.. five grandsons (yes, all boys), three Australians, and two Australian/British dual citizens. Between the three of them, they’ve lived in the UK, Germany, Australia, China, and India (and that doesn’t include the multiple countries their three respective spouses have at some stage in their lives called home).

My youngest son’s wife, who was with us with my son last weekend, works in the NHS as a senior physiotherapist in the Accident and Emergency department of a very busy general hospital in Lancashire. I take my hat off to her resilience and dedication, always in the face of almost intolerable pressure. She’s a wonderfully empathic and kind person, and being able to spend a few days just relaxing with her and my son was lovely.

Anyway, back to my week as mayor.

I must say that however much I love the engagement I get as mayor with all the community groups, charities, and individuals who are daily working to make the lives of our town’s residents just that little bit better, I appreciated the opportunities last week to sit back and enjoy a few hours of sheer, unashamed entertainment.

Friday evening was spent in the wonderful surroundings of St. James’ Church as the guest of the incredibly talented Graham Dalby and the Trowbridge Philharmonic Choir.

The Trowbridge Philharmonic Choir was established in 1907 and boasts between 40 and 50 members at any one time. It is important to note that while the choir succeeds in producing some truly wonderful recitals, there is a wholly amateur group. The choir is a meeting point for singers of all ages and abilities. The emphasis is on singing for enjoyment, and the more accomplished members are always willing to support those in need of a little help.

The choir, led by Graham, wowed the audience as they started their recital on Friday evening by performing works by Tallis, Palestrina, Bach, Vaughn-Williams, and Gibbons and, after the interval, wowing us with a selection of choruses from Haydn’s “The Creation.”

The whole evening was a truly sublime escape from the daily duties of Mayor into a world where, just for an hour or so, I could relax and immerse myself in some of the best choral works ever written.

The choir was really on form, beautifully rendering some wonderfully composed and arranged pieces that spanned nearly four centuries of choral works. The soloists were amazing. Even Graham himself stepped in to cover as a soloist for his unfortunately ill daughter.

It works. The enthusiasm and camaraderie on display were apparent, as was the ability!

Thank you, Graham, the soloists, and everyone involved. You all excelled yourselves.

Then on Saturday afternoon, I retraced my steps to St. James’ for another musical interlude provided by the Bratton Silver Band.

After Friday night’s outstanding performance of choral works from (amongst others) Thomas Tallis and Josef Haydn, Saturday afternoon’s Mayoral entertainment was something completely different, but no less impressive and delivered with an equal abundance of talent.

The Bratton Silver Band has an even longer history than the Philharmonic Choir. It was formed in 1859 and is one of the oldest brass bands in the country! The band’s usual repertoire includes a mix of contemporary and traditional brass band music, and Saturday’s offering was no different.

The programme was built around Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” There was a feast of music, some familiar, some more obscure, but all following the central theme of Christmas. Each musical piece was bookended by a brief narrated and illustrated story, except for Dickens’ well-known seasonal tale of Scrooge and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. Each piece of music was perfectly selected to reflect the narrated passage that had preceded it. It was all very well put together and just… gelled.

We were treated to well-known festive pieces such as “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Jingle Bells,” “Let It Snow,” and, of course, “The Snowman,” as well as some less well-known works like an arrangement of “The Huron Carol” by Andrew Wainwright (a really rich and emotional piece; if you’re not familiar with it, various versions are available on the internet). The main concert finished with a rousing rendition of “Troika” and Philip Harper’s “Yule Dance.”

Part way through the performance, the conductor, Kyle Blake, who is also the musical director of the band, asked the audience to post their reviews on social media. We were even asked to nominate our favourite soloist. Now, I have to admit that at first I baulked at doing this. How is one supposed to single out one solo performance when so many have been worthy of mention and praise?

However, being the pragmatist that I am, I’ve now decided that there was one solo performance that just took my breath away and deserves to be mentioned. To be honest, it wasn’t just one performance; this person performed a number of solos during the afternoon, and every time she stepped up, she managed to make her inanimate piece of bent brass tubing span the full range of emotions. Her instrument both sang in exaltation and mournfully cried in sorrow as befitted the piece being performed. It was wonderful to be able to just sit there and absorb the depth and breadth of one person’s ability to extract feeling from a Flugel Horn.

That’s it for now, so until next time… keep safe, and please, be kind to each other.

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