London Military Band: A concert in the Guards Chapel
The occasion was a magnificent Sunday afternoon concert in the Royal Military Chapel, known as the Guards Chapel, at Wellington Barracks near Buckingham Palace. Asking my help was Musician Wong, principal clarinettist of the Band of the Grenadier Guards, the Massed Band of the Household Division and of the civilian London Military Band.
Group shots are not my forte—in fact I tend to shy away from any commissions of events that can’t be reproduced. I don't like the stress and, after all, my photography is purely a hobby. Weddings are a good example of stressful events: Mess up and you’ve messed up for good. Group shots come a close second because you don't get a second chance. But I thought I'd go along and do my best, if only as a favour to an old friend.
I packed my very trusty Leica Q, definitely this year’s go-to jack of all trades, and added a 50mm alternative in the form of the M-P with the Apo-Summicron. As it turned out, wide angle was the order of the day and the Q did most of the work. Everything had to be done hand-held and flash couldn’t be used inside the chapel. As a result, in the rather gloomy conditions, I had to rely heavily of the higher ISO abilities of both cameras because I could not risk excessively slow speeds—the floor was set a 1/125s to be on the safe side. At the same time it wasn’t always possible to use the widest apertures, clearly, because of the need to ensure an adequate depth of field for the wider band shots.
In retrospect, thanks to the Q's image stabilisation, I could have probably been less cautious on the shutter-speed limit and, I suspect 1/60s would have been fast enough. Nonetheless, this proved to be a good exercise in the use of higher sensitivities.
I was more than happy with the results from both cameras, even at sensitivities as high as ISO 5000 and I will definitely have more confidence in doing this sort of flash- and tripod-free work in the future. What the day did remind me, if I needed to be reminded, is of the sheer competence of the Leica Q in almost any circumstances. It really is one of the best cameras, if not the best, produced by Leica in the past five years.
Despite the cramped conditions at the front of the chapel and the difficulty of moving around during the performance, I took the opportunity of grabbing a few indoor shots. More close ups of the musicians, in better circumstances, would have been a welcome bonus.
The London Military Band, led by Alan Shellard, is Britain’s premier symphonic band dedicated to the performance and preservation of wind ensemble music. It benefits from the cream of talent available in the unparalleled military bands of the country. The superb afternoon concert featured works by Mendelssohn, Vaughan Williams, Philip Sparke and Kenneth Alford among others.
This coming Wednesday and Thursday (December 2 and 3) the bands of the Household Division will be staging a magnificent concert, Scarlet and Gold, at the Cadogan Hall in London. It will evoke the splendour and sparkle of the Guards’ uniforms and instruments in an evening of pomp and grandeur. Musician David Wong will be performing the clarinet solo. Tickets are still available at the box office here.