Report by Dr. Sven Ljungholm
When promoting the visit of a brass band to a non-Salvation Army site, in this case, the Bethany Covenant Church, in Berlin, Connecticut, one has to look for a different marketing strategy than those traditionally used. The church is located in a small suburban community of Hartford, with a congregation numbering several hundred, with a large percentage having roots in Scandinavia. In fact, when asked during the Festival how many of the almost 600 gathered were of Swedish descent, more than 80% responded enthusiastically. Another interesting point is that the church was formerly named the Swedish Covenant Church. The crowd naturally included many Salvationists, including the musical forces of the Manchester Citadel Corps. The Stockholm South Citadel Band was marched onto the platform by the Manchester Citadel Band (Bandmaster Michael Orfitelli), with their Songster Brigade (Songster Leader Karen Krinjak) joining the host church's Sanctuary Choir (Minister of Music, Olga Ljungholm) in the program. Several members of the New England Brass Band, with their well know Musical Director, Douglas Yeo, were also in attendance, along with many members of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, all belonging to the church's brass choir.
The Festival opened with a lilting march, The Water of Life, written by Anders Beijer, a son of the regiment (The famous Stockholm VII Corps), being a 4th generation Salvationist, and grandson of legendary Bandmaster Erland Beijer. Anders' father, Sture, now playing bass trombone, was for many years the band's trombone soloist. The march has a unique Scandinavian character and is sure to become a favorite. The band played with a controlled gusto and one sensed the audience's desire to clap along with the band. Fortunately the enthusiasm was kept to a discreet toe tapping! Anders will be commissioned as a Salvation Army officer next month, and marrying a fellow officer. We hope that in his new appointment his schedule will allow free time for composing!
The band was fortunate to have traveling with them, vocal soloist Magnus Ahlström, from the neighboring Stockholm Vasa Corps. Magnus is a professionally trained opera singer and member of the famous Swedish Radio Choir. Rather than the typical presentation of national anthems, Magnus sang Sverige (Sweden) with Bandmaster Lars-Otto Ljungholm at the piano. As with so many well-planned modern day Salvation Army programs, the band included dramatic video scenes on a 40-foot elevated screen. A hush fell over the audience as Magnus and the video scene brought many in the congregation “back home”.
Ove Ericson, the band's principal cornet for more than four decades, followed with Terry Camsey's cornet solo, Life's Pageant. Ove has correctly been called one of the Army's finest cornet soloists. He plays with an apparent ease and unique style, one that a visiting cornetist termed; “controlled artistry!” In addition to being the band's cornet soloist, Ove has served as the Deputy Bandmaster for more than 30 years.
Then it was time for Magnus again, who sprang from the rear of the large sanctuary with a loud, “Figaro “, beginning the famous Cavatina from Rossini's The Barber of Seville, accompanied by the band. After several unsuccessful attempts to trim the locks of members of the back row cornets, Major Göran Larsson stepped forward as a willing sacrifice. Magnus sang and shaved with gusto as the Major put his hands to his neck and flinched at each nick! The band's playing was of a very high caliber and could well have served as a solo item.
The Overture from Joan of Arc followed, conducted by the arranger, Torgny Hanson, Bandmaster Emeritus of the band, and now comfortably settled in the 1st cornet section. Torgny admits that he “practices regularly in order to keep up!” Torgny's skills as a conductor are well known throughout Europe and the USA. We are fortunate that he, with other Salvation Army professional musicians, continues to serve in the organization that gave him his start. Torgny's father was Bandmaster of the Malmö Corps Band for many years. While still a child, Torgny was introduced by his father to Eric Ball and Erik Leidzén, no doubt sharing with him that both gentlemen remained true in their devotion to Salvation Army music making. The band responded with skill to Torgny's conducting and it was clear that this piece of music had been well rehearsed through a period of many months under his baton.
Richard Kendrick, voted the best brass soloist in Sweden just three years ago played the euphonium solo, Song of the Brother (Erik Leidzén). Again, another bandsman who grew up in the corps demonstrated technical skill combined with a classic euphonium sound. It's worth adding that the euphonium section of the band played consistently well throughout the Festival.
The first section of the concert concluded with Dean Goffin's My Strength, My Tower. This author recalls hearing the Stockholm VII Band first play this piece in the early 1960s, with none other than Ove Ericson playing the principal solo cornet parts, now more than 40 years ago.
Ray Farr's Intrada on “Ein Feste Burg” opened part two of the Festival with the cornets divided into three ensembles placed in various section of the sanctuary. It was a dramatic presentation, and very tightly played when considering how far distant they were stationed from each other. It was for many in the crowd the evening's highlight; presenting a classic hymn in such dramatic and powerful fashion.
The band's youngest soloist, Kalle Ljungholm, played Peter Graham's arrangement of Swedish Hymn, a tune which is well known with the words “How Great Thou Art”. Both the band and the church's magnificent organ accompanied the soloist offering with Olga Ljungholm at the console. Kalle is also a product of the corps being a 4th generation Salvationist. His grandfather was the Deputy Bandmaster for several years and his father, the band's euphonium soloist.
William Himes' arrangement of St. Francis (“All Creatures of our God and King”) was used as the congregational song.
The band played the classic Erik Leidzén meditation, The Call, with the words displayed on the screen for all to follow. Major Larsson followed with the Scripture reading and a devotional message. Major Larsson will be leaving the band shortly, following several decades of service, to take command of the Army's work in the country of Latvia. Perhaps one should not be surprised if Latvia is the band's next international destination.
Magnus brought yet another vocal solo, singing Dorothy Gates' arrangement of Trust in God. The piece demands considerable sensitivity and skill. Bandmaster Ljungholm accompanied the soloist at the piano, with Alexander Hanson conducting the band. Dorothy Gates has gifted us with a very fine arrangement of this well-known and beloved Swedish melody.
The combined chorus of the Manchester Citadel Songsters and the Bethany Sanctuary Choir joined with the band to present Crown Him with Many Crowns (arr. Charles Skinner). One wonders why this classic arrangement is not used more often? In this instance it was very timely as it was Easter weekend.
Majesty (Kenneth Downie) followed as the second major work of the evening. Again, the band displayed consistency in their controlled sonorous style. The selection was especially well received by the congregation.
The band, with vocal soloist Ahlström, brought the benediction as they sang, Lord, You Know That We Love You. Magnus, as he had done all evening, sang effortlessly, an emotive performance.
The band's encore item was Peter Graham's Dance to the Lord, well played with exuberance!
One must commend the Bandmaster and Band Board for their programming and the band and soloists for executing such a diverse program; something there for everyone by which to be blessed and thrilled!
Submitted by Dr. Sven Ljungholm