The Central Band Of The Royal Air Force
Director of Music: Squadron Leader Piers Morrell
Bandmaster: Warrant Officer Terry Gardner
Band Sergeant: Flight Sergeant Grant Charleston
Drum Majors: Chief Technician Gary Cooney
Music has always been an integral part of military life and since its formation in 1920, the Central Band of the Royal Air Force has boasted a proud and distinguished heritage.
Now based at purpose built, state of the art facilities at Royal Air Force Northolt, the Central Band continues to demonstrate its versatile and unique role. The band is at the forefront of many State Ceremonial events, from ‘Changing the Guard’ at Buckingham Palace to the National Remembrance Service at the Cenotaph. Central Band musicians have been privileged to participate in many high-profile national events, including the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, the Royal Wedding and the 2012 London Olympics.
In 1922, the Central Band became the first military band to broadcast on BBC Radio and remains the most frequently featured on the airwaves. Recent popular broadcasts include a live BBC Radio 3 concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London’s South Bank Centre and a celebration of 100 years of Military Aviation and Music on BBC Radio 2’s ‘Listen to the Band’ programme. The band also played a leading role in marking the 70th anniversary of the ‘Dambusters’ with a performance on BBC Radio 2’s ‘Friday Night is Music Night”.
Alongside this broadcasting success, the musicians of the Band are well recognised for their recording prowess. Beginning in 1955 with the release of Eric Coates’ 'The Dambusters March' (HMV), the Central Band became the first military band to make a long-playing record and remains at the forefront of military band and contemporary wind ensemble recording. The critical and popular success of “Reach for the Skies” (Decca Records) and collaborative efforts with composer Nigel Hess on “New London Pictures” (Chandos) and euphonium soloist Steven Mead with his CDs “Diamonds” and “Pearls”, stand as firm testament to their ongoing commitment to musical excellence and diversity.
Within the United Kingdom the Central Band enjoys supporting several Service charities. Most notable is their partnership with the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust, with whom they undertake an annual concert tour, covering a dozen cities and several of the country’s major concert halls. 2013 saw the band make its West End debut at the Dominion Theatre, performing with the casts of many of the current West End shows in a spectacular gala performance in support of ‘Help For Heroes’. The band continues to build strong links within the UK’s musical community, having presented several highly acclaimed concerts for the British and the World Associations of Symphonic Bands and Wind Ensembles (BASBWE & WASBWE), in addition to performing at many of the country’s leading music colleges and conservatoires.
As well as travelling the length and breadth of the United Kingdom, the Central Band maintains a strong international presence; indeed, the band has the distinction of being the first outside the USA to be awarded the 'John Philip Sousa Citation for Musical Excellence'. Having featured in International Tattoos in Quebec (2011) and Basel (2014), the band is looking forward to taking a leading role in the 2015 Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Lately the band has represented the British Military for the Queen’s Birthday Celebrations in New Delhi, India, and has participated in the Victory Day Parade in Red Square, Moscow, marking the anniversary of Victory in Europe for Allied Forces. Engagements have also been undertaken in other countries around the world, including Holland, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Cyprus, Saudi Arabia, Australia and the USA.
There is, however, another side to the sterling accomplishments of Central Band musicians. As serving members of the Royal Air Force, musicians also undertake to support key operational roles in less familiar environments such as Afghanistan, Turkey and the Falkland Islands, with many musicians having served in Operation TELIC (the 2nd Gulf War) in Iraq. Our musicians are required to fulfill a diverse range of operational roles, from detainee handling in Afghanistan to driving ambulances in the Falkland Islands.
From the concert stage to operational theatres around the globe, Central Band musicians display, in their conduct and performance, the excellence for which the Royal Air Force has become renowned during its illustrious history.