The Hall of The Worshipful Company of Girdlers in the City of London echoed to the sound of bugles one night last November as the Cinque Ports Corps of Drums sounded Regimental Call and Fall In before providing a short musical interlude during a London Guild’s Annual Dinner.

The Girdlers, in medieval times makers of the heavy belts that carried a man’s sword and money bag, have one of the 38 Livery Company halls left in the City - a suitably historic setting for The Guild of Arts Scholars, Dealers and Collectors’ dinner.

 

A Livery Company’s Hall, a London Guild - it all sounds very Dickensian. How did the Cinque Ports Corps get involved in such historic goings-on?

 

The key to our presence was another Dickensian figure, the Beadle. No longer responsible for beating orphan boys who ask for more gruel, Beadles these days look after a Company or Guild's property and ensure that its events take place smoothly and with due decorum. The Beadle of The Guild of Arts Scholars, Dealers and Collectors and our Drum Major are very close and, learning of our existence, the Master of the Guild had asked if we might give them a few tunes during their Annual Dinner.

 

The Guild’s aim is to sustain and enhance the standing of those engaged in the study, curation, collection and trade in antiques, antiquities and objects of decorative and applied art. Whether we qualified as antiquities or objects of decorative art as, in single file behind the Drum Major, we played our way into the Grand Hall I’m not too sure. But, antique or decorative, we then divided into two files to march into a shallow alcove and about turn in two (rather cramped) ranks to face the assembled diners.

 

The scene before us could have come from the pages of a Dickens novel - oak panelled walls, an ornate stone fireplace, chandeliers, long oak tables, silver table pieces and about 150 diners, including The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of London, expectantly looking our way.

 

We’d entered playing Walmer Castle, our Retreat March, then two drum beats from ‘Faultless Eric’ our Bass Drummer lead us into our Slow March, Mountain Echoes. We then played Tipperary and Maybe It’s Because I’m a Londoner, giving the Guild’s members and guests a chance to sing along - an opportunity which the Lady Mayoress, for one, seized enthusiastically.

 

Having almost reached the end of our set, the Drum Major then asked the Master of the Guild’s permission to march us off.

 

At this point the Master, Jonathan Horne, showed his true colours. You can’t expect a Captain in The H.A.C. Pikemen and Musketeers, and therefore a long-serving H.A.C. Officer, to just give the usual ‘Carry on, Drum Major’. He treated us to a short speech thanking us and giving a brief explanation of the history and significance of Corps of Drums music - helpfully dispelling any thoughts the diners might have had that we were a band that’d somehow lost its brass section.

 

Before leaving we played our version of The British Grenadiers with side drum snares ‘off’ for that 18th Century sound. We then marched out to appreciative applause and The Rogues March.

 

After changing from our uniforms back into ‘civvies’ we had a chance to enjoy the beer and sandwiches very kindly provided by the Guild, and to reflect on a very different performance to our usual Beating Retreat, parades and outdoor musical displays. It had turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable last engagement of the year for us.

 

And even while all the beer was being drunk, we resisted the temptation to make amusing references to girdles – honest!

 

 

 

 

 

1st Cinque Ports Rifle Volunteers Corps of Drums

Drums In The Hall November 2008

Author - Drummer Mike Boxall

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