RAFA marks D-Day 65th anniversary in style

THE sixty fifth anniversary of D-Day was marked by Bexhill Branch of the Royal Air Forces Association in a most fitting way.

Sunday, 7th June 2009, 7:55 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 7:58 pm

By staging a concert by the Royal Air Forces Association President's Band, the branch was able to raise money for Wings Appeal while giving enjoyment to a near-capacity audience in St Augustine's Church.

In turn, the band, under its musical director Peter Stockdale, provided a programme to match the occasion.

The stirring and the heroic were matched by the reflective and the hauntingly beautiful. With a dash of humour added and a Last Night Of The Proms finale the recipe for success was complete.

The director of music was formerly a Senior Bandmaster with the Headquarters Music Service of the RAF. His musical and service credentials are typical of many in this accomplished band, which endeared itself to RAFA's concert followers locally with a concert at St Augustine's last year.

The parading of the branch standard into church to the music of the RAF March set the tone for a musically dramatic and financially productive evening.

For a relieved branch president Ken Igglesden it was vindication of his belief that RAFA's faithful supporters would turn out on the night.

Out Of The Blue brought back memories for listeners to the radio of the Fifties.

But thoughts of the sacrifice on Normandy's beaches 65 years ago were never far away.

The band hit the target hard with theme music to The Longest Day then countered with the haunting Hymn To The Fallen from Saving Private Ryan.

The audience was confronted with the challenges met by Britain's forces in Iraq with Basra, written to commemorate the nation's contribution.

Former RAF Central Band member Stuart Kelly charmed with a smooth rendering of Meditation on the French horn and tribute was paid by the band to the three services with The Army, The Navy And The Air Force.

A medley put together by former RAF Regimental Band leader G.H. Curruthers pleasingly included Three Coins In A Fountain, Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered and They Try To Tell Us We're Too Young.

The first half concluded appropriately with Summon The Heroes.

A deeper, post-interval dive into Fifties radio nostalgia was entitled Are You Sitting Comfortably - and began with the Listen With Mother theme'¦

The theme from A Bridge Too Far, the tragic story of the Arnhem operation, jolted the audience back to thoughts of personal sacrifice.

But director and band also had humour in their armoury and solo items included an hilariously-acted Sandpaper Ballet and the director displaying his virtuosity on the post horn while seemingly oblivious of the antics of Basil Brush behind him.

Tribute To The Liberators was the concluding acknowledgement of the D-Day anniversary.

The band then launched, with enthusiastic audience participation, into Jerusalem and Fantasia On Sea Songs; with Elgar's No. 4 leading a memorable and thoroughly enjoyable evening into Sunset and Evening Hymn before the branch standard was paraded out of church to RAF March Past.

Honour had been paid in style, in dignity and with practicality to the liberators of Europe.

JD