The Central Band Of The Royal Air Force
Director of Music: Flight Lieutenant Richard Murray
Bandmasters: Warrant Officer Terry Gardner, Warrant Officer David Richards
Band Sergeants: Flight Sergeant Grant Charleston and Flight Sergeant Paul Craggs
Drum Majors: Chief Technician Gary Cooney and Chief Technician Mark Chappell
Music has been a part of the Royal Air Force since 1912, when the Service existed as the Royal Flying Corps. In 1918 the Royal Air Force was formed and in 1920 the Central Band was formally established.
In its short history The Central Band has achieved several notable firsts. In 1922 it was the first military band to be broadcast on BBC radio and is still the most frequently featured military band in that medium. More recent popular broadcasts have included a live concert broadcast on BBC Radio 3 from the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London’s South Bank Centre and in May 2012 they celebrated 100 years of military aviation and music with a special broadcast on BBC Radio 2’s ‘Listen to the Band’ program. They also played a leading role in celebrating 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 also well recognised for their recording prowess. Beginning in 1955, when it became the first military band to make a long-playing record with the release of Eric Coates’ 'The Dambusters March' (HMV), the Central Band remains at the forefront of Military Band and contemporary Wind Ensemble recording. The recent critical and popular success of “Reach for the Skies” (Decca Records), and their collaborations with composer Nigel Hess on “New London Pictures” (Chandos) and Euphonium Soloist Steven Mead on his CD “Diamonds”, stand as firm testament to their ongoing commitment to musical excellence and diversity.
The Central Band is also at the forefront of many State and Ceremonial events. In another notable first, in 1992, the Central Band ended a 155 year old tradition by including women within its ranks whilst 'Changing the Guard' at Buckingham Palace. In 2011, the Fanfare Trumpeters from the Central Band performed at what could be described as one of the biggest ever TV events, The Royal Wedding.
The Central band was also in the public eye during the 2012 Olympics. There they entertained audiences at many events including Tennis, Canoeing, Road Cycling and Beach Volleyball.
Each year the Central Band of the Royal Air Force performs in excess of 580 engagements and travels more than 45,000 miles. Within the United Kingdom the Central Band enjoys supporting several charitable organisations. Most notable is their partnership with the RAF Charitable Trust Enterprises, with whom they undertake an annual concert tour covering a dozen cities and several of the country’s major concert halls. The band continues to build strong links within Britain’s musical community. The Band has presented several highly acclaimed concerts for the British and the World Associations of Symphonic Bands and Wind Ensembles (BASBWE & WASBWE) and for the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. The links forged with tertiary education providers are especially important as the Band recruits many of its musicians directly from the major Colleges and Conservatoires.
As well as performing the length and breadth of the United Kingdom, the Central Band maintains a strong international presence. In another first, it has the distinction of being the first band outside the USA to be awarded the 'John Philip Sousa Citation for Musical Excellence'. In recent years the band has given performances in Holland, Germany, Russia, Poland, Hungary, Cyprus, Saudi Arabia, India, Australia, Canada and the USA.
As members of the RAF, Central Band musicians are required to support British forces on operations abroad. Musicians are being deployed in roles as diverse as detainee handlers in Afghanistan, Watchkeepers in Iraq and ambulance drivers in the Falkland Islands. But, whether we are working as musicians or medics, our aim remains the same - to display, in our conduct and performance, the excellence for which the Royal Air Force has become renowned over its distinguished history.