Waltham St. Lawrence Silver Band

Wendy Craig takes over from Margaret Railton as WSL Band President

Local historian Margaret Railton, who has been the band's honorary president since the 1980's, advised Waltham St. Lawrence Silver Band at the beginning of the year that she felt it was time to step down. Actress Wendy Craig, who lives in Cookham, kindly accepted an invitation to take up the post, and visited a rehearsal in early summer to meet the band. A Presidents' Concert was staged in WSL Parish Church on 18th October 2014 by way of official handover.

Margaret was unfortunately unwell on the day and could not attend. Former band chairman Tony Evans spoke for her at the opening, thanking her for all her efforts on the band's behalf over many years, and in particular for writing the official band history as a published book on the occasion of its centenary. Several numbers had been chosen by Margaret, and she would be receiving a recording of the event.

Wendy spoke in the course of the second half, recalling her childhood memories of Salvation Army and colliery bands in County Durham and military bands in wartime parades. Her late husband Jack Bentley was for many years a professional trombonist with Jack Hylton's Orchestra and Ted Heath's big band following a career as an army musician, hence she is no stranger to brass music.

As well as guests in the audience, there were guests "on stage":
- Jim Pullen, who directed the band from 1988 to 2006, took the band for a performance of a selection from My Fair Lady. He joined the trombone section for the rest of the show.
- the Waltham St. Lawrence Junior Choir, directed by Fiona Penn, sang Conkers and The Hippopotamus Song, with the band and audience joining in the chorus
- Waltham Madrigals, directed by Simon Shaw, performed several songs, ending with a version of the Beatles' Can't Buy Me Love.

The main programme began with two rousing numbers, Fucik's Entry of the Gladiators and the overture to Rossini's Barber of Seville, followed by the Rondo from Mozart's Horn Concerto No 4, ably played as a euphonium solo by Tom Torley. Following the junior choir, the band played a selection from West Side Story, and the first half ended with Gordon Langford's New World Fantasy, with deputy conductor Keith Penton wielding the baton.

The second half opened with Ray Woodford's arrangement of Gershwin's Strike up the Band. The next number, Drake Rimmer's dramatic tone poem Othello, was chosen to reflect both the new president's theatrical connection and the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth. Following the set by the Waltham Madrigals, former conductor Jim Pullen took the band for Alan Fernie's selection from My Fair Lady. This was followed by the Habanera and finale (Toreador's Song) from Bizet's Carmen.

The concert concluded with Abba's Thank you for the Music.

Though the church by no means packed, the audience was of a fair size and was very appreciative, and gave generously to the retiring collection.