Born in 1930, David Gilbert spent his early years at West Bergholt, near Colchester in Essex. He learnt piano as a child, and attended the nearby Royal Grammar School in Colchester. At the age of 15, he moved with his family to Sawbridgworth in Hertfordshire, where his father served as stationmaster on the railway.
It was his father's clerk who introduced him to the Sawbridgeworth Silver Band, where he took up the trombone, learning to play the instrument 'as he went along'. On being called up to the Royal Air Force for National Service, David was looking forward to being a military musician on the trombone, but was disappointed when the RAF decided to release him without requiring him for service, as at that time the armed forces were seeking to reduce the numbers of personnel.
On leaving school, David studied engineering at Bishops Stortford College, and found work as a draughtsman at a local engineering company. About this time he also joined Epping Silver Band and Bishop's Stortford's British Legion Band.
The family later moved back to Colchester, when his father was appointed to a senior position with the railway. Still working in engineering, David took a job with a local fan manufacturer, later moving to Davy Paxman in Colchester, who made diesel engines.
David joined several local brass bands in Colchester, and was also invited to play in a local dance band. David married his wife Elizabeth in 1957 and together they raised two children, later living in Oaks Drive in Colchester, where David still lives today.
David Gilbert first got to know John Churcher when Churcher retired and moved to live in Colchester, just across the road from David's own home. They quickly became good friends, with David being increasingly impressed with Churcher's distinguished military service.
Having already written a few short pieces for Piano, on Churcher's death in August 1997 at the age of 91, David decided to write this march as a tribute to a fine friend and soldier. In recognition of Churcher's exploits in Normandy after D-Day, and later in his role as President of the Normandy Veterans Association, David planned to entitle the march 'Normandy Veteran'. However, he was disappointed to find that this title had already been used, so it was on the suggestion of Churcher's widow Pauline that the final title became 'Spirit of Normandy'.
Shortly to reach the grand age of 84, David Gilbert still plays the Trombone with the Abbeygate Concert Band in Colchester, where I have the privilege of playing with him on Clarinet.
Leonard A. Lawson
Bury St Edmunds