This has been a fantastic year for Westminster Music Library’s choir, Joint Force Singers. Since 2015 they have performed at prestigious venues and events from Lords MCC to Pimlico Proms, Westminster’s Community Awards to the magnificent Guards Chapel at Wellington Barracks. And it was at the Guards Chapel that our grand finale concert took place, a fitting climax to close a year of high achievement.
The aim of our year-long project was to raise awareness of Westminster’s Armed Forces by encouraging collaboration with our local community. I can honestly say our choir has achieved this; it’s brought together local people with those who serve and have served their country, people who under normal circumstances probably would not have met. It’s an honour and a privilege to help and support our armed forces and their families, and bringing them together with our Westminster community to sing, make new friends, and most importantly to have a great time, is our way of giving just a little bit back.
This was to be no ordinary concert; having performed the week before at Pimlico Proms and the previous day at Westminster City Hall for the Armed Forces Week flag raising ceremony, everyone was “ready to rumble”. Emotions were running high, lasting friendships have been forged and there was definitely a feeling of army team sprirt – “let’s make this one special, people!”
Our choir was joined by the Victory Wind Quintet, musicians who have been working together for many years within the Guards Bands. Our Musical Director Ruairi had been busily arranging music for both choir and quintet to perform, but now rehearsals were over and it was time for the show to begin…
It will come as no surprise that with Ruairi’ s passion for folk music, the programme featured lots of his own arrangements of traditional songs: “Shenandoah”, (an American folk song), “Scarborough Fair” (featuring a terrific solo by one of our army choir members), and a rip-roaring version of “When the saints go marching in” accompanied by the quintet. But the highlight of the evening was the closing number, which naturally – Ruairi being Ruairi – had to involve some audience participation. For his arrangement of the classic Bill Withers song: “Lean on me”, we were encouraged to clap and stomp our way through the choruses while the singers gave full voice.
The choir took their bows and my closing words were accompanied by cheers, rapturous applause and even the odd tear.
It’s been a brilliant year for Joint Force Singers, we are grateful to Westminster’s Armed Forces Community Covenant for supporting us and for the invaluable help we’ve received from the staff at Wellington Barracks.
But above all we are grateful to our amazing choir, who achieved so much in such a short space of time; Joint Force Singers united Westminster’s Armed Forces and our local community in ways that went beyond the music.