A Concert to Celebrate St George’s Day, in aid of The Royal British Legion
The observant amongst you will notice that St George’s Day does not fall on 1st May! However, with Easter falling late this year, this did not stop the Royal British Legion holding a celebratory concert for all things English, on this fine May day!
The programme was made up of music and readings by English composers and authors, performed by the choir of St George’s Hanover Square, the Central Band of the Royal British Legion, and two well-known personalities.
It was a shame more was not made in their promotional material that there would be celebrity speakers performing at this concert. This would explain the ticket price, and could have encouraged a larger audience had it been advertised. So, it was a pleasant surprise to learn that Jenny Agutter and Matthew Kelly would be reciting extracts from patriotic passages, by Bill Bryson, Michael Flanders, Captain Alastair Bannerman, George Mikes, PG Wodehouse and Noel Coward.
The venue could not have been more fitting for the occasion. Named after the patron saint of England, it was also the parish church for G.F. Handel when he lived in London, and very near the house in which he wrote his famous ‘Messiah’. Handel moved to nearby Brook Street in 1724, just as the church was nearing its completion. His advice was sought on the suitability of the organ, and he was asked to compose a work for applicants for the post of Organist to perform at their audition. He loved England so much that in 1726 he became a naturalised British citizen, and was a regular worshipper at St George’s until his death in 1759.
Works by Handel in the programme included ‘Zadok the Priest’ (a personal favourite of mine), ‘Since by man came death’, and ‘Hallelujah’, both from Messiah. There was an opportunity for audience participation, too, opening the concert with Sir Charles Parry’s ‘Jerusalem’, and finishing with Gustav Holst’s ‘I Vow to Thee, My Country’. Despite his name, Holst was English, growing up in Cheltenham and spending much of his professional life in London.
The choir of St George’s also sang three movements from ‘Birthday Madrigals’ by John Rutter. In addition, soloists from the choir performed works by Haydn Wood (‘Roses of Picardy’), Arthur Sullivan (‘The Dicky Bird and the Owl’), Flanders and Swann (‘The Hippopotamus Song’), which were great fun and very
The Central Band of The Royal British Legion accompanied the singers, alongside Organist Nicholas Morris, and they were also afforded their own solo spots! The audience enjoyed hearing a medley of songs by The Beatles, including ‘Eleanor Rigby’, ‘The Long and Winding Road’, and ‘When I’m 64’. Another medley of songs by Arthur Sullivan from his famous operettas were beautifully arranged by David Cole, the Central Band’s Director of Music and conductor for this concert.
It was an honour to have Terry Whittles, National Chairman of The Royal British Legion, address the audience before bidding us farewell and introducing the final item: The March of the Royal British Legion. He is soon to step down from the post in the middle of May, but he was keen to say what a pleasure it had been to attend concerts given by the Central Band of the Royal British Legion during his tenure. I’m sure this sentiment was echoed by all those attending this lovely, varied evening, as we departed feeling more patriotic than we did upon entering!