Quo vadis ?

… as any well educated Roman was wont to ask the nearest oracle. With the Band’s 40th anniversary approaching in 2014, I have been thinking about that self same question, particularly as I’ve been looking into the Band’s long history of incarnations and name changes.

The earliest photo. East Grinstead Band on a hay wagon, c.1870.

Presumably these happy band of players, to misquote Shakespeare, would get to their immediate destination whilst still on the cart. Ahead of them lay the Zulu War and several other colonial skirmishes in places that most of them had probably never even heard of. Where, I wonder, did they fancy they were going, riding the crest of the wave of an Empire on which the sun never set?

East Grinstead Town Band marching past the Workhouse towards the railway station, c1905.

After the turn of the century, the passing of the Old Queen and in the most powerful nation on earth, in 1905 a prosperous town like East Grinstead still had its own Workhouse. The thoughts of the bandsmen must have been very different from those still within the Workhouse; they, at least, thought they knew where they were going, even if it was soon to be just to the station to catch the 1914-1918 express.

East Grinstead Town Band, smartly turned out in c1933.

In the footsteps of the previous generation: the uniforms are still reminders of Imperial greatness, possibly, although cracks had already appeared in that immortal facade. Most of them would probably soon meet the impending onslaught from across the Channel. Somewhere in the middle of the tide of greater things, they must all have wondered where they were going, even if they had a good idea of where they would like that destination to have been.

East Grinstead Concert Band leading the Queen’s Jubilee Parade through the town, 2012.

Today, in our high-tech world of push-button instant gratification, changing climate, increasing ineptitude and seeming loss of concern for most things that were, in the 140-odd years covered by these photos, held to be essential constituents of society and of being a good citizen within that society, do we know where we are going ?

At least the Band knows where it’s going next October. We have been invited to play at the Menin Gate in Ypres on October 11, just a few days before HM The Queen attends a ceremony there to mark the First World War. We are planning a couple of other concerts in Belgium and will do all we can to promote East Grinstead in the process. The Menin Gate is inscribed with 60,000 names of those from the First World War who have no known grave. It straddles the road to Passchendale, where some of the worst fighting took place. Every night at 8 o’clock the traffic is halted and the local firemen blow Last Post and Reveille. We will be part of that ceremony.

The Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium.

How sobering to stand under the Gate (the road goes straight through it) and ponder if any of 60,000 – from all parts of the Empire as was – had any idea where they were going.

The cover of the first in the saga of the Chamber Opera Group of Lucca, Tuscany.
The cover of the first in the saga of the Chamber Opera Group of Lucca, Tuscany.

On the writing front, book No.7, the third in the Rupert Winfield series, is very near completion. FATAL TEARS (Rupert Winfield No.1) has now gone electronic in all formats and has been listed with Barnes & Noble, the huge US distributor. The First in the AN ECCENTRIC IN LUCCA series is presently at the printers and will be out ahead of schedule towards the end of October. It’s all go this end…..

Let me leave you with a short video clip. We did know where we were going, because we had a very definite route to follow, mostly up the exhaust pipe of the leading police car !

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