After a hostile welcome from a swarm of ravenous mosquitos at RAF Akrotiri, the Central Band of the RAF quickly settled in to their accommodation at Episkopi Garrison, Sovereign Base Area Cyprus. Central Band Immediate Action Drill was then in full effect; quenching their thirst after a long day of travel in the Quartermaster’s bar with refreshments kindly organised by the Advance Party.
The tour commenced with a Woodwind Quintet performing at a community engagement in the picturesque village of Lania. The group provided musical entertainment for local Cypriots at the request of Colonel Fensom, Assistant Chief of Staff Operations, as part of the annual Lanes and Courtyards festival.
Unfortunately, due to Operational needs, the freight was delayed arriving from RAF Brize Norton, and two rehearsals had to be postponed. In the absence of any musical equipment, time was occupied mainly by physical activities such as swimming, gym sessions, running, cycling and extreme sun bathing. Credit goes to Corporal Ben Godfrey who worked hard to ensure the freight arrived in Cyprus on an inbound C-17 which was supporting Op SHADER, in time for the first full band engagement on 15 May.
The first of two charity concerts, both raising funds for the Army Benevolent Fund was at Pissouri Amphitheatre, 245m above the beautiful Episkopi Bay. Under the baton of Director of Music, Flight Lieutenant Chris I’Anson, the Band performed well, but the two instrumental soloists were stand out highlights in the programme. Senior Aircraftwoman Emma Jones (Alto Saxophone) and Senior Aircraftman Jack Wilson (Trumpet) impressed the audience with their staggering virtuosity in performances of Pequena Czarda and Centennial Horizon, respectively. Corporal Matt Walker also brought the house down with a stunning vocal performance of Anthem from the musical Chess.
The second half of the programme began with a Glenn Miller Medley and then moved to a ‘Best of British’ theme, including the music of The Beatles. A stray dog also showed its appreciation for the music by ‘woofing’ uncontrollably throughout James Bond Medley which provided extra entertainment for both Band and audience; a certain candidate for compere at the next concert. A heroic audience member eventually managed to skillfully escort the excitable canine off the premises, so the concert could continue uninterrupted.
A similarly themed programme was also well received in the second concert on 17 May at Shakespeare House, the residence of His Excellence, the British High Commissioner, Mr Stephen Lillie CMG. This concert helped raise over €9,500 for the Army Benevolent Fund. Over 400 people attended each concert; record breaking turnouts for each venue, which is credit to the esteemed reputation that precedes the Central Band of the RAF.
A Brass Quintet provided musical support for the Commander British Forces Cyprus (CBFC) Awards Ceremony, a high-profile ceremonial engagement at Flagstaff House where a presentation of awards was made to worthy military and civil service recipients by Major-General Illingworth OBE (25th Administrator of the SBAs of Akrotiri and Dhekalia and CBFC). The Flag Lowering Ceremony marked the conclusion of the event with the Central Band Brass Quintet performing the traditional Sunset.
The Officers’ Mess on Episkopi Garrison hosted guests for a ‘Dambusters Dinner’ which imaginatively re-enacted the events of the raid on German dams by 617 Squadron on 17 May 1943. Music throughout the dinner was provided by another Brass Quintet from Central Band, and ensemble leader Senior Aircraftman Adam Rosbottom thoroughly injected humour and revelry with a very entertaining lecture on and performance of the Post Horn Galop before the port was served.
After dinner, Sergeant Andy Mears led a jazz and pop fusion ensemble during the informal hours of the evening, which gave the guests a flavour of the versatility of Central Band musicians, performing funk and pop charts cleverly arranged by bassist Senior Aircraftman Tom Maddison.
Prior to returning home, another Woodwind Quintet performed at an awards ceremony garden party event at Episkopi Officers’ Mess celebrating Young Achievers before joining the rest of the Band for some well-deserved downtime at Fasouri Waterpark, a fantastic day out organised by Senior Aircraftwoman Kathryn O’Grady.
This Central Band tour to Cyprus has thoroughly cemented strong professional and social relationships through the inherent nature of the Band’s teamwork ethos. The musical engagements alongside social and adventure activities such as go-karting and scuba diving arranged by Senior Aircraftmen Adam Rosbottom and Harry Brownlie respectively, and a traditional mezze meal organised by Sergeant Adam Smith all contributed to a fun working environment, the result of which is always an outstanding professional product. Lots of individual contributions have been made to ensure success but special mention must go to Chief Technician Neslihan Jordan who spearheaded the successful tour as Deputy Band Sergeant.
Article written by Corporal Matthew Edwardson.