Princess Royal unveils new military music school in former detention centre

todayNovember 24, 2023 1

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The Princess Royal visited Portsmouth naval base to officially open a new school of music.

The Alford Schools of Military Music, named after the ‘British March King’ Kenneth Alford, who served with distinction in both the Royal Marines and British Army, will be a training facility for the new generation of the Royal Marines Band Service and the Corps of Army Music.

The building was originally built as Military Detention Quarters in 1843 and although it has been used by the band services since 1991, over the past 18 months it has been revamped to better suit the needs of a music school.

According to Lieutenant Colonel Huw Williams, Principal Director of Music (Royal Marines), the former Military Detention Centre has “lots of character and makes for a fantastic school of music”.

Despite the building’s origins as a detention quarters, it is perfectly suited to being turned into a dedicated music school.

The prison cell blocks are now used as individual and small ensemble practice rooms and are fitted with acoustic panelling soundproofing.

“Having the individual training rooms is incredibly beneficial for the musicians. If you were to go to a music conservatoire or music college, you’re very unlikely to be allocated your own practice room for the duration of your training,” Lt Col Williams explained.

During the refurbishment process a few discoveries from the days when the facility held prisoners were made, which will now be exhibited on site to showcase the building’s heritage.

The discoveries include a stash of contraband, which was found concealed behind the window of one cell, as well as cigarettes, books and metal polish.

Graffiti dating back to 1864 was also uncovered, along with the name of a sailor from HMS Warrior scratched into the brickwork.

Trainee musicians will be able to start using the facility in January.

During her visit, Princess Anne took the time to speak with current trainees from both services about the new facility and their training.

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.

“Everyone’s open and friendly to each other here, everybody just wants you to pass out and do your best,” Imogen said.

The school can host up to 100 musicians at a time and currently has an approximate split of 60% Royal Marines and 40% Army personnel.

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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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