Held this year on 9 October, the annual Expressions concert at Regent Hall is the brainchild of Bandmaster Steve Hanover. It heralds the start of the Brass Arts Festival, which complements the National Brass Band Championships. This year, guests for the evening were Majors Leonard and Heather Ballantine, and Charlie Green, vocal soloist.
Expressions is an unusual concept, with guest soloists and Regent Hall’s senior sections “pulling out the stops” with items comprising moments of deep devotion, sheer comedy, slick choreography and personal testimony, all blended into an evening aimed at those who may be attending a place of worship for the first time, regular church attendees, or lapsed church-goers.
Major Heather Ballantine interviewed Charlie Green. He explained how his singing career started, he sang before the Princess Royal at the age of eight and was a semi-finalist on the television show Britain’s Got Talent while only age eleven. Despite his great talent, Green remains an unassuming young man who describes himself as “a soldier of God” and is actively involved with the corps at Droitwich.
As always on these occasions, the geography of a Victorian building is exploited, with the cornets standing on both sides of the balcony for the thrilling opening item, Hail, the Risen Lord. They then joined the rest of the band on the platform for the next item, I’ll Stand for Christ. Then Deputy Bandmaster Paul Sharman conducted the band in his own composition, Exultate Deo, an intricate medley of praise songs.
In his first item, Charlie Green, accompanied by the band, put his own interpretation on the classic Now I Belong to Jesus. Later in the program, he contributed You’re Always There, a song written especially for him by the songster leader at Droitwich.
Regent Hall Songsters (Songster Leader Mark Walton) featured two compositions by Richard Phillips (who was present in the audience) during the evening. Their opening contribution was Sing for Joy and later they sang the brilliant Anastasis, which portrays the story of the Resurrection. The songsters have recently released a recording, Cantate, and during the program they sang the title track, Cantate Domino (Sing to the Lord).
In November 2013, the Regent Hall Band visited Brazil, and their uninhibited performance of Jubilo, Jubilo, complete with Mexican wave, enthusiastic reference to “I am H-A-P-P-Y”, and exuberant flügelhorn and cornet solos went down with the audience here as well as it did it São Paulo. Next, with the change in mood that is a feature of all Expressions concerts, the band played Leonard Ballantine’s soulful arrangement I Know Thou Art Mine, conducted by the composer.
The band’s major work for the night was Leslie Condon’s The Present Age. When this piece was composed in the 1960s, it was an incredibly futuristic piece, describing a young Salvationist’s attempts to continue witnessing in a modern world. The music contains a recurring theme of “I’ll follow Thee, of life the giver” constantly interrupted by discordant noise as the challenges of life stop the young man from achieving his aim. Eventually, he reaches maturity in Christ, depicted by a beautiful, peaceful arrangement of “It is well with my soul”. As always, Penny Babb guided the listener through the musical journey with a helpful multimedia presentation, reminding the listeners that this music is as relevant today as when it was composed over 50 years ago.
Far too quickly, the evening drew to a close. Charlie Green sang the benediction May the Lord Bless You and Keep You and then took a seat with the Regent Hall Band for a rousing rendition of Montreal Citadel.
Regent Hall Band web site, original report by Jan Ambrose
Photo Credit: Carys Hooper and Ann Stewart