Music for a military dinner
This week we had another chance to play for a military function – this time at a barracks in Bedfordshire. We usually play for several of these events a year at various barracks, either providing music during a formal officers dinner, or during a drinks reception in the absence of a military band.
As usual, we were required to play the National Anthem for toasts to the Queen and at this particular evening there were also tributes to the Duke of Wellington - where traditionally a special piece of music called ‘The Downfall of Paris’ is played during the toasts. Luckily we managed to locate the music and quickly arrange it for violin / cello string duo, so that it could be played at the appropriate moment.
It’s always difficult to know what to recommend for a large scale dinner – whether a string quartet would be needed in terms of volume, or whether a string duo is more suitable as it is easier to move around. With 120 guests, but being quite budget conscious, the barracks opted for a string duo and helpfully put out four pairs of chairs ready for us – one in each corner of the room. Rather than playing in one spot for our two hour set, we played for half an hour in each corner so that different parts of the table got to hear music in turn. In retrospect, this was a much better option than the quartet, because although with four musicians it’s possible to play with more volume, the sound of the string quartet might well have been drowned out anyway by the sound of guests eating, chatting and enjoying themselves. By moving us around regularly, everyone got a chance to enjoy some of the music and costs were kept much lower with only two musicians instead of four. We always enjoy providing music for RAF or Army functions – and usually it involves us turning up early at the barracks with our photographic ID for security clearance, being shown around, getting changed into formal attire and advised of the proper protocol for the evening – particularly when it comes to the toasts, significant pieces of music for the occasion and the correct number of verses for the national anthem.