Princess Anne opens school of music for military personnel in Portsmouth

Watch: ITV News Meridian's Harry Acton reports from Portsmouth.

A new school for military musicians has been formally opened by Princess Anne in Portsmouth.

The site, called the Alford Schools of Military Music, is housed in a former detention centre on HMNB Portsmouth, will enable nearly 100 musicians to hone their skills in their own personal rooms.

It marks a significant milestone for musicians serving in the armed forces, and will be used by both the Royal Marines Band Service and the Corps of Army Music.

Portsmouth holds a particular historical significance for military bands, with Eastney Barracks being the first 'official' home of music in 1903.

HRH chats with those involved with the project. Credit: Royal Navy

Music has been used in our armed forces for centuries, with some divisional bands thought to have existed back in the late 1700s.

The facilities are named after the ‘British March King’ Kenneth Alford, who served with distinction in both the Royal Marines and British Army.

The building has been used by the band services since 1991 but was originally built as Military Detention Quarters in 1843.

Her Royal Highness, who is Commodore-In-Chief of HMNB Portsmouth, spent the morning at the new facility.

She arrived to a performance from the Royal Marines Band and was greeted by His Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Hampshire, Mr Nigel Atkinson, Naval Base Commander of HMNB Portsmouth, Commodore John Voyce OBE ADC, and Officers from both the Royal Marines Band and the Corps of Army Music.

  • Lt Col Huw Williams, Principal Director of Music, Royal Marines

Princess Anne took the time to speak some of the musicians who are now based at the site, asking them for their thoughts on the school and their training.

Those she spoke to told ITV Meridian it was an honour to meet her and commented on how she showed a genuine interest.

Musician Alex Wallace, a clarinettist and pianist from the Royal Marines Band Service, said: “I was very nervous to meet her at first, it’s been an honour to play for her today and very interesting to chat to her about my experience in training with the band service so far.”

Principal Director of Music (Army), Lieutenant Colonel Craig Hallatt said: “It’s an honour to be visited by such a senior member of the Royal Family, who is genuinely interested in the development of military music.”

Princess Anne watching a pianist of the Royal Marine Band Service Credit: Royal Navy

The school currently has an approximate split of 60% Royal Marines and 40% Army Personnel, and it's hoped it will be beneficial to have both groups working closely together.

Lieutenant Colonel Huw Williams RM, Principal Director of Music (Royal Marines) told ITV Meridian: “It means a great deal to both Army and Royal Marines musicians to have this facility open.

"It’s got lots of character and makes for a fantastic school of music.

"The work that’s been done over the last 18 months has really re-made it, it’s like a new facility inside the school of music but of course with all the heritage and character of the old detention quarters, so we’re very pleased."

Musician Imogen Naegli, a clarinettist in the Corps of Army Music said: “I’m really excited to be training with the Royal Marines, I think this will allow us to work closer together. Currently we can’t work at the same time and have to practice separately, whereas being able to practice together in one facility will allow us to support and rely on each other.

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