MSB Future Brass 2013

Future Brass 2013, sponsored by the Melbourne Staff Band (Bandmaster Ken Waterworth), was held at Phillip Island Adventure Resort on 16 – 18 August 2013. The resort, which is approximately two hours’ southeast of Melbourne, has been the venue for this event for the past four years, is an ideal location for more than 40 young Salvationist musicians from around Australia. This year there were delegates from Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, as well as all over Victoria, in attendance.

A cold winter Friday night greeted everyone as they arrived at the adventure resort, most making the 7:30 pm deadline to sign in and check in to rooms, with the first rehearsal scheduled for 8:30 pm. As usual for Future Brass weekend, two bands were formed, named for the two longest-serving bandmasters of the Melbourne Staff Band, Norman MacLeod and Colin Woods. The MacLeod Band was the more advanced group, with the Woods Band made up of those who had only been learning an instrument for a short time.

The MacLeod Band was under the direction of Staff Bandmaster Waterworth, while the Woods Band was led by John Collinson, a member of the Staff Band solo cornet section. Collinson has a thriving “Just Brass” program at South Barwon, with around 80 young musicians, so he was more than qualified for this duty. This year’s weekend saw a younger group overall, with many first-time attendees, but just as enthusiastic to learn alongside members of the Melbourne Staff Band.

After the Friday night rehearsals, a devotional time was led by Captain Craig Exon (Divisional Youth Secretary, Eastern Victoria Division), the guest speaker for the weekend. He spoke about the attitude brought to music-making and making sure that it comes from the heart. A right heart with God makes everything, including the music, mean so mich more and provides the right motivation. Captain Exon continued this theme throughout the weekend during devotional and worship times.

Saturday is traditionally a tough day on “the chops” with six hours of band rehearsal plus another hour of massed band rehearsal. It is a long day for seasoned musicians, so for the youngsters to get through it successfully shows quite remarkable effort. The only things separating the rehearsals are morning tea, lunch and dinner. A 90-minute free time session finally gave relief from the bandmasters’ drilling at 3:00 pm. Some of hte more daring made their way to the Giant Swing, while others played basketball or table tennis. Some couldn’t get enough music, in their pursuit to improve, and headed off for private practice and one-on-one tutoring by members of the Staff Band.

Once the sun had gone down and all the formalities were completed, it was time to let the hair down for some Saturday night fun. This took the form of a quiz night hosted by Mark Hamilton, who ran a tight ship. Everyone was spread out across eight tables, with a couple of wise heads from the Staff Band at each table to assist if required. All mobile phones were pounced upon if seen and instant dismissal from the competition was agreed upon for any cheating. There was a great mix and variety of different categories, including audio and visual questions, with a few “Who Am I’s” thrown in to keep everyone on their toes. At the end of the night, which team won did not matter, as it was evident that the evening was a great success and everyone had a chance to be involved. Night devotions were followed by a supper and a cup of tea before hitting the nest.

Sunday morning was “band-free”, with time spent in worship together and preparing for a busy afternoon. Under the leadership of Captain Exon, the worship was a time of fervent singing, sharing and praying.

The bus and truck were then packed, everyone made the trek up to Bass Coast Highway to Ringwood Corps for the afternoon Finale Concert. After a quick set up, there was a chance to work out the logistics for the afternoon, a sound check to iron out any last “creases” in the music and to get accustomed to the acoustics of the hall. This was followed enthusiastically by a pizza lunch before the start of the concert.

The Melbourne Staff Band kicked off the concert with three items. James Curnow’s well-known A Psalm of Praise was followed by two of the band’s soloists. John Collinson, returning to the band for his second stint, brilliantly played the cornet solo Song & Dance (Philip Sparke), its lyrical opening transitioning into a dance section which is lively and full of cross-rhythms, but still tonal, tuneful and very virtuosic. The second solo item was Martin Cordner’s new euphonium solo, Fearless, written especially for the Staff Band and performed by Jamie Smith. The middle section of this solo features the song “I’m In His Hands” using Phil Laeger’s new melody.

It wsa good to acknowledge the presence at the concert of the territorial leaders, Commissioners Floyd and Tracey Tidd and Lt.-Colonels Graeme and Karen Rigley.

The first of the Future Brass bands on the stage was the Colin Woods Band, under the baton of John Collinson. They brought four pieces of varying styles which they adapted to very well for such a young, inexperienced group. They started with the march Folkestone (Eilav Herikstad), changed gears with a devotional arrangement of Somebody Prayed (Dean Jones), presented All to Jesus (Eilav Herikstad) and concluded with the upbeat I’ve Got Peace Like a River (James Curnow). The appreciative audience responded with extended applause, which was a great encouragement to the youngsters.

After a quick stage change, the members of the Norman MacLeod Band took their seats for their performance under the baton of Staff Bandmaster Waterworth. The difficulty level of the music from this group was obviously higher, keeping players in every section on the edge of their seats. They opened with the 6/8 march Wonderful Day (Steven Ponsford), which was followed by the Eric Ball classic The Old Wells. This piece features exposed passages for every player, which was handled with aplomb. The third item was Thomas Rive’s hymn tune arrangement Colne and the band concluded with a flourish of tunes in Excelsior (Dudley Bright).

Another stage change was made and the massed band formed. The stage area was jammed with almost 80 players and a truck load of percussion equipment. The massed band presented Kenneth Downie’s arrangement of There Is a Redeemer, followed by a devotional message by Captain Exon. The afternoon concluded with the toe-tapping march God’s Children (William Himes).

This was the tenth year of the Future Brass initiative and continued its great success. The Melbourne Staff Band will continue to provide this tool to young Salvationist musicians to not only better themselves as players but, more importantly, as Christians back in their home corps and their every day walk.

Melbourne Staff Band, original report by Jamie Smith