Ministry Weekend in Greater Manchester

Their first “away weekend” of 2014, 1 – 2 March, saw the Birmingham Citadel Band (Bandmaster Gavin Lamplough) visit two towns in Greater Manchester. On Saturday evening, the band was delighted to be back in the beautiful hall at Sale and on Sunday the band made the short trip to Stockport.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

The band was pleased to see the hall full to capacity despite the band having visited less than a year before. For the concert, the band was joined by the Central North Youth Chorus, under the leadership of Lucy Lamplough. Lucy moved from Birmingham seven years’ prior to pursue studies at Manchester University. The Youth Chorus delighted the audience with a selection of songs, interspersed throughout the concert.

The band, playing a new program for the first time, started with Praise Him! (Stephen Bulla). This was followed by Neil Blessett (tenor horn), who filled the warm acoustic of the hall with a new solo, You Love Me (Paul Sharman). Blessett’s sonorous sounds soared over the band and this beautiful melody was appreciated by the audience. Next, the band changed the mood with the lively He Is Exalted (Martin Cordner).

Following a couple of songs from the Youth Chorus, the band featured another soloist, Deputy Bandmaster Mark Sharman, who played Song of Exuberance (Leslie Condon). Bandmaster Lamplough suggested in his introduction to this piece that it was included as a tribute to the composer, whose untimely passing was 30 years ago. Sharman delivered this revered solo with aplomb.

To conclude the first half, the band presented Edward Gregson’s epic Variations on Laudate Dominum. This piece, which was extremely popular when it was first published over thirty years ago, has been revised by the composer in recent years. It has become more challenging for the players and more substantial for the listeners. The addition of the extra material reveals more contemporary and sophisticated writing and this was well-received by the audience, as suggested by the prolonged applause.

The second half included lighter works such as Alan Fernie’s I Wish I Knew How It Felt to Be Free, where the contemporary tune associated with “Film Night” is blended with the much-loved hymn “Amazing Grace”. The featured soloist in the second half was principal euphonium David Taylor, who demonstrated his virtuosity in Air n’ Variations (Stephen Bulla). The extended applause and several bows taken by the soloist confirmed the appreciation of the audience.

The band continued with an item that was written for the 120th anniversary celebrations of the International Staff Band in 2011. Paul Sharman’s Everlasting Hope uses the music associated with the line “Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow’ from the hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”. This led to a time of reflection by David Richardson before the concert concluded with Renaissance (Peter Graham) and the band’s now-customary closer, The Liberator (George Marshall).

Sunday, 2 March 2014

On Sunday, the band led the services at Stockport Citadel. The Sunday morning service was guided by Band Sergeants Ian Kershaw and Rob O’Connor. Matthew Mynott challenged the congregation through his words. Led by Deputy Bandmaster Sharman, the band contributed Nicaea (William Himes) and Make Me a Channel of Your Peace.

The afternoon concert was very well-attended. The band started with High and Lifted Up (Steven Ponsford). Three soloists were featured; principal euphonium David Taylor plated Euphony (Robert Redhead); Andrew Dickinson (tenor horn) offered Rhapsody (Robert Eaves), which was originally written for soprano cornet; and Edward Dixon (tuba) brought a sense of fun to the afternoon with a comical, but expertly played, rendition of The Bare Necessities (Leigh Baker).

The weekend ended with two classics from the pen of Dean Goffin. First, the influential meditation The Light of the World, inspired by the famous painting by Holman Hunt. Over the course of the weekend, reminders were given of the impact that this music has had on so many lives. The final item was Goffin’s cleverly written variations Lift Up Your Heart, which demonstrates the composer’s artistry and ability to write wonderful melodic lines.

It was a fantastic weekend that, judging by the warm applause and the thanks expressed by Bandmaster Nigel Turner of Stockport, was enjoyed by both the musicians and the listeners.

Birmingham Citadel Band web site