New York State of Mind

The National Capital Band, based in Washington, DC, spent the last weekend of February in the Greater New York Division, with performances at the Centennial Memorial Temple, Templo de Queens, and Hempstead Citadel Corps. This was the first trip for the band away from its home division since Bandmaster James Anderson took the baton in May 2004. The trip was organized at the invitation of the Music Director for the Greater New York Division, Bandmaster Gordon Ward, assisted by Doug Berry, Chris Ward, and Raymond Livingston.

The weekend began with some anxiety, as the US East Coast was blanketed with snow on Thursday, 24 February. Undaunted by the weather, the band gathered at the Prince George’s Corps in suburban Maryland on the morning of Friday, 25 February for the five-hour journey to New York City. Despite the less-than-ideal weather conditions, a crowd estimated at 500 persons gathered at the Salvation Army’s Centennial Memorial Temple in Manhattan for the band’s performance on Friday night, a part of the long-running Friday Evening at the Temple series of meetings. During the dinner that preceded the event, the band was informed that its principal trombone, Stephen Bulla, who had not traveled with the rest of the group because of work commitments, was delayed in transit and would possibly miss the entire concert. Fortunately, a former occupant of the principal trombone position in the NCB, Dorothy Gates, now a member of the New York Staff Band, was available to substitute until Bulla arrived during the concert.

Bandmaster Anderson chose a classic march, Minneapolis IV (Emil Soderstrom) to begin the festival. This was followed by an opportunity for audience participation, as the band played Gordon Langford’s arrangement of Onward, Christian Soldiers with the crowd singing along. Three special features were presented, beginning with Major Tony Barrington, who played the old favorite euphonium solo Ransomed (George Marshall). This was followed by They Could Not (Harris/Cloninger, arr. Brian Bowen), a vocal solo sung by Deborah Bearchell, accompanied by the band and Christina Anderson on piano. The vocal solo was framed by a dramatic Scripture presentation by the GNY*Arts ensemble. The last of the three features was Peter Graham’s duet Quicksilver, deftly performed by Noel Morris on Eb soprano cornet and Ian Anderson on Bb cornet.

The audience was again invited to join in singing, this time the contemporary worship song Come Into His Presence (Lynn Baird, arr. Ray Steadman-Allen). In between verses of the song, two members of the band gave personal testimonies. The band then presented another work by Peter Graham, the exciting Dance Before the Lord. Following a short devotional by the band’s Executive Officer, Major Todd Smith, and an explanation by Bandmaster Anderson, the band then presented the major work of the evening, the bandmaster’s own composition, The Words of the Amen. Based on a passage from the Book of Revelation, this extended piece features a narration, dramatically given during this concert by Major Ken Wilson.

The concert closed with another congregational song, O Boundless Salvation (arr. William Himes). As a postlude, the band played another classic Salvation Army march, On the King’s Highway, written by Erik Leidzén, a composer strongly associated with the New York area who was also the first leader of the National Capital Band in 1925.

After spending Friday night billeted with members of the Hempstead Citadel Corps or at the Lodge at Star Lake, the members of the band again gathered at the Centennial Memorial Temple on Saturday morning. The majority of the band was taken on a tour past the site of the World Trade Center, to Battery Park, a ride past the Statue of Liberty on the Staten Island Ferry, and then to Central Park South, where they enjoyed a couple of hours of free time. Meeting back again at the Temple, the band then traveled across the East River to the borough of Queens, where the second concert of the tour was held at the Templo de Queens, a Hispanic Salvation Army corps.

The Saturday evening concert began with a display of sacred dance and some enthusiastic singing accompanied by a small contemporary ensemble from Templo de Queens. As on Friday evening, the band’s program began with Minneapolis IV and O Boundless Salvation. This was followed by the big-band style Greater Things (Olaf Ritman) and Major Barrington again playing Ransomed. Following personal testimonies, the band then played the major work for the first half of the program, A Psalm of Praise (James Curnow). This was followed by William Himes’ light-hearted arrangement of Bringing in the Sheaves, immediately before an intermission.

The capacity crowd, which was loudly enthusiastic throughout the concert, showed their approval of the band’s performance during the intermission by buying nearly every recording that the band had brought with them, nearly swamping the table in the process. The second half of the band’s program began with Stephen Bulla’s Armed Forces Salute, a medley featuring the songs associated with the five branches of the US military. This was followed by the cornet duet Quicksilver, the vocal solo They Could Not, and the festival arrangment Dance Before the Lord.

Percussionist Bernie Dake was chosen to give the devotional thought for the evening, as he is fluent in Spanish. After an amusing conversation with the interpreter who had been translating the entire evening, he gave a well-received talk entirely in Spanish, followed by the band presenting Erik Leidzén’s arrangement of the familiar song What a Friend We Have in Jesus. The final work of the evening was another James Curnow arrangement, Fanfare Prelude on "Lobe den Herren".

On Sunday, the band conducted the Holiness Meeting at the Hempstead Citadel Corps. Several members of the National Capital Band have close ties to this corps. The band conducted the entire meeting, including the message brought by Executive Officer Major Todd Smith, prayer by Band Chaplain Joe DeMato, personal testimonies by Captain Michael Harris and Megan Hartley, and Scripture reading by Ian James Anderson. Musical selections by the band included Fanfare Prelude on "Lobe den Herren" (James Curnow), Reverie (Kenneth Downie), and I’d Rather Have Jesus (William Himes), featuring cornet soloist Ian Anderson. Other solo contributions included vocalist Deborah Bearchell singing They Could Not and a piano offertory played by Stephen Bulla. A reverent and spiritual attitude was evident throughout the service, which was attended by a capacity congregation.

Following the meeting, the band was treated to lunch in the corps gymnasium, and then departed on the journey back to Washington. All agreed that this campaign was one of the best for the band in the past several years, and served as a fitting start to the bands 80th continuous year of service.

Source: Brass Crest Staff Report