From playing with Beyonce and Blur to Barmy Army trumpeter

Simon Finch the Barmy Army Trumpeter entertains the crowd during the interval during the Women's One Day International Cricket match between England Women Cricket and Australia Women at the Ageas Bowl, Southampton England Women Cricket v Australia Women
Finch stepped in to the void left by the first Barmy Army trumpeter, Billy Cooper - Shutterstock/Graham Hunt

Being sacked by Damon Albarn while preparing to play Wembley Stadium would be pretty galling for most session musicians but not for Barmy Army trumpeter Simon Finch.

“I was supposed to be doing Wembley Stadium but Damon had one of his more difficult days, shall we say, and decided to ditch the entire brass section at rehearsals, which looking back on it was a blessing because it clashed with the Ashes Headingley Test, the comeback Test. I think on balance Damon did me a favour,” Finch says.

From Blur to Bazball. Finch has played with some of music’s biggest names at the world’s most famous venues but is clear when asked what he enjoys more. Is it belting out tunes for England fans or playing on the pyramid stage at Glastonbury?

“The Barmy Army is where I get the most satisfaction. 100 per cent, it is off the scale,” he says. “The first time I did my live thing with the Barmy Army was the New Zealand Edgbaston Test. I never get nervous normally playing big gigs. But before my first Jerusalem I was the most nervous I had been since at school. But the enormous sense of pride I got from doing that first Jerusalem was off the scale. It was the greatest feeling ever when people said, ‘Nice one, Finchy’”.

Finch is a jazz, rock and soul trumpeter who has played since the age of 10, turned professional when he left music college and was recruited by the Barmy Army in 2021, replacing orchestral musician Billy Cooper.

Barmy Army trumpeter Simon Finch plays a tune during day two of the Second Test Match between New Zealand and England at Basin Reserve on February 25, 2023 in Wellington, New Zealand
Finch has been the trumpeter fro the Barmy Army since 2021 - Getty Images/Hagen Hopkins

He played with Florence and the Machine when they headlined Glastonbury in 2015, Blur’s world tour that year culminating in gigs at Madison Square Garden and the Hollywood Bowl, and was with Liam Gallagher’s post-Oasis band, Beady Eye, for two years. He has played as a session musician for Vampire Weekend, Eric Clapton, Paloma Faith, Tom Jones, Paul Weller and was in the horns section for Beyoncé at Royal Albert Hall. He provided the trumpet on Kanye West’s massive hit, All of the Lights, the royalties from which helped him get through the Covid period when musicians were unable to gig.

He says not many musical superstars are cricket fans, particularly Manchester City supporter Gallagher. “I got the p--- taken out of me when I was with Liam’s band. He got wind that I didn’t like football. That didn’t help. Then when we played at Glastonbury I was reading a book about the Ashes. Liam’s guitarist, Gem Archer, said, “What the f--- are you reading that s--- for’. They were taking the p--- out of me for being into cricket.”

Actors are different, as he found out on the set of Love Actually when he played the trumpet in the wedding scene at the start of the film. “I was sat behind Colin Firth for a couple of days in the pew in a church when we shot it in a small church in west London. For some reason one day he came back from lunch with a brand new red Dukes ball in his hand. He wanted to practise before opening the bowling for his local village team.”

There has been some bemusement from crowds in India to the Barmy Army. Finch’s wife is from India and it has helped that he knows some Bollywood tunes to bond with the local supporters. The Barmy Army are often a little misunderstood. They are almost all Test cricket supporters. You rarely see the Barmy Army at white-ball matches. The Barmy Army travel group is small in Ranchi, around 20, but with many more booked for the fifth Test in Dharamsala, swelling the local economy.

Colin Firth & Laura Linney in the Film Love Actually
Finch (left, back row) appeared in 2003's Love Actually

Some England fans not travelling with the Barmy Army - and there are several tour groups here - probably do not enjoy the noise, particularly some of the older supporters, but he says they have not had any incidents in the grounds on this trip.

“The role is to get the fans singing to inspire the team on the field. A good analogy is that I’m kind of the conductor and the fans are the orchestra. Hopefully that inspires the audience which is the team. I’ve been quite surprised by how few fans have heard of the Barmy Army in India but as each Test has gone on, the fans have become more warm to what we do and by the end of day two we get a lot of selfie requests, which has been fantastic. Some of the Indian fans have come and sat with us and said they are England fans for the rest of the Test, which gave me such a warm feeling.”

Finch fell in love with cricket watching the 1989 Ashes (not an easy series for England) and went to his first Test match at the Oval in 2003 when Alec Stewart played his final game. “I had to go home to Tooting, yes, a trumpeter who lives in Tooting, at the end of play to change for a gig that night at Chinawhite’s where I was playing in a latino band; you know, playing Guantanamero and all that. Anyway, some of the England players came in, my heroes. I couldn’t believe it. One of the group was a bit full on and starting saying, ‘Come on, mate, play the Red Hot Chili Peppers’. I was like, ‘Look at us, we have a trumpet, violin and acoustic guitar. Not exactly the Red Hot Chili Peppers’.”

Finch’s repertoire when playing for the Barmy Army represents a certain British humour. He plays the theme from Bullseye when a player or team reaches fifty, Entry of the Gladiators (the juggling song) if an opponent drops a catch and the theme to Only Fools and Horses because “we’re sat in the sun and only fools and horses are working”.

With the Barmy Army, Finch’s job is to entertain the crowd but he can also be there to manage situations, spotting when some might be a little bit too lairy and calming things down with a tune. “The job description is to be the good vibes man. If it means putting out a few fires here and there with crowds then so be it. I quite enjoy doing that because it does make people realise we are not too tribal. When you are on the road as a musician you are socialising with other musicians and stuff but now I’m in a group with people from all walks of life and we have one common love: cricket. It’s great.”