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2012 Airshows : FEATURE

The Royal Air Force Musical Salute to the Queen's Jubilee

The RAF Concerts held at Chartwell in the last two years have proved to be popular events combining the very best in RAF Music with some very select flying displays. 2012 will see the event change venue to the leafy Surrey Hills just outside Guildford and beautiful setting of Loseley Park on the 23rd June. The change in venue also coincides with some much higher ambitions to combine singers, the Central Band of the RAF and a number of the RAF’s Display Teams. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK found out more from Andy Pawsey.

Photography by Mike Rivett/ Fotomotion, Paul Johnson/Flightline UK or as credited.

There will be a number of events including airshows held around the UK to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in May and June, but none will be as unique as the “Royal Air Force Musical Salute to the Queen’s Jubilee” to be held on 23rd June 2012 at Loseley Park, near Guildford in Surrey.

Queen Elizabeth II is heavily associated with the Royal Air Force. As a young woman she watched ‘The Few’ locked in combat above London and as a grandmother looked proudly on as Prince Charles awarded RAF wings to his son William.

The ambitious project will bring together a number of different performers with a cast of flying displays that in their own right would constitute a serious air display. The event, organised by Colin Hitchins and Andy Pawsey from Synergy Events has grown out of two successful events held at Chartwell, but Loseley will be on a much grander scale!

Colin Hitchins, managing director of Synergy Events, said “To have the opportunity to help create such a unique event in support of the Royal Air Force is a privilege, when we start the planning the sky is literally the limit. Loseley Park will certainly be the biggest and most adventurous we have staged so far and I can’t think of a better venue in which to host the RAF Musical salute to the Queens Jubilee”

“Many thousands of people will attend airshows around the country but none will see the likes of this event, as well as stimulating all of the senses those attending will also go on an emotional journey.”

“We have been asked on many occasions to describe the event and the closest we can get is musical theatre, but musicals do not usually include one and a half hours of flying from some of the best pilots in the world”

The centrepiece of the event will be the Central Band of the Royal Air Force performing a wide variety of music - everything from classic military marches to contemporary film music, much of it drawn from the period of the Queen’s reign.

Joining them will be compere, Classic FM Presenter and former Royal correspondent, Nicolas Owen and 150 performers including the RAF Presentation Team, actor Rupert Holliday Evans, West End Kids, the Spitfire Choir and Soprano Fiona Howell and the RAF’s own singer Flt Lt Matt Little. But stars of the concert are likely to be the Military Wives Choir who shot to fame scoring the Christmas No.1 record under the leadership of TV choirmaster Gareth Malone.

Loseley will witness many different aerial elements with the RAF Falcons Parachute Display Team jumping in and flypasts and displays from the RAF Hawk, Tucano, King Air, Tutor, BBMF Spitfire and The Blades. Perhaps making the loudest aerial contribution however will be the RAF Tornado GR4 Role Demo team!

The music and flying will not be mutually exclusive, but will be brought together in the first half of the concert with the use of special effects and archive film footage displayed on huge screens around the main stage.

Combining the flying and stage performance is a difficult thing to get right, but ultimately highly rewarding as event director Andy Pawsey explains; “At an airshow, a 1 minute delay would not be noticeable for a crowd. At a concert, it would be very obvious! A certain amount of defensive planning is required to hide any delays with aircraft reaching the display site. Overall, the Event Director has to remain on-the-ball and flexible at all times in order to keep the dozen or so balls in the air!!”

“Matching the aircraft to the music is another challenge, but I also don’t want to try and be too obvious or unimaginative! For example the Grob Tutor will display during the item on “Youth Forces” clearly highlighting the link between the Tutor and UAS, AEF, ATC, etc. “

“With low ambient aircraft noise, the music choice is important and must reflect the theme of the event as so for instance we are using the “New Cadet March” which is a fairly traditional sounding military march but one that has been especially written this year and will be known by Cadets throughout the country, along with a second piece of music “Harry Potter’s Wondrous World” - Not joking! It is an excellent contemporary and uplifting piece from modern culture and also a piece that the RAF Central Band are very keen to play because it is different.”

During the Youth Forces segment big screens will also be involved showing archive footage of the opportunities the RAF affords young people with footage of teenagers experiencing flight for the first time and the rewards the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme and the Prince’s Trust offers! Added further dimensions include added cadet musicians to the ensemble and have a mass cadet salute to end with!

“A much better use of cadets than the usual litter-picking, or working the car park” remarks Andy. “This is exactly what I have planned for just one 8 minute item. Other items are equally busy, full and interesting!”

The event will carry on into the evening. The second half which will not see any flying will make use other superb “assets” such as the Military Wives Choir and vocalists Flt Lt Mark Little and Opera singer Fiona Howell. There will also be an opportunity to meet the pilots as after their display they will, where possible, be brought back to Loseley. “BBMF pilots Sqn Ldr Ian Smith and Flt Lt Antony Parkinson opened our first concert a couple of years ago in the Spitfire and Hurricane. After displaying, they landed at Biggin Hill and were back at the concert before the end of the first half. Not only did they enjoy the show, we got them on stage at the end to take a bow – they got the loudest applause of the night! People like to see people. Display crews like to see people.”

“The RAF Salute of the Queen’s Jubilee” promises to be an event to remember and perhaps one of the most spectacular of the year. More information and tickets can be found at www.queensjubileeconcert.com or by calling 01689 300005.

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