Given its name, it is unsurprising that the Guards' Chapel at Wellington Barracks more often features bands from the Corps of Army Music - so it was a rare privilege for the Band of the Royal Air Force Regiment to perform there for the SSAFA Christmas Carol Concert on 5 December 18. In attendance were SSAFA President HRH Prince Michael of Kent, Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier and broadcaster Sophie Raworth.
The concert, which was partly organised by Lady Elaine Hillier, had a Royal Air Force theme to coincide with this year’s wider celebrations marking the centenary of the formation of the Service. The event raises money to run the central London branch of SSAFA - the charity’s busiest, worldwide. The branch’s many and varied activities include supporting homeless people, Gurkhas in Greenwich and veterans in custody through a prison in-reach service. All surplus money raised goes towards supporting SSAFA projects elsewhere in the country.
The 23-piece band conducted by Flight Lieutenant Tom Rodda provided incidental Christmas music whilst guests arrived. During the performance they were joined for 4 vocal items by singer Emma Kershaw and The Guards’ Chapel Choir. Cadet Warrant Officer Charlie Apel was also featured reading the poem High Flight, which was underscored by the band.
The Order of Service also included solo music from the soprano Alison Duguid, as well as addresses from Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier and Sophie Raworth whose grandfather was one of the first pilots in the RAF on its formation 100 years ago. A Blessing from the Reverend Stephen Dunwoody, Chaplain to the Household Division, ended the service and the Band performed music during the retiring collection.
The whole concert was recorded and will be broadcast on Forces Radio BFBS (UK and overseas) at 6pm on Christmas Eve.
Article written by Senior Aircraftman Gordon McLachlan