Twentieth Annual Concert at West Wickham

The annual program at Emmanuel United Reformed Church, West Wickham, by the South London Fellowship Band (Bandmaster Darrell Scholes) is always an occasion looked forward to – by the band, members of the church and by the many friends of the band. This year’s concert was held on Friday, 13 March 2015, with guest cornet soloist Ryan Coates from Croydon Citadel and guest vocalists, the Atkinson Sisters.

The Fellowship Band lost no time at the beginning of the program, plunging straight into the march The Golden West (Percy Merritt) followed by the suite On the Road (Howard Davies). At the conclusion of the cornet solo Share My Yoke (Joy Webb, arr. Ivor Bosanko), Phil Edwards invited all to join him in prayer, “... as the cornet melody lingers ...’ to “... celebrate our togetherness here in this beautiful church.”

When the band gathered before the program, they were told that it was the band’s nineteenth visit to this church. But, when they were formally welcomed, it was stated that it was the eighteenth visit. Later, the Fellowship Band’s founder, Major George Whittingham, after he had been given a resounding welcome, was able to set the record straight: “In 1995 we did our first concert here ... tonight is the twentieth anniversary.”

In introducing the guest instrumental soloist, Ryan Coates, Bandmaster Scholes mentioned that Coates is a fifth-generation Salvationist, currently studying music at the University of Salford. Coates chose two challenging solos, published nearly fifty years apart, for the evening. First, from the mid-1970s, Life’s Pageant (Terry Camsey). Second, Erik Leidzén’s classic A Happy Day, which, as is printed on the music, won “1st prize Theme and Variations Band Music Contest 1926”. Both solos were marked by extended applause, demonstrating how much Coates’ skills were appreciated.

The guest vocalists were the Atkinson Sisters – Eunice, Miriam, Rhoda and Ruth. All active songsters in their home corps, the Sisters began singing together as a group some thirty years ago. Their parents, Majors Raymond and Mavis Atkinson, were present in the audience. Accompanied by Maggie Hicks, the Sisters brought six varied items with great enthusiasm. They started with Proclaim the Glory of the Lord (Liles/Borop), God’s Love to Me Is Wonderful (Cox/Krommenhoek) and John Rutter’s well-loved arrangement of For the Beauty of the Earth. More reflectively, they offered He Giveth More Grace (Flint/Mitchell, arr. Holck) and Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross (Crosby/Werner), the latter sung a capella. Their second set ended on a joyous note, with Three Sally Army Girls, with words by General John Gowans and music borrowed from The Mikado (Sir Arthur Sullivan).

Leonard Ballantine’s arrangement of the tune “Shenandoah”, ’Mid All the Traffic, preceded the band’s major contribution to the program, Ray Steadman-Allen’s Melodies of Dvořák. Published in 1964, this item has long been a favorite of both bands and audiences, featuring the Czech composer’s distinctive, bright music. Just before the interval, a collection was taken, with proceeds going to outreach work with children. It was later announced that £450 had been raised.

Following the interval, the band sruck up Yellow Submarine (Lennon/McCartney, arr. Alan Fernie), which is structured like one of the “patrols” favored by bands of an earlier era. With everyone settled down for the second half, the band and audience joined together in Thomas Chisholm’s great hymn of affirmation, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”.

Moments of reflection featured all of the soloists. The Atkinson Sisters sang, with band accompaniment, Bring Him Home from Les Misérables (Boublil/Schönberg, arr. Babb). Ryan Coates took up a flügelhorn to play The Seal Lullaby (Whitacre, arr. Sharman). Reading from Luke 4, Bev Hudson told those present that Lent is a time for “spring cleaning” our lives – all are called to slow down and listen to the voice of God. She then introduced Make Me a Channel of Your Peace (Ray Maycock).

The Fellowship Band’s last item was Music-Maker (Peter Graham). Published in 1989, this selection features four of the melodies of General John Larsson, guaranteed to send everyone home with a spring in their step. Following a spoken benediction, the band played God Be with You (William Gordon), so ending the Fellowship Band’s visit to West Wickham for another year.

South London Fellowship Band web site, original report by John Clarke