Farewell to the Last Dam Busters Pilot

This week is a sad week for Britain as the last Dam Busters pilot has died, just a day after the untimely death of Liverpudilan pop legend, Cilla Black.

The New Zealand born pilot was based at RAF Scampton while he was part of the 617 Dam Busters squadron that the famous 1955 The Dam Busters film by Michael Anderson was based on.

Dam Busters movie poster
The 1955 Dam Busters movie poster

Although the film is legendary in status, today it is better known for its soundtrack. Youtube is filled with electric piano renditions and reductions of the Dam Busters theme and no doubt today’s sad news will inspire more keen players to take to their digital pianos and join in with this somewhat bizarre digital piano craze!

The Dam Busters March

The theme from the film, The Dam Busters March, was composed by Eric Coates and is regularly played on classical radio stations across the world. Where film scores are concerned, Coates’ Dam Busters March is rated as one of the ultimate greats along with Max Steiner’s Gone With the Wind and Cassablanca, Elmer Bernstein’s Magnificent Seven, and Ron Goodwin’s 633 Squadron.

Dam Busters Movie Music Madness

Over the years, the piece has become progressively more popular for piano and organ reductions, with many popular sheet music publishers selling variations on the score which was originally orchestrated for a full symphony orchestra. The piece has also become a standard among brass bands and can nearly always be heard at air shows and fly-overs. A popular way of playing this iconic theme from the Dam Busters seems to be on the organ setting of an electronic piano, or on a church organ. This may well have come about by the theme’s more recent repurpose as a hymn which has been based on Psalm 46 with added lyrics from Carlene Mair which are as follows;

 

Proudly, with high endeavour,
We, who are young forever,
Won the freedom of the skies.
We shall never die!
We who have made our story
Part of our Empire’s glory
Know our hearts will still live on
While Britons fly!
 

There are many top quality digital pianos with an organ function on the market today, for example the Casio AP-260, and the Chase P-40. With sound settings such as these, it’s easy to recreate the illustrious theme from Michael Anderson’s Dam Busters in the comfort of your own home!

Alexandra Rivers

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