Soldiers invade Classical Brits

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The Independent Culture

An album recorded in sweltering conditions on a British air base in Basra has scooped one of classical music's top prizes at last night's Classical Brit Awards.

The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards was awarded album of the year for Spirit of the Glen: Journey, beating nominees including Andrea Bocelli, The Salvation Army and Cistercian Monks.

The prize was among a strong performance for UK classical music that saw the trumpeter Alison Balsom, pictured, become the first Brit to win female artist of the year.

The seeds of the project date back to 2007, after plans to release a second album by Christmas hit a stumbling block with news of a six-month tour of duty to Basra. "When we first arrived, it was still being bombed and shelled quite regularly," said Major Angus Benson-Blair. "Then by mid-summer we noticed the security situation improving and the idea of finishing the recording out there didn't seem so ridiculous." As well as the constant threat of rocket attack, equipment had to be protected in the 50C heat.

The award will increase the popularity of pipes and drums which Maj Benson-Blair describes as an "acquired taste". But Lt-Col Felix Gedney was keen to remind the cavalry of their primary responsibilities. "It's important for them not to forget that they are not a band for me," he said. "They're my tank gunner, my lorry driver, my signals operator."