There were two more engagements at the old ‘Palace’ Theatre for both houses each night and for a full week. This was a variety show called the ‘Big Surprise’ in which the Band, again as a guards band in full regalia, marched from the back of the audience, dividing into two separate lines one on each outside gangway, meeting in from of the orchestra and marching onto the stage forming one long line across it. Between each bandsman there were chorus girls also dressed as guardsmen, with scenery like Windsor Castle in the background – it was very impressive.
A few weeks later the Band did a similar engagement at the ‘Hippodrome’ (now the G.P.O. telephone exchange) on the same bill as the famous star Vesta Victoria. During this week the members left the Theatre between performances to prepare and rehearse for a contest.
There was yet another week’s engagement at the ‘Palace’ just before the war, which depicted the peace celebrations under Big Ben. This time the Band were in their own uniforms and played as the ‘Big Ben Brass Band’.
The last time the Band played at the ‘Palace’ was a Sunday evening concert. This was in aid of funds for the Basque children and they played to a full house. The combination had now played in all the Theatres in the town – sadly not one is functioning at the present time.
During January 1936 the members were hard at work in preparation for the Winter Contest at Salisbury. Unfortunately King George V died and the Contest was postponed, but it took place a little later at the Coliseum. The test piece was the ‘Downland Suite’ for the selection, and the Hymn tune – ‘Deep Harmony’. The adjudicator was the late Fred Mortimer and he placed the Band first for both tunes, awarding them medals for the Euphonium, Cornet and Tenor Horn – in short everything including the Championship of Wessex.
Ironically, although the Band has won most national and local awards since, they have not won the Wessex Championship since that time.
One of the highlights in the Band’s history was a week’s engagement at Weymouth. This was carried out at the height of the holiday season and the Band played on the Bandstand three times a day, 11am to 12:30pm, 3:30pm to 4:30pm, and 7:30pm to 9pm. The agreement was, if the weather was wet (as it was on the Friday morning) the Band played in the Alexandra Theatre. All the members were put up in the same guest house, and a good time was had by all. The engagement was a great success, 26 members taking part. One of the junior members at the time, a schoolboy, George Pratt, who played the cornet, sang at the performances and kept having requests for his services. He later became a Squadron Leader in the RAF in the war in heavy bombers.
War Stops Play
At the start of the War, the black-out etc. made evening impossible, so Sunday mornings became the only time the Band could get together. Then members were gradually called to the Services and others on War work could not attend, so the Band ceased to exist. When the Home Guard and Fire Services Bands were formed, the Albion members who were left helped to make them up.
When the war-time football leagues started, Mr. Stockwell and Mr. Rood managed to get together some of the older members of the Band and, supplemented with Service musicians stationed locally, the combination started again.
The reformed Band gave concerts to Army and Navy camps in the vicinity, as well as playing in the various parks and pleasure gardens in the Town. The Band were very unfortunate indeed to lose two valuable members, namely Mr. Williamson and Mr. Muddiman during the War.
At the end of hostilities the Band were ready to receive back its members who had joined the Forces. Not all, however, rejoined the Band, so the hard work had to start all over again.
During this time there was a monthly engagement (free of course) at the Guildhall, Southampton. This started during the War as a Forces Rendezvous and continued afterwards as the Peoples Rendezvous. After a while, there was a small payment for the engagement, but the Band did not get the job any more after doing it for about three years for nothing.