The Solent Fellowship Band (Bandmaster John Bird), having taken up Stephen Maw’s invitation to bands to play at one of his proposed series of Friday Bandstand concerts at Regent Hall, traveled to central London on Friday, 4 October 2013. The Fellowship Band found itself in the enviable, privileged and challenging position of being the first band to take the stage in the series. They therefore set the benchmark of performance but also captured the essence of the Salvation Army’s traditional brass band music-making. This, perhaps, is no longer in widespread evidence, but it is very much in Maw’s mind to resuscitate it in the 21st century.
The Friday Bandstand series gives bands an opportunity to present substantial Salvation Army repertoire, and the printed programs include associated words for the selections, making the music more accessible for the audience.
The Fellowship Band’s program was structured around the music of Eric Ball, with Constant Trust, published in 1940, as the musical centerpiece. Written during the uncertain days at the beginning of the war, this finely crafted and inspired composition reveals Ball’s own faith and trust that “The storm that I fear may surround me, but it ne’er excludes His face” and “Trusting as the days go by, trusting Him whate’er befalls.”
The band kicked off the evening with the march South Coast, composed by the Fellowship Band’s principal cornet, Martyn Thomas. The first of the Eric Ball selections was next, Begin the Day with God, which is the middle movement of the suite Songs in the Morning. Following a congregational song, the band performed Procession to Covenant (William Himes).
Martyn Thomas gave recognition to the contribution made to Salvation Army banding by Regent Hall’s former bandmaster, the late Bert Twitchin, playing Twitchin’s cornet solo Silver Threads. This was followed by Constant Trust.
Two more soloists were then featured. Callam Carter (tenor horn) played the Rondo from Mozart’s fourth horn concerto. Accompanied by David Samuels at the piano, Adrian Griffiths sang He Took My Place (Vernon Post).
David Samuels, the Fellowship Band’s associate conductor, then took the baton for perhaps the most challenging item in the first half, the meditation My Comfort and Strength (Brian Bowen). A toe-tapping classic march, Soldiers of Christ (George Marshall) ended the first half of the concert.
The band brought the audience back from the interval with Praise Party (Steven Ponsford), which was followed by a rousing congregational rendition of How Great Thou Art. Keeping with the Friday Bandstand spirit, the band offered Philip Catelinet’s air-varie A Sunbeam, published in 1937, and described by Bandmaster Bird as possibly the first “fun” piece published by the Salvation Army.
The trombone section was featured next, with the feature From That Sacred Hill (Dick Krommenhoek). They then formed the accompaniment for the band as they sang When Jesus Looked o’er Galilee (Catherine Baird/Ernest Fewster).
The band’s song led in to the Scripture reading, offered by the band sergeant, Major Derek Smith. The devotional mood was continued with The Light of the World (Dean Goffin).
As the evening drew to a close, the Fellowship Band offered another movement from a suite by Eric Ball as a benediction, God Be in My Head from The Pilgrim Way. The audience was sent on its way with the final item from the band, the famous finale of Rossini’s overture William Tell.