Trooping the Colour

I really do love living in London…I never tire of it, and this weekend was quite a big one in London, for monarch and aircraft spotting.

June 14th 2014 was the date of the annual Trooping the Colour ceremony which is held each year on Horse Guards Parade ground in London.  For those not in the know, this is (to quote from Wikipedia):

a tradition of British infantry regiments since the 17th century, although the roots go back much earlier. On battlefields, a regiment’s colour’s, or flags, were used as rallying points. Consequently, regiments would have their ensigns slowly march with their colours between the soldiers’ ranks to enable soldiers to recognise their regiments’ colours.

The ceremony is held to mark Her Majesty the Queen’s Official Birthday, and a great deal of pomp is involved. The British military, apart from being a very efficient fighting force, also know how to put on a show!

It’s a terrific day for tourists and locals alike to be in London, as the opportunity for seeing the Royal Family in the flesh is more or less guaranteed. Debs and I went into London on Wednesday evening to see a jazz gig, and grabbed a bite beforehand. We ended up chatting to a newly arrived American family from Arizona, on their first trip to Europe. They had their 4 days in the UK planned out, but by the time we finished talking to them, I think Stonehenge was shelved in favour of the ‘Trooping’ (you can imagine the reactions of 2 teenage American girls at the prospect of seeing the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge  -William and Kate in real life, not to mention Prince Harry. Stonehenge didn’t stand a chance! I think the London Eye might also have been added to their itinerary!).

Unless you have tickets, access to the actual ceremony in the parade ground is not possible (although it is shown on television), but you can get a great view of the participants from anywhere along The Mall. If you get there by about 9.00am, you can pick a great spot and guarantee a great view. Which is what we did.

From about 10.20 the bands of Her Majesty’s Household Division, comprised of the Foot Guards (Grenadier Guards, the Coldstream Guards, the Scots Guards, the Irish Guards, and the Welsh Guards) and the cavalry (Life Guards and the Blues and Royals) set off from the Buckingham Palace end of  The Mall and march towards Admiralty Arch, playing marches as they go. First off are the foot guards bands! What a sound! As a trombone player I am always thrilled to hear the trombones at the front of each band, ably accompanied by the rest of the band. (I know a few of the players, and it’s usually quite a challenge to spot them under their bearskin hats!)

Guards Trombones

A little behind them comes the Household Cavalry and the mounted band. As trombone player (I know I just used that line) I am always enormously impressed with how the trombones, or indeed any of the mounted musicians, manage to ride a horse and play an instrument simultaneously! I struggle with just the trombone to be honest, forget about the horse!


It’s a fantastic way to spend a Saturday morning, as we did with friends, two of whom are Canadian, so we had the fun of explaining it all to them too! Once the procession has passed, if you wait around for an hour or so, you can see the Royal Household return to Buckingham Palace along The Mall, and this time, when the bands come back, they are formed up as a massed band, which is a sight to see!

Once everyone is back in the palace and the bands have returned to Wellington Barracks, the crowds are then allowed to move onto the The Mall itself, and everyone moves down towards the palace to see the Royal Family appear on the balcony of the palace. We didn’t see this as we were enjoying coffee and cake in Cafe in the Crypt!

I love all things aviation – more of which in some future blog! I’m not quite a full on geek (although my family may disagree), but I love to watch aircraft, so I wasn’t about to miss out on the fly past that completes the Trooping celebrations, which we watched from Trafalgar Square. With 28 RAF aircraft taking part, it makes for an impressive site, but all over so quickly!

Fly Past

If you find yourself in London around this time of the year, make a point of including Trooping The Colour in your plans! Its a great event, and FREE!!


© Richard Debonnaire

The Wedding Band – Music for a Joyful Occasion!

Today is a very happy day; the wedding of a couple from our church, Jess and Cam. A joyful occasion it is going to be! My family are beside themselves with excitement, and my daughters, who have not really had the chance yet to glam up for a wedding look unbelievably beautiful, so much so, that I wonder how they can be mine? Their mothers genes I guess…

Today, my role is as a member of the Wedding Band. I’ve done a few of these over the years, and always love the opportunity to play in a smaller than usual group, either as a brass ensemble, or just a small band. Always fun.

Todays challenge then, is to try and get bass trombone chops, to work on a tenor trombone. We had a rehearsal last night, which was great, but I learned two things:

  1. Sitting to the left of the bass trombone is loud! Sorry to those who normally sit next to me, but in the nicest possible way, tough! I Love it!
  2. As a bass trombone player, picking up a tenor trombone only 3 days before the wedding band gig, is not a good idea, certainly on only 2 or 3 minutes blowing a day!

Still, having done some warm ups earlier and re-lubed the slide, I might get away with it!

So, we’re really looking forward to a great day celebrating Jess and Cam’s special day, enjoying the fun and festivities of the occasion, and finishing off, no doubt with tired legs and tired ‘trombone’ chops!

Most of all though, wishing Jess & Cameron a fantastic day today, and a long, happy and blessed life together!


Best wishes and love from all of us!



Update 12.20am: A really lovely day today…the band was great to play in so thought I’d add a picture of us.



Geek corner:

Trombones mentioned are, Rath R9 bass trombone, and Conn 8H tenor.

© Richard Debonnaire

Star Trek Live, Royal Albert Hall


Now there’s a thought. How would one go about producing Star Trek in a concert setting? In this case Star Trek – Into Darkness live, performed at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday. Thats easy…you play the film and get a live orchestra to play the music.

I wasn’t sure how this would work, and I was amazed at the result! The hall was packed for the performance, which was the final show of a 3 day residence. It was an interesting mix of people too; some were dressed as people often are for concerts at the RAH, smartly, there were people like myself, a bit more ‘smart/casual’, a lot of jeans and T’s and then there were the Trekkie’s in Star Fleet uniforms, some with pointy ears, carrying ‘Tri-corders’. Not that surprising perhaps, and fun to observe.

An enormous screen had been set up in front of the pipes of the famous organ which forms the usual backdrop to the stage, with the orchestra set up beneath it. The orchestra, the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra and chorus, from Lucerne, Switzerland is one I’d not come a cross before and they were top notch. They seem to specialise in doing this kind of thing, having previously perfomed The Lord of the Rings with Howard Shore.

The music for this film, is composed by Hollywood film composer Michael Giacchino, and he was there on the night to set the scene, getting proceedings off to a good start by taking a selfie video with his iPhone and getting the capacity crowd to join in (for the benefit of his kids back in LA).

Orchestra getting ready to start...

The 21st Century Orchestra getting ready to start…

For the performance itself, the music was very much centre stage. It was good to have Giacchino involved on the night, which it gave his music a focus (and got the Trekkies quite excited), but then he handed over to Ludwig Wicki to get the show on the road.

The music starts gently, and quickly built as the the film joined in and rather than play the dialogue at a volume that would impinge too much on the music, subtitles were added so that punters could follow in the louder bits. As the evening progressed, I found myself torn between concentrating on the orchestra, who were superb and watching what is a very entertaining film. I found a happy medium though and loved the effect. As a film and home cinema buff, I would like to have had a bit more of the films actual sound effects and subwoofer slam, as their absence left a few holes in the soundstage at times, but you can’t have everything.

Action films of this type always provide a workout for the brass section of orchestras. Special mention has to go to the low brass section of the orchestra, consisting of 2 tenor and 2 bass trombones, and 2 tubas. Team, that was awesome! (Trombones: Pirmin Rohrer, Andreas Mattle, Daniel Ringgenberg and Anita Rohrer. Tubas: Markus Hauenstein, Remo Capra)

Even if you’re not into Star Trek, if you like great music played live, this would have hit the spot. Even my mate Howard, who suffered a Sci-Fi bypass at an early age would have enjoyed it!

So, Transports of Delight? Absolutely..! Music, movies and the USS Enterprise 1701! What’s not to like?

Er, Live Long and Prosper 😊

© Richard Debonnaire

If you’re not into trombones, don’t read on…

If you’ve read my profile, you’ll have noticed my reference to playing bass trombone. Well, I thought this would be a good place to share an article I wrote about 18 months ago for ‘The Trombonist’, the magazine of The British Trombone Society (BTS), about trombones & players in the Salvation Army. If you’re interested in banding, read on…if not, this is a really good place to stop and do something else!



I wonder what you think of when you hear a Salvation Army band in the High Street, perhaps around Christmas? You might think about the Salvation Army’s social work, or that it is a part of the church? Maybe it just makes you feel nostalgic or, “rather them than me” on a cold December day?

Salvation Army (or ‘SA’) bands have been around for many years; one of the first officially recognised Salvation Army Corps (i.e. centre) bands, was formed in Consett in 1879, and there are still many SA bands around the country, ranging in size and ability, although perhaps not found in the numbers they once were.

In the south of England, like most of the UK, SA bands are dotted around most major towns, and some are quite well known. Anyone interested in brass banding, has probably heard of Enfield Citadel Band, Hendon Band, Regent Hall Band, and although not a corps band, the International Staff Band*, which is the SA’s premier brass band in the UK, and is based in London.

A Salvation Army band is first and foremost a means to help spread the Gospel, and in striving to do that, they aim high in terms of quality, with each group counting amongst it’s membership real brass enthusiasts, as well as folk who simply enjoy being part of the group.

Playing in the 'Open-Air'

Playing in the ‘Open-Air’

Over the years the SA has produced many outstanding brass musicians; Denis Wick, Don Lusher, Maisie Ringham, Christopher Mowat, Dudley Bright, to name a few, as well as the likes of Philip Cobb, David Daws and Philip Smith (to name a few more!), but for the vast majority of us who consider ourselves to be keen amateurs, in addition to our spiritual aims, it is also a means to enjoy making brass band music, and the Salvation Army has a very rich heritage of this to draw upon.

In any brass (and I suspect orchestral) group, there can be little doubt that trombone players see themselves as a breed apart. There is something about the trombone that seems to attract some of the more outgoing and extrovert people to it, that encourages great music to be written for it, and of course associations to be formed to promote and celebrate the instrument! You don’t get that with many other musical instruments.

Extrovert and unruly…at least in Bromley…

And that sense of the extrovert, excitement and the feeling that we trombonists are somehow different (in the best possible sense), exists in the SA as much as anywhere else, and although I’m writing this from a south of England perspective, I know that there is a sense that an SA trombone club exists across the UK and indeed the rest of the world.

Every group of trombonists I’ve ever played with has always shared this sense of belonging, regardless of their level of ability. I play in Bromley Temple Salvation Army band, where there are presently six of us, although one is away studying at university. Three of the remaining five of us have played together for nearly 20 years and we like to play as a group whenever we can. It has been our pleasure to take part in various events, either as a trio, quartet, or part of a larger group.

As a section, in 2013 we had the pleasure of forming a trombone ensemble alongside Black Dyke Trombone Quartet to accompany Dudley Bright, we’ve performed as a trio in the afternoon service and open-air meeting at Chalk Farm Salvation Army and we were invited to play for visitors to the Olympic Mountain Bike event at Hadleigh Farm, in Essex. It’s on days like that you realise that not nearly enough trombone trios have been written!

Bromley Band Trombone, joined Black Dyke Trombone Quartet to accompany Dudley Bright

Bromley Band Trombone’s join Black Dyke Trombone Quartet to accompany Dudley Bright

But we’re not alone in this type of thing. Regent Hall band who I mentioned earlier, are another trombone section not averse to heading out on their own. Being based in Oxford Street in the heart of London’s West End, it is not unusual for them to play as a group to shoppers during Christmas carolling, and they have also performed programmes of their own in and around London. They are also unusual in that amongst their number, they include three professionals; a member of Her Majesty’s Irish Guards trombone section, principal Paul Hooper and Paul Johnson of the Coldstream Guards, as well as Dudley Bright, principal trombone of the LSO.

The trombone section in action in Bromley High Street

The trombone section in action in Bromley High Street

The trombone as an instrument is pretty unique, and competent players can achieve a very large musical and dynamic range, so it lends itself very well to playing in groups, as many parts can be covered, even more if you introduce the use of Alto and Contra-bass trombones (the Moravian Trombone Choir for example). I guess it is typical of the type of people that play the trombone that they like to form groups and it’s obviously not just SA players; Bones Apart, and Black Dyke Trombone Quartet being two further examples.

And it’s not as though this kind of ‘playing together’ behaviour isn’t encouraged either. The SA band music repertoire includes many trombone ensembles with band accompaniment. Ray Steadman-Allen’s “Wonders Begin when the Lord comes in” and “Trombone Vespers”, Stephen Bulla’s “Peace Like A River” and “The Cleansing Power” just to name two SA composers, none of which seeks to discourage feisty trombone sections; quite the opposite!

And who can forget Spiritual to the ‘Bone? This Salvationist jazz trombone ensemble from the USA, based on the Tutti’s Trombone model, released five very successful CD’s and toured the US, Europe and Australia in the 1990’s. Their recordings will have exposed many to possibly their first taste of SA music, which really brings us back to the primary purpose of SA music in general, whether brass, choral or contemporary; to proclaim the Gospel.

*Note: In fact there are a number of ‘Staff’ bands around the world: For info these are (apologies if I’ve missed anyone):

The bulk of this text was first published in Spring 2013 edition of ‘The Trombonist’.

John Murray (iPhone 4s)
Brent Forrest (proper expensive camera)
Me (iPhone 5s)

© Richard Debonnaire