Why do we remember…

…and what is it that makes other remember us? Do others remember us, or do they remember the events with which we might have been associated?

I remember being very moved by visiting the sea of over 800,000 ceramic red poppies installed in the moat of the Tower of London in the months before Armistice Day (November 11th) last year, the centenary of The Great War. Every year we of the East Grinstead Concert Band (EGCB) perform a concert (or two) in aid of Service charities – complete with the standard of the local British Legion Club, the two minutes silence and the playing of “Sunset”, Green’s famous setting of the bugle call signifying the lowering of the colours at the end of the day, movingly played by our excellent trumpet section).

Lowering the standard during the playing of "SUNSET" during last year's Poppy Appeal Concert in East Grinstead.

Lowering the standard during the playing of “SUNSET” during last year’s Poppy Appeal Concert in East Grinstead.

Are there any individuals known to us from past conflicts to remember individually (time marches relentlessly on!), or are we remembering the event? During a recent trip to Eire (and being impressed, as usual, by the friendliness of the Irish people), we took in what I dubbed the “Lusitania Route”, from the Old Head of Kinsale (from where people watched the liner sinking only some 8 miles off the shore, after she was torpedoed by U-20) to the monument and mass graves in Cobh (old Queenstown), which was always the last port of call in the Old World for the Cunard and the White Star Liners, before the New World loomed across the expanse of the North Atlantic.

The original memorial to LUSITANIA on the harbour front in Cobh.

The original memorial to LUSITANIA on the harbour front in Cobh.

The renowned maritime artist Ken Marschall’s detailed paintings can be viewed here:  www.maritimequest.com

RMS Lusitania under full steam in her pre-war livery.

RMS Lusitania under full steam in her pre-war livery.

I arranged the Mariners’ Hymn (quite chromatic, so some good sight reading practice) and EGCB will play this the night before the centenary of the sinking on May 7th, 1915. We marked the 103rd anniversary of the loss of Titanic in the same way. Collectively, millions of faceless people unknown to almost all of us, yet we pause to remember them.

And then something comes out of the blue to focus remembrance on someone I certainly did know. I recently received a communication from the head of the Music Conservatorium of Mauritius, enquiring as to whether or not it would be possible for them to exhibit my grandfather’s baton in a proposed museum of Mauritian Musical Culture in Port Louis. Well, to say that I was speechless and filled almost to bursting point with pride is putting things very mildly. I hold my grandfather in high regard for his musical prowess (mentioned in previous blogs) and would like to think that my musical genes – if such things exist – have been inherited from him. I have a framed photo of him standing in front of his Mauritius Police Force Band on my desk. The baton was given to him by the residents of Port Louis, in appreciation of musical services rendered. I read the inscription and there was his name and the date – 1923; also getting on for a century. He never used the baton, as it is rather heavy.

Part of the dedication inscribed on a gold band on the baton.

Part of the dedication inscribed on a gold band on the baton.

This month saw the annual London Book Fair (LBF), held this year in the expanse of London’s Olympia exhibition centre. We survived the train trip to London (in my opinion always an over-priced nightmare of an experience!) and saw my books displayed on the Book Guild stand.  Good to see Graham flying the flag for us independent authors again.

 

With Graham Robinson on the Book guild stand. All four of the books published so far nicely displayed in the background!

With Graham Robson on the Book Guild stand. All four of the books published so far nicely displayed in the background!

I met Ian McFadyen at last year’s LBF and was pleased to see that his fifth novel is due for release later this year – KILLING TIME. Great cover and another success from Keiran of the Book Guild art department. Everything is still rocking – as they say – in the book world.

In a couple of weeks I’ll be going on a trip to Aubers and Ieper (Ypres) with the Wadhurst Brass Band to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of Aubers Ridge in the First World War. Wadhurst is twinned with the town of Aubers and several men from the area were casualties of the Royal Sussex Regiment. I was commissioned by the band to compose a march suitable for the occasion, which will have its world première (!!) at a concert in Wadhurst shortly. Again, the tour will be a voyage of Remembrance for people unknown to most, if not all of us. During the recent Irish trip, we visited the town of Templemore in County Tipperary. Nice little place and the local hostelry does a mean cabbage in Irish butter for lunch! Anyway, having parked, we wandered around the main square and came across a memorial to the men of the Royal Munster Regiment who fought in the First War. There was a picture of the Reverend Francis Gleeson, (a chaplain in the British army (this was before Irish independence)), blessing the troops before – can you credit this? – the Battle of Aubers Ridge!

 Fortunino Matania's painting of Father Francis Gleeson (1884–1959), Blessing the Royal Munster Fusiliers at Rue du Bois, before the Battle of Aubers Ridge.

Fortunino Matania’s painting of Father Francis Gleeson (1884–1959), Blessing the Royal Munster Fusiliers at Rue du Bois, before the Battle of Aubers Ridge.

Small world or what?

As I said, my march, AUBERS RIDGE  is a commission from the Wadhurst Brass Band to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Aubers Ridge on May 9th, 1915. The Royal Sussex Regiment suffered heavy losses during the battle and the march is dedicated to the memory of those who did not return, especially the men of Wadhurst.

Musically, the march is built around the musical interval found at the beginning of the Last Post and is mostly in the minor key. There are musical references to French (La Marseillaise) and British (God Save the King) forces, as well as a quotation from Ward-Higgs’ Sussex By the Sea, which became the [unofficial, as far as I am aware] regimental march. The march ends quietly with the strains of Reveille. Lest we forget.

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Right now the days are…

…just not long enough to get through everything! You know the feeling – no sooner have you started working than it’s the end of the day with a lot still to do.

Just back from a very pleasant and successful promotional trip to Lucca. I felt it would be a good idea to stay in an apartment in the Roman Amphitheatre, just to see how the Contessa manages in her luxury apartment a little further on.  It was quite something – very high ceilings with exposed beams, large exposed sections of the original stonework and a fabulous view into the arena. It was also the centre of culture galore: a dance festival; performances by very talented music students from the Istituto Musicale Luigi Boccherini, so the Contessa would have been quite at home with that; some odd statuary and the Lucca flag-throwers, all kitted out in Renaissance outfits. And that was over just one weekend.

Flag throwers

Flag Throwers in the Amphitheatre. Hours of practice made it look oh so easy.

One of the projects during the trip was to explore the area around the town of Bagni di Lucca, a collection of picturesque and historic villages forming a region to the north of Lucca. The area has been famous for its mineral waters since Etruscan and Roman times. It also boasts Europe’s very first licensed casino. The fifth in the An Eccentric in Lucca series is planned to involve the Contessa and COGOL – not to mention the attractive Arthur Crowe and his Banda Inghiltalia – in planning an arts festival there. Who could want a more beautiful location for making great music ?

Ponte a Seraglio spans the River Lima in the Bagni di Lucca region

Ponte a Seraglio spans the River Lima, the main tributary of the River Serchio. The Casino, which still awaits the granting of a license to resume its former role, is in the immediate vicinity. Napoleon’s sister, as Grand Duchess of Tuscany, spent the summers here in the early nineteenth century.

 

Casino

Built in 1837, this was the first licensed casino in Europe. Puccini and Strauss, as well as anyone who was anyone, frequented the casino. Others visited the numerous establishments in the area offering the benefits of the area’s mineral-rich water – these are the Baths of Lucca.

 

This medieval, high-arch bridge, the Ponte della Maddellena, is in Borgo a Mozzano and spans the River Serchio. the bridge is known as "the Devil's Bridge".

This medieval, high-arch bridge, the Ponte della Maddellena, is in Borgo a Mozzano, a couple of kilometres below Ponte a Seraglio. It spans the River Serchio and is known as “the Devil’s Bridge”.

A highlight of the trip was a meeting with Norma Bishop, the editor of the Grapevine magazine. The March issue contains an extensive review of ERRANT ANGELS, and was on sale at two of Lucca’s literary outlets.

Great excitement at finding he book advertised through the pages of Grapevine !

Great excitement at finding ERRANT ANGELS advertised through the pages of Grapevine !

We enjoyed an early evening spremuta di arancio in the amphitheatre, almost where the flags had been hurled up into the air and caught again the previous Saturday. I’m currently drafting an article for Norma on a foreigner’s discovery of the cultural promise of Bagni di Lucca.

Meeting with the editor of Tuscany's GRAPEVINE English-language magazine. Thanks for your time, Norma.

Meeting with the editor of Tuscany’s GRAPEVINE English-language magazine. Thanks for your time, Norma.

Visit the GRAPEVINE’s website and check out the magazine – it’s full of very useful and informative information on Lucca and environs.   http://www.luccagrapevine.com

The results of the trip will shortly be available on YouTube. It’s called “The Contessa’s Lucca” and will hopefully whet your appetite to visit this beautiful city.

The other big surprise recently was an e-mail informing me that I have a distant relative about whom I knew absolutely nothing. Talk about a bolt from the blue! My grandfather Harry Rolfe had a brother, who had a family of his own – you learn something new every day. I’ve also been able to add this great photograph to the two I already have of him and the Mauritius Police Band. I’m also excited to learn that there are plans afoot to open a museum to the band – another good reason to visit the Island and do some research. Thanks for all of that, Pam.

Inspector Harry Rolfe and his Mauritius Police Band somewhere during the 1930s.

Inspector Harry Rolfe and his Mauritius Police Band somewhere during the 1930s.

I’ve received the edited proofs for the second in the An Eccentric in Lucca series, FEELINGS OF GUILT. It should be out in August or September.

The other important diary entry is the London Book Fair. The Book Guild is featuring ERRANT ANGELS on their stand, which is very exciting.  I’ll tell you more about that after the event.

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It’s in the Genes…

… or so we are led to believe, according to current research. Or is it ? If an immediate ancestor was a gifted thinker, does the offspring become a philosopher?; does a highly successful economist produce a millionaire?; would Dr Crippin’s offspring have followed in their father’s footsteps?

How do we differentiate between intellectual capacity and inherited, coded instructions as to what we look like or might eventually become? Answers on a postcard please, as they used to say on the wireless…

What’s brought this on is some research I’ve been doing into my maternal grandfather’s career. He was a pharmacist with the Royal Army Medical Corps, before ending up – by a circuitous route that I am still trying to discover – as the bandmaster of the embryonic Mauritius Police Band in the years before the Second World War. Of diminuitive size (so that, at least, I didn’t inherit!), Inspector Harry Stephen Rolfe built up both the band and his reputation on the island. I’d like to think that his music genes were passed on to me; can’t think of what other source pushed me in a musical direction …

This is the only photo I have that shows both him and the band:

MPB pre 1939

Bandmaster Rolfe and the Mauritius Police Band, c.1926 [?].

I have a baton that was presented to him in 1925 as a token of apprecitation by the residents of Port Louis. It is of ebony with decorative gold bands; he never used it to couduct, as he found it too heavy. He was very forthright and I can imagine his response when the suggestion to use it to conduct was made …

Nearly 90 years on and his grandson uses a much lighter wooden one:

EGCB baton

A lighter baton guiding the East Grinstead Concert Band.

And to finish off this time, a couple of before and after photos …

MPB marching

Band Master Rolfe and the Mauritius Police Band c. 1926

MPB today

The modern day Mauritius Police Band