The Govan Band (Bandmaster Chic Ramsay) welcomed Bandmaster Dr. Howard J. Evans and euphonium soloist John Starkes, both of Boscombe Band, as special guests for Band Weekend, 27 – 29 May 2016. Dr. Evans is well-known in Salvation Army and wider brass circles as an outstanding conductor, trainer, pianist, and composer. Starkes is familiar with Govan, having attended the corps for several years prior to his relocation to Bournemouth.
Friday, 27 May 2016
The weekend commenced on Friday evening, 27 May 2016, with rehearsals for Starkes’ solo items for the weekend led by Bandmaster Evans. The works included Evans’ own arrangement of When He Cometh, There Will Be God (Joy Webb, arr. Richard Phillips), The Better World (Norman Bearcroft), and The Ransomed Host (Ray Steadman-Allen).
From the hymn tune warmup, it was immediately apparent that Evans’ high energy, intense, and demanding rehearsal was designed to maximize the benefit to the band. Also immediately apparent was his expertise is performance-shaping, not only demanding technical accuracy but also delivery of a polished and nuanced performance, focusing on clarity, articulation, and style. Special mention must be made of his understanding of The Ransomed Host, encouraging the band to fully engage with the contrasting styles and rhythms so skillfully employed by the composer.
Starkes was in excellent form, and showed no difficulty in coping with the demands of any of the solos, producing luscious warm sounds and showing an obvious awareness of the words associated with When He Cometh and There Will Be God. He was also totally in command of both of the other solos, with solid technical ability linked convincingly with a grasp of the changes of style required, particulary in The Ransomed Host. In The Better World, Starkes demonstrated fine, crisp articulation coupled with total control of the difficult intervals in the fast-flowing passages.
Saturday, 29 May 2016
Saturday began with devotions led by Band Sergeant Lt.-Col. Bob McIntyre, focused on Paul’s letter to the Galatians. The style was interacive, with McIntyre taking questions to support understanding on what each person can derive from God’s words.
This was followed by a 45-minute rehearsal time, with Bandmaster Evans leading the band through Edward Gregson’s wonderful Variations on “Laudate Dominum”. His energetic, high-temp style drove the band forward in addressing the numerous challenges presented by this music. He also passed on some useful thoughts on ways to approach rehearsals and performance technique. After lunch, futher work was done on Laudate Dominum, with additional rehearsal on Excelsior and Fire in the Blood (Paul Lovatt-Cooper), the latter new to the band’s repertoire.
Following the rehearsals, the band made its way to a nearby restaurant for a meal. The day’s exertions meant that the buffet provided was well-used!
Sunday, 30 May 2016
Bandmaster Evans’ thoughts for the Holiness Meeting were based on 1 Kings 19 and the Lord’s instructions to Elijah. The congregation was challenged to consider their response to the Lord’s command and to wait on the Lord in His time.
Govan Songsters (Songster Leader Matt Ramsay) sang Bow the Knee, with the band contributing In God’s Presence, a selection which includes the melody of that song. Guest euphonium soloist John Starkes presented There Will Be God, his full-voiced and thoughtful interpretation proving highly effective in in the context of the meeting. The congregation was also delighted to be supported by the Govan Young People’s Band (led by Adam Moore) and Singing Company (led by Elizabeth Hay).
The afternoon Festival of Praise opened with Kevin Larsson’s sparkling march Temple 125, with Bandmaster Evans bringing full measure to the dynamics. This was then contrasted with a subtly textured and understated presentation of Prelude on “Lavenhan”.
John Starkes contributed three solos to the afternoon: The Better World, When He Cometh, and The Ransomed Host. Starkes spoke very movingly of his reasons for wnating to perform The Ransomed Host. He also paid tribute to retired Govan bandmaster John Baillie, who was a huge encouragement when Starkes attended the corps, and had given Starkes the opportunity to work on, and play, the solo during a time when he was going through some complex personal challenges. Starkes showed himself to be in command of all of the technical challenges in the music and produced some lovely warm sounds at a very quiet dynamic, even in the very high register.
The rehearsal work on Variations on “Laudate Dominum” bore fruit with a fine performance. Bandmaster Evans’ direction brought a thrilling final reprise of the melody, associated with the words:
O measureless Might! Ineffable Love!
While angels delight to hymn thee above,
The humbler creation, though feeble their lays,
With true adoration shall sing to thy praise.
Howard Evans is a highly acclaimed musician, and this extends even further to his abilities at the piano. He contributed a wonderful interpretation of Schubert’s Impromptu in G. The beautifully shaped, flowing passages made light of the technical challenges. Such was the effect that the silence which followed the performances was by far the most effective appreciation.
John Starkes had been asked to give his testimony. He provided a very moving account of his journey from the threshold of being lost to where he is now – a fine Christian and Salvationist who is an inspiration to many. He chose to reaffirm his faith at the Mercy Seat, and did so surrounded and supported by many of the Govan Band members.
The afteroon was brught to a fitting close with the classic march Soldiers of Christ.
“Govan Band would like to place on record our thanks to John Starkes and Bandmaster Howard Evans. John is well known to us at Govan – and it was an absolute delight to have him with us for this weekend. He provided music of the highest standard, and, more importantly, gave a testimony which inspired us all. Howard’s musical abilities are acknowledged across the Army world and further afield. His direction proved inspirational, and we are better Salvationist musicians for his visit.
– Colin McFarlane
Submitted by Colin McFarlane
Photo by Hannah McMillan