Marching for St George’s Day

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With St George’s Day having been celebrated last weekend at the traditional parade, many young people taking part would have had their first experience of marching.
 I remember my first time at a march was at a Whit Friday procession of witness in Dukinfield in Greater Manchester back in the early 1960s when I was a young member of the Clifton and Lightcliffe band.

The nerve-wracking occasion was made even worse because the sun was so hot it was melting the road surface and having the person behind you whispering just loud enough for me to hear, ‘step, step, you’re out of step...’

Most amateur brass bands are not good at marching and I well remember, in later years, when I was a member of the West Yorkshire Police Band, we had to do more marching and it had to be right – or else.

Picture the scene. You are on the front row, one of four tuba players marching abreast of each other and you are playing, marching and leading the procession back from a church service in Wakefield.

Taking part in this county wide event is the Lord Mayor, Chief Constable and countless visiting dignitaries. As the road narrows almost to a point where you will be almost rubbing shoulders with the player next to you making it almost impossible to play, it is at this point that you begin to realise the difficulties the procession will have as the road narrows even more.

Striding out on the march looking ahead I saw a traffic island in the middle of the road. Hmm, you now have a choice, as you approach the island what would you have done? Well I decided to take two of the columns round the opposite side of the island effectively splitting the whole procession down the middle. It worked fine but it was the first and only time I ever did it – the Inspector was not impressed.

Watching the bands at the hymn and marching competition, marching down Bethel Street with many of the ladies wearing what can only be described as inappropriate footwear for marching. It must be an accident in the making with uneven road surfaces. I hear the words health and safety and perhaps individual bands should give thought to that.

Trying to keep in step while marching does rely heavily on having a good bass drummer particularly when those marching are young people doing it for the first time. Poor marching is often made worse when you have a rubbish bass drummer who cannot keep proper musical time.

Even if you are reasonably good at marching and the drummer was that bad it can quite easily be the beat of the drum that puts you out of step. Having played the bass drum on a few Brighouse gala processions myself it is not an easy task and your arms certainly know they have been through it.

But the young people whose only marching experience is in the St George’s Day procession will always keep that unforgettable feeling of the thrill of the crowd almost on top of you as you march pass them, with friends and family all cheering you on, a day you will not forget.

This week’s featured photograph is the St George’s Day parade on Sunday, April 23 1989, for the two boys at the front not only have they to think about their marching and keeping in step but they also have the added worry about being one of the flag bearers as well.