Band’s poignant overseas trip

Sleaford Concert Band at the Ypres Memorial.
Sleaford Concert Band at the Ypres Memorial.

A performance in front of thousands of people, held at a memorial to fallen First World War soldiers, provided the emotional finale to an already poignant overseas trip for Sleaford Concert Band.

Every two years, the troupe departs the UK to play for audiences on the Continent.

Last Monday, the band set off on its latest outing, travelling to Ypres, in Belgium.

The final performance of the trip would see members play at the famous Last Post Ceremony at the Ypres Memorial.

The memorial, often referred to simply as the Menin Gate, bears the names of more than 54,000 soldiers who died before August 16, 1917, and have no known grave.

Each night since 1928, the Last Post Ceremony has been performed at the gate and to conclude the tour, on Thursday, the Sleaford Concert Band would be part of it.

To add to the occasion, the band also knew that it would be the last conducting engagement of their director of 20 years Jim McQuade, who would be handing over the baton and joining the trombone section.

As a prelude to this, across a number of days, there were concerts in the restored Ypres Cathedral, in St Georges Memorial Church by the band’s brass quintet Bold as Brass, and in Ostend on what a spokesman for the band described as ‘perhaps the best and largest bandstand in Europe’. There was also a visit to the Tyne Cot, Langemark and Essex Farm cemeteries, where some band members had the chance to pay their respects to fallen relatives.

Thursday’s finale would see the band assemble at 8pm in the arched gate of the Ypres Memorial.

The beginning of the ceremony was announced by a call from four local fire brigade buglers, after which the band played Nimrod by Elgar.

Then the buglers sounded The Last Post and a minute’s silence was held as an act of remembrance.

Following the signal from the director of ceremonies, the band played the hymn The Day Thou Gavest Lord Has Ended and David of the White Rock, while organisations from around the world including the Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service laid wreaths to the fallen. Peter Stockdale laid a wreath on behalf of Sleaford Concert Band.

The ceremony would conclude with the buglers sounding the reveille.

The spokesman for the band said: “It was an honour and a privilege for Sleaford Concert Band to be part of this important and emotional occasion, which they played with confidence and expertise as they also bid farewell to a director of music who has simply been, an inspiration.”