Eric Ball Night at Maidstone

The South London Fellowship Band (Bandmaster Darrell Scholes) joined with the Medway Band (Musical Director Melvin White) at Maidstone Corps on 19 October 2013 for a concert celebrating the 110th anniversary of the birth of Eric Ball OBE (1903 – 1989).

The evening commenced with the Fellowship Band playing one of Ball’s most popular marches, Star Lake, to welcome the Medway Band as they took their place on the stage. Melvin White introduced each of the Medway Band’s items, providing the audience with an insight into both the music and his own background, which includes links to Eric Ball and to the Salvation Army at Chalk Farm Corps.

The Medway Band started their contribution to the concert with Torch of Freedom, giving the audience a taste of the fullness of sound they were to produce on this evening. This was followed by the final section of Ball’s arrangement of Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.

Principal cornet Elaine Williams presented Clear Skies with great precision and style. Melvin White introduced the next item, Hendon Humoresque, which was written in 1981 but never published. This piece features each section as a “solo” section at various times. The cornets and trombones were then featured in Quid Pro Quo, written in a style similar to that of the familiar double quartet Never Give Up.

A number of Eric Ball’s compositions have been used as test pieces at various brass band contests. The Medway Band’s next item represented these as they gave a spirited rendition of two movements from Tournament for Brass. The band’s final contribution, The Eternal Presence, is considered one of the most difficult pieces published by the Salvation Army and stretched their abilities to the full. A number of people were heard to say that this performance was the highlight of the evening.

Following the congregational hymn “Peace in Our Time”, the Fellowship Band began their part of the program with the march The Gospel Feast. This was followed by The Old Wells, showing the band’s ability to produce a wide range of tonal color.

Adrian Horwood presented the euphonium solo To a Wild Rose with his usual sensitivity. Following a Scripture reading and devotional thought from Stuart Gilbert, the band played the meditation Songs in Exile, showing an appreciation for the requirements of the music gleaned from the many years of banding represented by the members of the band.

The Fellowship Band’s final contribution for the evening was one of Ball’s later publications, Challenge and Response, which is rarely played because of the challenges it poses to each section of the band. The Fellowship Band gave a very creditable performance for its first presentation of this work.

The bands then combined to present the tone poem The Kingdom Triumphant, which reminds listeners of the Second Coming of Christ, ending with Charles Wesley’s words:

Lo! He comes with clouds descending,
Once for favored sinners slain;
Thousand, thousand saints attending,
Swell the triumph of His train;
Hallelujah! God appears on earth to reign.

This for many was another highlight of the evening, with both bands giving their all at the end of an enjoyable night.

Finally, the combined bands brought the evening to a rousing conclusion with Torchbearers.

South London Fellowship Band web site