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Short Term Training Team

The Band of the Welsh Guards bringing a touch of Britain's State and Ceremonial pageantry to Jordan and it's Royal Family.

The Band of the Welsh Guards were honoured to be the first ever Foot Guards Band to be invited to take up residence as a short term training team with the Jordanian Armed Forces (JAF) in September 2015. This was all down to the vision of our auspicious Director of Music, Lt Col Roberts.

In 2011, Lt Col Roberts was selected to join the British Military Advisory Team in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to develop the musical capabilities of the Jordanian Armed Forces. Whilst there, he redesigned the musical courses available, as well as teaching his revised courses to the Jordanian musicians. He worked closely with Lt Col Muhammad, a graduate from Kneller Hall, to achieve these changes and firmly establish a more dynamic and robust musical syllabus. At the end of two years Lt Col Roberts was conscious that short term training teams of 5 or 6 would not have a significant impact on the new systems created. However, he was extremely keen to take a whole band over to work with the JAF, and finally on the 3rd September 2015, that dream was realised.

This project was to be tied in with the commemoration of the 1916 Arab uprising, consisting of major events throughout the country, endorsed by the King of Jordan. Our main event was to be our participation in a Beating Retreat held in front of King Abdullah and his Royal Court, a huge honour. As one of the finest Bands in the British Army we also hoped to inspire and develop musical skills by supporting and encouraging the musicians of the JAF to fulfil their potential.

It was in the early hours on the 3rd September that the Band landed at Queen Alia international airport. We were greeted by Major Mathews, currently serving a two year posting with the JAF and a former Bandmaster of the Band of the Welsh Guards, who was an informative host for our time in Amman. After two days of acclimatisation, in which a group from the Band took the opportunity to visit the Amman Citadel which comprised of some Roman ruins. We were keen to start our work with the Jordanian musicians in their Barracks on the outskirts of Amman.

On arrival, each member of the Band was assigned a small class of musicians that we would work with for the duration of our stay. We were tasked with bringing on the technical abilities of our students, which was made even more challenging with the language barrier. For the females of the Band it was even more challenging as the ladies of the JAF had only been learning their instruments for a month prior to our visit.

LCpl Judd was in her element coaching the string orchestra, whilst many of the senior members of the Band had the chance to conduct full band sessions with the newly formed female Band. It was very rewarding to watch the determination and fast progress that many of the Jordanian Musicians displayed in our coaching sessions, as well as a chance for the junior members from the Band to lead coaching sessions, enhancing their leadership skills immensely. At the end of our two weeks with the musicians we all felt a great deal of satisfaction in the part we played to nurture these young musicians, as well as fostering deeper relations between two very different  military cultures.

Our first marching band display took place during our first week, and for many it was their first encounter performing in Tunic and Bearskin in temperatures exceeding 38 degrees.

We were very honoured to perform a short display for the British Ambassador and his guests, including many diplomats, at the British Embassy in Amman. Our display was very well received by those who attended, the Band performing well despite the hot conditions, our static pieces 'Post Horn Gallop' and 'James Bond' proving especially popular with the audience.

The end of the first week saw the Band taking time off to explore the fascinating culture of Jordan, a small group visited the River Jordan, at the claimed site of the Baptism of Jesus, to the majority of the Band visiting the Dead Sea and the the ancient city of Petra, and re- juvinate ourselves before the second week’s work began.

During our second week we started rehearsals with the JAF massed bands towards our main event, the Beating Retreat to be held in the desert near Azraq. We would take part in the massed bands Finale, which also included the Jordanian pipes and drums as well as many of our students from the JAF bands. Rehearsals ran very smoothly, this was despite the fact that during one of the rehearsals a sand storm came in within minutes and everything halted as people were running for cover whether it be the bus or an aircraft hangar. However, the Band continued to consistently show off its fine drill and professionalism despite the difficult desert conditions.

The Band’s Brass Quintet led by LSgt Mercer had been busy rehearsing some new and familiar repertoire in a relatively small room at the JAF barrack’s, when all of a sudden several musicians’ from the JAF started to filter into the room totally absorbed by the music which they were hearing, no translation of language was required as the smiles beaming across their faces said it all. The ensemble was rehearsing for a performance at the British Ambassador’s house the following evening for guests at a business event.

The main event of the tour began with a Presentation of Colours to three squadrons of fighter jets, in recognition of their ongoing roles in the area. We also had the chance to officially thank the officers in Jordan for kindly hosting us and making our trip so memorable. The sound of helicopters heralded the arrival of King Abdullah to the parade ground, which was now full with a capacity crowd of soldiers, dignitaries and our friends the female band. First there was a Presentation of Colours to King Abdullah from the massed JAF bands before the start of their display.

However, all was to change as the skies started to grow dark and we were suddenly hit by a freak downpour, the worst rain that had been seen in the desert for 20 years. We watched as the monsoon rain desecrated the parade ground with a flash flood. Unfortunately, the parade was then called off, King Abdullah deciding to depart, leaving a small entourage behind. The Band were relieved when the Parade was reconvened half an hour later and we marched on splash our way through our display. A small but appreciative audience watched as we executed a very professional marching display, before joining the massed bands for a memorable end to the parade. The British Ambassador then formally thanked the Band for their part in the Retreat and commented on the positive impact the Band had made on the Jordanian Armed Forces during our two week residence.

The Band of the Welsh Guards gained a huge amount from their time as a short term training team in Jordan. We were extremely proud to act as ambassadors for the British Army, and to bring the professionalism of the Bands of the Household Division to the musicians of the Jordanian Army. We hope that this is a precursor for other bands to follow in our footsteps and experience such a mutually beneficial experience both musically and professionally.

Written by Musician Natalie White

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