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Norwich trumpeter speaks of long career playing at special services

PUBLISHED: 12:52 21 November 2011

David Woodrow. Photo by Simon Finlay

David Woodrow. Photo by Simon Finlay

Archant © 2011 01603 772434

It was at a Remembrance Day service when David Woodrow first decided he wanted to play the trumpet - little did he know how the instrument would play such a big part in his life.

For the last 50 years, Mr Woodrow has played the Last Post at services in and around Norwich, including at the Remembrance Day service at City Hall and Norwich Cathedral.

It was a role he took on in 1961 after he had come out of The Band of Her Majesty’s Irish Guards. And although he is stepping down from playing the traditional refrain at civic occasions, he doesn’t plan on packing his trumpet away any time soon.

Instead, he has started to play the flugelhorn and will continue to be a member of the Norwich Citadel Band which he joined at the age of 16.

The grandfather, who lives near Mousehold Heath in Sprowston, said: “My father took me to the Salvation Army for a Remembrance Day service when I was nine years old; from that point I decided to be a junior member of the Salvation Army and have never looked back since.

“I played in the junior band until I was 16 and then moved on to the senior band. As a member of the Norwich Citadel Band, I have travelled the length and breadth of the country and have been on more than eight tours, visiting South Africa and Scandinavia and have played cornet solos.”

Mr Woodrow, who grew up in the New Catton area of Norwich with his brothers Tony and Roger, was first called up to play in the Guards in 1957. He got his calling papers while he was on his honeymoon with his wife Beryl, whom he met through the Salvation Army.

“Playing in the Guards was a very impressionable time,” said Mr Woodrow who now conducts the Norfolk Fellowship Brass Band which is made up of about 40 players.

“I was 21 when I was in the Guards and it was my first time away from home. It was a time which made an undeniable impression on me for the rest of my life.

“You remember the royal and state occasions and the things like Trooping the Colour and I did Princess Margaret’s wedding.

“Those three years made a huge impression on me that stayed with me for the rest of my life. It was not only the discipline but it built a character. It was a time I will never ever forget.”

Mr Woodrow’s wealth of experience led him to become the Last Post trumpeter at civic occasions across Norwich and the county.

Now 76, he said: “When I came out of the Guards in 1960, the RAF could no longer provide buglers for Remembrance Day services so I’ve been doing it since 1961, 50 years round, and have been doing it regularly since.”

When the retired printing works worker, whose two brothers were also in the Norwich Citadel Band, first started playing the Last Post at Remembrance Sunday services, he would sound in the two-minute silence from the top of the Guildhall. Later would play from an open doorway at City Hall.

Together with the rest of the Norwich Citadel Band, he would then help lead the parade, made up of members of the Royal British Legion, voluntary organisations, personnel from RAF Marham, as well as army, navy and airforce cadets, to Norwich Cathedral where again he would play the Last Post before a two-minute silence.

Mr Woodrow, whose son Richard and daughter Jayne and their children are all in the Salvation Army, said: “Musically it’s not that difficult but it’s the responsibility that comes with it. It was nerve-wracking the first time but the nerves gradually wore off.

“Even before 1961, I had done a lot of playing and had travelled a lot to play with the Guards so I was used to doing that sort of thing.”

And while a different face will step up to the plate and take on the role as the Last Post trumpeter at civic occasions, Mr Woodrow will still be available for people on an occasional basis.

“I’ve decided to call it a day. I’ve done it for 50 years and I’m 76 years old now so I thought it was about time to give it up and give one of the youngsters a chance,” said Mr Woodrow, who has played at Battle of Britain services at Norwich Cathedral for 20 years.

“It’s been an incredible privilege and honour and it’s good that people have kept asking for me. It’s quite a responsibility to get it right and to get all the notes right but it comes with experience. It’s been an honour to do it.

“It was the right time to make the decision. I’ve not retired completely – I will still be available for people on an occasional basis.

“You could say is this the last Last Post for me?”

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