Birmingham Citadel Band Celebrates 120

500 people were at Adrian Boult Hall on 21 September 2013 to witness the celebration of the 120th anniversary of Birmingham Citadel Band (Bandmaster Gavin Lamplough). Salvationist and world-renowned trumpet virtuoso Philip Cobb supported the band, playing four solos, three of which were composed especially for him.

The festival began with William Gordon’s triumphant arrangement Laudes Domini, associated with the words, “When morning gilds the skies, my heart awakening cries, may Jesus Christ be praised!”

Guardian of My Soul is a piece which has become extremely popular in Salvation Army circles. Written by Darren Shaw of Southsea Corps, it fuses together the composer’s own reflective melody with the old hymn tune “Aurelia”, using the words:

Oh, let me hear Thee speaking, in accents clear and still,
Above the storms of passion, the murmurs of self-will;
Oh speak, and make me listen, Thou Guardian of my soul.

Shaw wrote this music as a reflection of a period in his life when there was uncertainty in his physical health. The band complemented this with some beautiful playing.

The band’s next piece was a world premiere of Skydance. Written by Martin Cordner and especially commissioned for this event, this is the last work in Cordner’s “Eternity” trilogy which includes Escape Velocity and Fusion. The piece is written around the American folk tune “Simple Gifts”, associated with words written by Sydney Carter in 1963:

Dance then wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
And I’ll lead you all wherever you may be,
And i’ll lead you all in the dance, said he.

The exciting ending of the piece celebrates the energy and exuberance that the composer believes will be represented in eternity.

Philip Cobb, principal trumpet of the London Symphony Orchestra presented Jubilance (William Himes). Published in 1994, this solo was originally composed for Peggy Thomas, principal cornet of the Chicago Staff Band. The solo quickly became popular because of its exuberant, fast-paced nature. Melodies such as “Because of You” and “If You Want Joy” are skilfully crafted into one by the composer. The middle section gives all Christians a message, as John 5:1 says, “These things I have spoken unto you, that my joy may remain within you, and that your joy may be full.” Cobb’s performance was exquisite and precise, showing off his professional talent.

The next piece of the evening, The Golden Pen, was written by Sheffield-born composer Wilfred Heaton. Although his music is now considered masterful, in the 1950s many believed that his ideas were too radical for the Salvation Army repertoire. After Heaton’s death in 2000, Paul Hindmarsh, a former member of Birmingham Citadel Band, found many unpublished works. A year later, the Williams Fairey Band premiered The Golden Pen. The simple words, “I put my finger upon the Golden Pen to write my name up there” are associated with the timeless melody.

Philip Cobb returned for his second item of the night, Interlude, by film composer Andrew Pearce. Cobb’s latest recording, Songs from the Heart, demonstrates many genres of music, and this brief but charming solo was played faultlessly as a reminder of the immense lyrical skills he possesses.

The first half of the celebration came to a close with the band’s moving rendition of Eric Ball’s masterpiece, Resurgam. This epic work, originally performed as the test piece for the Belle Vue contest in 1950, is considered by many as one of the greatest compositions of all time for brass band. The work depicts a Christian’s life and walks through the struggles that they may face, perhaps reflecting the struggles in the composer’s own life after breaking with the Salvation Army in 1946. The end of the piece resolves from the conflict and establishes tranquility, with the associated words, “I shall rise again” – the promise of eternal life from God.

After the second half resumed with a congregational song and Fill the World with Glory (Kevin Larsson), Philip Cobb played another solo, Variations on a Wondrous Day, by former Birmingham Citadel bandsman Paul Sharman. This work is based on the solo Wondrous Day, composed by Erik Leidzén for Cobb’s grandfather, Roland Cobb. The new version is a modern twist on the classic solo, and Cobb’s world-class skills were highlighted throughout as he demonstrated his expertise on flügelhorn and piccolo trumpet as well as the standard trumpet.

The next two items celebrated the tenures of former Birmingham Citadel bandmasters. Wesley Kendrick, who led the band 1983 – 1997, conducted Reflections in Nature (Robert Redhead). This was followed by David Nicholson, who took over from Kendrick and served as bandmaster 1997 – 2006, took the band through He Is Exalted (Martin Cordner).

Philip Cobb rejoined the band for his final solo of the night, another work by Paul Sharman, entitled Flourish. The energetic solo defined Cobb’s bravura as he treated the crowd to his flawless technique and flair before leaving the stage to rapturous applause.

The life of another former Birmingham Citadel bandmaster, the late Graham Lamplough, was celebrated with another premiere work, Everlasting Hope (Paul Sharman). Lamplough devoted his life to the Salvation Army before his death in 2011, and his favorite words, “Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,” are perfectly depicted in this peaceful setting. These words kept Lamplough’s faith strong during his brave battle against illness and were a perfect solace for him as he met his maker in Heaven.

Peter Graham is a well-known name in both the Salvation Army and the wider brass band world. The band’s final piece of the night, Renaissance, is a sequel to Graham’s ground-breaking Shine As the Light. Joy Webb’s song “Come into Our World” is heavily featured throughout the piece and the band delivered an assured performance. As the night drew to a close, the concert finished in the same triumphant way that it started, with a passion of praise – “My heart awakening cries, may Jesus Christ be praised!”

Birmingham Citadel Band web site, original report by Oliver Ridley, Sheffield Citadel Band