The Stalham Brass Band has provided the music and trumpeters at Remembrance Services since their inception. Correct protocol for these high profile events has been handed on from one director of music to the next. As such we are often asked to provide direction for these services, for the bands attending, or for the Vicar who may not have had any previous experience at conducting such services. The following provides some do's and don't's that may help. Experienced directors however will have picked up most of these points and would make sure not to put their band in an embarrassing situation.
The Royal British Legion produces an order of service for Remembrance Sundays, and some groups produce their own. These can be very helpful but in most cases are not adhered to on the day.
On such an occasion, full ceremonial dress uniform is worn. The band do not wear caps during the service. However, caps ARE worn while the band STANDS for the playing of the TWO verses of the National Anthem. Medals and decorations may be worn in the correct order. Players should be encouraged to wear those of family members on the opposite chest side.
If the band does not have a full uniform, uniform jackets, or a blazer should be worn, with collar and tie. On no account should open neck collars be worn as it is disrespectful. If no jackets are available, as a last fall back white shirts with ties may be worn. Be careful with colours! Garish colours should not be worn and NEVER, EVER, make the mistake of wearing black shirts. They have historical connotations which can cause great distress to war veterans, and those who remember the era before the Second World War, and should always be restricted to orchestra pits.
Placing a band can be difficult in a Church given size restrictions. The band should be facing the War Memorials, with the director of music able to conduct the band and the congregation at a slight angle. A passage may have to be made through the band to enable the Standards (Legion etc) to be laid upon the altar. Depending on the placement of the Memorials, those placing wreaths may need to move through the band. Wreaths are always placed on the memorials [or at foot of] and never on the Altar or Font. The Altar is always reserved for the Standards.
Last Post & Reveille may be sounded by one player, although it is usual to have more. It sounds better as a group, and hides the mistakes which will always occur. It takes years of experience to sound these calls correctly. There are no players - even professionals, who will freely admit it - who give a faultless performance in this situation. Players must stand directly facing the Memorials, or at a slight angle to them, but NEVER with their backs to them. In some situations the Memorials are placed at the rear of the Church. This may mean that the congregation must turn around to face the Memorials during the Act of Remembrance. Again, members of the congregation are NEVER allowed to stand with their backs to the Memorials, during the Act of Remembrance. The lead bugler will time the two minutes silence. Never be tempted to shorten it, it will cause distress to many! Reveille may be one of a number depending which instrument - bugle, cornet or fanfare trumpets - is being used.
The Hymns used during the Service follow a standard format each year. A band will need to be well rehearsed by an experienced director to play at the correct volume and tempo and TO THE WORDS of the hymns. Many a professional band has been heard to play a hymn leaving no space for the congregation to breath, or to turn a lively hymn into a dirge. Any band would do well to play at a number of Church services before attempting to play at one of Remembrance. Music before the service should be calm and sympathetic. It is a solemn occasion. At the end of the Service, where possible, the band should play the British Legion March. This can then be followed by rousing war-time song selections. Do not play too loudly after the congregation move from their seats. They will be meeting old acquaintances and want to be able to speak over the band. It is their day.