VIDEO: The ‘right kind of viral’: RAF Air Cadets form Virtual Concert Band to perform Toto’s ‘Africa’ online

Air Cadets from across the UK who were due to come together for a band camp and public concert in Lincolnshire over the Easter weekend showed their ‘can do’ spirit to unite to perform a ‘virtual concert’ online.
Some of the young air cadet musicians in the virtual band video. EMN-200422-142908001Some of the young air cadet musicians in the virtual band video. EMN-200422-142908001
Some of the young air cadet musicians in the virtual band video. EMN-200422-142908001

The Air Cadets, including some from the county, all performed, filmed and recorded their parts to Toto’s rock ballad, ‘Africa’ at home.

They used with nothing but a supplied click track and their mobile phones before sending them off to be pieced together to form a suond as if they were all on the same stage.

The finished facebook and Youtube video has gone viral, reaching over 55,000 people worldwide within the first 24 hours.

The National Concert Band of the RAF Air Cadets was meant to be marking its 25th anniversary this Easter weekend with a public concert, performed at the end of a week-long residential camp at RAF College Cranwell. But when the lockdown was brought into force, the band had to devise a new plan to bring much-needed cheer to friends and family.

A secret virtual ensemble was formed under the direction of the National Concert Band’s Director of Music, Squadron Leader Steph Godwin RAFAC, and the organisation’s Bandmaster, Warrant Officer James Whicher RAFAC, both are volunteers with ‘day jobs’.

The enthusiasm of the cadets and their parents enabled many of the challenges imposed by social distancing to be overcome — the inability to rehearse and record together, the fact that some cadets were new to the band and had never met in person, and the unavailability of some percussion instruments. The frying pan, saucepan, wine box and salt-shaker all made their debut in the Virtual Concert Band as a result!

Based on the success of the project, RAF Air Cadets Music Services have released more videos to uplift spirits in the days and weeks to come, with a rendition of the theme to Game of Thrones performed on strings last Saturday.

Principal Clarinettist, Cadet Flight Sergeant Annabel Garrod, 17, from Louth. EMN-200422-143626001Principal Clarinettist, Cadet Flight Sergeant Annabel Garrod, 17, from Louth. EMN-200422-143626001
Principal Clarinettist, Cadet Flight Sergeant Annabel Garrod, 17, from Louth. EMN-200422-143626001

The Air Cadets have their headquarters at RAF Cranwell and their Commandant, Air Commodore Dawn McCafferty said: “I could not be prouder of the way in which our cadets, volunteers and staff have responded so positively to the loss of face-to-face activity whilst we all join in the national fight against COVID-19 and support the NHS and other services. This week, thousands of air cadets would have been enjoying camps and activities across the UK, including music.

“Such is the spirit and positivity of our young people, they have overcome the odds to create a wonderful performance, all playing from their homes, dressed smartly in their uniforms, and displaying their amazing talents. I am so proud of them all and hope this performance brings joy to many.”

Director of Music for the RAF Air Cadets National Concert Band, Squadron Leader Steph Godwin, said: “What started off as an idea when so many events and concerts were being cancelled has achieved so much more than I could ever have imagined! Our cadets and their families got behind this project from the beginning, and it really shows. Young people across the country are facing a tough time at the moment, with schools closed and exams cancelled. So I’m incredibly proud of all these young musicians who, despite the challenges they’re facing, still put together a fantastic virtual – and collective – performance.”

Principal Clarinettist, Cadet Flight Sergeant Annabel Garrod, 17, from Louth, said: “It has been a truly unique and inspiring experience that has given us all hope and a huge sense of achievement during these strange times. It was incredible to work as a team despite the distance between us all. It’s definitely shown the potential we have as a band when we are next able to come together in person, but we also hope it’s brought a smile to everyone’s faces!”

Annabel, a student with the Combined Cadet Force at King Edward VI Grammar school, said: “I learnt such a lot from making my individual footage for the music video, and I had a great time communicating with my friends from the band as well as the staff as we pieced it all together. It truly does sound like we played it together all in one room!”

She thanked the band staff and the Air Cadet unit staff for supporting them by giving the cadets something to focus and look forward to. “I can’t wait to see what else we get up to in the future,” she said.

Sky News and British Forces Broadcasting Service have picked up the uplifting story of the talented cadets.

The video and viral post is available for viewing at: www.facebook.com/aircadetsmusic Also available for viewing at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jyv1hzBt5X8

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