Music and Military Matters under Lockdown: Royal Air Force Musicians support the response to Covid-19.
Since the start of the current ongoing COVID-19 situation, Royal Air Force Music Services (RAFMS) has seen its normal schedule and activity affected in an unprecedented manner.
As the virus began to widely affect the Country towards the end of March, a large proportion of personnel were placed on notice to assist in the fast developing situation as part of the Military Aid to the Civil Authorities.
Chief Technician Andy Rigby of the Band of the Royal Air Force Regiment, Sergeants Tim Hynd and Andy Taylor of the Central Band of the Royal Air Force and Sergeant Henry Eastburn-Pentreath of the Royal Air Force Salon Orchestra are all currently deployed in support of Joint Military Command HQ in the South West (JMCSW). Working in the Channel Islands, they advise and liaise with the authorities there on the support which the Ministry of Defence can provide to the Islands.
Warrant Officer Steve McGuinness of Regiment Band started as Assistant Joint Regional Liaison Officer (JRLO) with 11 Inf Brigade at Aldershot in early April. After a few days familiarisation training in the HQ, he was assigned to the Thames Valley Local Resilience Forum (TVLRF) as a Military Planner working with Slough Borough Council. Here, he assisted in planning and the setting up of their hubs for: community response, PPE distribution, testing, then recovery as part of their Silver Meetings.
Additionally, a number of personnel have engaged with the Royal Air Force Association’s befriending service, which pairs volunteers with veterans and their families experiencing loneliness and isolation. Corporal Ben Godfrey & Senior Aircraftwoman Shona Brownlee of Central Band and Senior Aircraftwoman Caroline Docherty & Senior Aircraftman Johnny Faull of Regiment Band are all currently involved with this initiative. Read Corporal Ben Godfrey's story here.
The Op OUTREACH volunteer befriending scheme aims to help alleviate the feelings of isolation and loneliness from vulnerable veterans who are currently self-isolating. Some currently have very little contact with the outside world, so the weekly telephone conversation might be the only conversation they have that week. The conversation is very much led by the beneficiary, and my role is mainly as listener. A lot of the conversations tend to be centred around the good old days with stories about RAF careers, and it is really interesting to hear all about their various experiences and perspectives.
Senior Aircraftwoman Shona Brownlee
RAFMS have remained committed to their musical role throughout this period, utilising the ever growing possibilities of social media platforms to mark key anniversaries and events. As the COVID-19 situation drastically scaled back the Nation’s VE 75 celebrations, so our involvement with this occasion went online. A digital rendition of We’ll Meet Again racked up some 240,000 views on Facebook, and the utilisation of a recording made last summer with the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain of John Williams’ Hymn to the Fallen enabled us to further commemorate the occasion. Additionally, RAFMS Trumpeters supported memorial services at both the International Bomber Command Centre in Lincolnshire and the Royal Air Force Runnymede service in Surrey.
For International Jazz Day, the Royal Air Force Squadronaires joined with military musicians from across the globe, led by the United States Air Force Band’s Airmen of Note. Alongside military musicians from Australia, Brazil, Finland, Germany and Japan they recorded a version of I’ll Be Seeing You; a song with a message of hope during separation that is as relevant today as it was during World War Two.
In support of Royal Air Force commitments overseas, Corporal Jonty Hill of the Central Band and Corporal Mike Hearman of the RAF Salon Orchestra are currently deployed in support of the NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission. Corporal Ed Bolton-King of Regiment Band is also deployed in support of No. 83 Expeditionary Air Group in Saudi Arabia. Please do continue to look for and interact with our social media output, as we seek to engage with you all and grow our online audience throughout the current situation and beyond.
A Central Band collaboration with the Hampshire County Youth Wind Ensemble, in a virtual performance of the March from Gustav Holst's First Suite in Eb celebrating the 100th Anniversary of its premiere performance, can be viewed below. This is just one of the innovative projects that we will continue to bring to you all over the coming weeks and months.
Article by Senior Aircraftman Oliver Brooks, Central Band of the Royal Air Force
Please take a look at our Friends of RAF Music Scheme.