Army Cadet performs at Festival of Remembrance
Cadet Band Sergeant Major Hywel Dowsell tells of how he sang for Her Majesty The Queen
When I joined the Gwent and Powys Army Cadet Force Band I was 13, known then as Powys ACF, I would have never imagined that I would be representing thousands of Cadets across the country at the Festival Of Remembrance at the Albert Hall, as well as sharing a stage with Kerry Ellis, Brian May, Bernard Cribbins and the Soldiers.
In the summer of 2010 I was contacted by CSgt Adrian Beckett, of the Welsh Guards Band, the mentor and musical advisor to the ACF. He mentioned to me an idea to recite a prayer at the Royal Albert Hall for a prestigious occasion, namely the Royal British Legions Festival of Remembrance. I couldn't believe that I was being offered such an important role within the occasion and I was delighted to become a part of this event.
As the months progressed, CSgt Beckett spoke to me again and suggested that the producer of the Festival, Mr Tim Marshall, wanted to promote Cadet 150 with a cadet performing with The Soldiers, the chart topping army group. As it happened, I was a big fan of the Soldiers and I couldn't wait to say yes!
In the weeks leading up to the event, I grew very nervous as I received both the prayer and the music to the song I would be singing; I rehearsed them religiously in order to achieve perfection for the Festival. I am currently studying musical theatre at the Guildford School of Acting and I made sure that I brought my music to every vocal lesson so I would be ready for the big day.
As time went on, I also learned that Kerry Ellis and Brian May, who have recently produced an album together, were also to perform at the Festival of Remembrance, the first time that either of them had appeared at this event. I was extremely excited on hearing this news as I am a huge fan of Kerry Ellis having seen her performing in the West End show Wicked, and well…Brian May, what more can you say, he has only sold 100 million albums worldwide!
The big weekend had arrived and it was time to travel to the Royal Albert Hall for rehearsals. It was Friday morning; the day before recording was due to start. I checked in at stage door with Adrian Beckett who was listed as my minder, even Brian May did not have one of those! On arrival I was allocated dressing room 5, along with Soldiers, Sergeant Major Gary Chilton, Sergeant Richie Maddocks and Lance Corporal Ryan Idzi. We all walked into the arena together, the first time I had ever been to the Royal Albert Hall. I could not believe the sheer size of it; it looks so much bigger than on television.
We had arrived early for our rehearsal time, the Massed Bands of The Household Division were the ever present stage band, The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines, The Royal Air Force Squadronaires were all in the hall ready for their rehearsal time. We had to wait though as the hall fell silent as in walked Brian May and Kerry Ellis for their rehearsals. Even the best have to rehearse for this event.
Saturday morning at 0830 we were back in the hall, no rest in this business! More rehearsals followed before the afternoon performance. This was going to be very special for me as both my mum and brother had arrived from Wales to see me perform. It all went well, it took a while to get used to the TV cameras literally running around the arena around us but I was calm and thoroughly enjoyed the performance. It was time to rest and wait for the start of the evening performance.
The arrival of Her Majesty The Queen and all the Royal Family with The Prime Minster and senior Military figures was exactly at 1900. 5 minutes later I was to make my entrance into the arena in front of them all. The soldiers had performed at this Remembrance Festival last year so were quite relaxed and this helped me enjoy the performance all the more. Once you have finished singing you have to wait for the applause then turn to the Royal Box and bow once again to Her Majesty. It was over, after months of practice, worrying and kit cleaning I had done it! I had sung for the Queen in front of an audience of 4.6 million. I only had to read the prayer at the end of the service and my time in The Royal Albert Hall was over, well may be one day I will return to sing again.
The time I spent performing at such an amazing and emotional event was the best time of my life so far. I will not forget this experience having met some inspirational people who have changed and supported me along the way. I can only thank CSgt Adrian Beckett MBE, Mr Tim Marshall of the BBC and everyone else who have supported me along the way. It was a great honour and privilege to perform at an occasion that is close to my heart and being able to share this with both the general public and the Royal Family.