Last weekend, Oundle’s CCF Marching Band went to Franklin’s Gardens where it played during the half time of the Heineken Champions Cup fixture between Northampton Saints and Ulster with over 300 pupils in the audience. This was the band’s fifth appearance at Franklin’s, giving them an opportunity to tailor their repertoire to a sporting event with crowd pleasers such as ‘Men of Harlech’, ‘Hawaii 5O’, and of course, ‘The Saints Go Marching In’.

A Drum Corp of twelve pupils also performed a showpiece solo routine.

This year they were asked to provide music in Fan Village before the match. Their offshoot band, Jazz Force, entertained the crowd for thirty minutes before kick-off.

Oundle’s CCF Marching Band is a familiar sight on the streets of town during Remembrance ceremonies. The heart-pounding drums, stirring brass sections and regimental drill steps on parade never fail to impress spectators. Marching bands were formed in medieval times to direct feudal armies onto the battlefields and lift their morale, which is where their association with ceremonial military occasions originated. Oundle’s band was reformed in 2005 to represent the CCF. It plays at military events such as Remembrance and the passing out parades and has travelled to France to play at memorials such as Thiepval, and the Last Post parade at Menin Gate.

With 90 members from Fourth Form to Upper Sixth, the band manages many challenges compared to a traditional jazz band. The bandmaster Adele Hudson designs the repertoire for each occasion and adapts the music to A5 sheets that are weatherproofed with lamination. The uniforms are ex-military sourced by the CCF, with fitting, care and alterations for 90 teenagers overseen by Nicola Stokes and her team. The drill and marching display is the most distinctive difference, led by Sergeant Major Palmer, ex-Army. The first instruction that pupils must remember is to always step off on the left foot.

Bearing the impressive responsibility for keeping the band together is the lead drum major, Lydia (K), who commands attention at the front of the parade with her mace, directing the tempo alongside her three deputies.