On Saturday 10th November 2018, the Royal Air Force Squadronaires teamed up with Sir Tom Jones to perform Jimmy McHugh’s wartime classic Comin’ In on a Wing and a Prayer at the Royal British Legion’s annual Festival of Remembrance. The performance took place in the Royal Albert Hall in front of a live audience including Her Majesty the Queen and other members of the Royal Family, and was aired on BBC One the same evening.
The arrangement of this well-known song was written by Squads drummer and resident vocalist Corporal Matt Walker, who commented on working with his idol Sir Tom,
“It was a daunting prospect to arrange music for one of my musical heroes, but it gave us a fantastic opportunity to showcase the band and to share the stage with this legendary performer.”
Corporal Matt Walker
Performing with Sir Tom Jones is now a momentous part of Squads history, and with the addition of achieving a coveted Gold Disc for selling over 100,000 copies of the tribute album Dame Vera Lynn 100 on the Decca label, the Royal Air Force Squadronaires ended 2018 on a pedestal of great success.
Earlier in the autumn of 2018, the RAF Squadronaires performed in a series of charitable engagements, supporting local and Service charities. On 17th October the band showcased a programme of Big Band Legends as part of the annual Esprit de Corps concert series in Ruislip, which supports the RAF Musicians' Charitable Trust. Musical Leader Sergeant Andy Mears compiled an entertaining set list which engaged the audience in a whirlwind of time travel through Big Band music from Glen Miller to Gordon Goodwin. The superb Sara Dowling featured as guest vocalist and was a real hit as she blew the audience away with timeless charts including That Old Black Magic, and I’ve Got a Crush on You.
Soloists from the band always perform with a touch of class; Cpl Jonathan Hill’s stunning trombone solo of Mandel/Nestico’s A Time for Love, Sgt Andy Mears’ delicious alto sax in Quincy Jones’ An Evening in Paris and sumptuous trumpet duo Cpl Ben Godfrey and SAC Jack Wilson’s version of Manhattan all left the audience adoring.
The band also featured at a hangar dance in October hosted at RAF St Athan by the Rhondda Rotary Club. The event raised approximately £4,500, of which half will be donated to the RAF Benevolent Fund and the rest to local charities. Over 600 tickets were sold for the evening and event organiser, Brian Plenderleith, has set his sights on a repeat of the event in 2020. In early November the Squads performed a late-night dance set at the Royal British Legion’s 2018 Poppy Ball at the Museum of the Great Western Railway in Swindon, where last surviving Dambuster, Sqn Ldr George ‘Jonny’ Johnson, was in attendance.
After a busy and successful 2018, the RAF Squadronaires said goodbye to several key members who have contributed hugely to performances of the highest quality for a number of years. Thank-you and best wishes for the future to Sergeants George Martin and Josh Hayward, and Corporals Andrew Lofthouse, Ben Murray, Malcolm Knapp and Sally Woodcock. The band welcome new personnel as we begin 2019 and look forward to forthcoming projects for this year and beyond.
Article written by Corporal Matthew Edwardson.