Birmingham Citadel Band 125th Anniversary Gala

The Ruddick Arts Centre, Edgbaston was the venue for the commencement of Birmingham Citadel Band’s 125th Anniversary celebrations on Saturday, 22 September 2018. A weekend which, as it progressed, conjured up many happy memories of the band’s consistent ministry in Birmingham and further afield over the years.

The opportunity to reminisce and to “shake hands” with old faces was used to full advantage as members of the band, past and present, met up prior to getting to work in a rehearsal. Welcomed by current Bandmaster Gavin Lamplough, the group commenced its fellowship together in prayer, the bandmaster reminding all of the true purpose that has been the band’s objective throughout the years – that of sharing the Gospel message through music-making.

For some, this was the first opportunity in a number of months (or perhaps even years) to get behind the mouthpiece. Throughout the next two hours, the group was carefully and thoroughly guided through some of the music that over the years, under various leaders, had been very much part of the band’s repertoire.

For the first part of the evening program, the returning band members joined the audience. The band was thrilled to welcome back one of their own, Paul Sharman, now bandmaster of Regent Hall Band, as compère. He provided able guidance through the program, introducing music very much part of the band’s current repertoire. Very well-received soloists from around the band were also featured. The first half ended with The Present Age (Leslie Condon), music that has challenged Birmingham Citadel Band both musically and spiritually over the years. This set the scene for what was to come in the second half.

With the band now reinforced by the returning members, the second half featured representative repertoire from the past six decades. The opening march, Birmingham Citadel was a salute to the composer, Bandmaster Bert Langworthy. Sound Out the Proclamation (Eric Ball) was just the briefest recognition of Bandmaster Bram Williams’ 27 years of faithful leadership. Poem (Z. Fibich, arr. Ray Steadman-Allen) and Let There Be Praise (Dick and Melody Tunney, arr. Barrie Gott) were the band’s sincere “thank you” to Wesley Kendrick and David Nicholson for their leadership from 1983 through 1997.

Bandmaster Sharman then took the baton for the next segment of the concert, presenting his own Psalm of Thanks, commissioned by Bandmaster Graham Lamplough in 2008 for the Birmingham Citadel Band. Very fittingly, this was followed by Sharman’s Everlasting Hope, written in memory of Graham, who sadly passed away in 2011.

During the evening, a video compilation featuring a number of former members, unable to attend, presented their special memories of being part of the band over the years.

Eric Ball’s majestic tone poem The Triumph of Peace has been featured and enjoyed in the band’s programs for many years, possibly in each of the past six decades, and in the final segment of the concert, came back so refreshingly vibrant.

Stephen Bradnum’s beautiful arrangement of The Irish Blessing, so poignant to the current personnel of the band, but with sentiments shared by all present, brought the evening to a fitting conclusion.

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

The celebrations continued into Sunday with Major Adrian Allman leading worship. For the former members of the band who remained for the day, the open air and march back to the Citadel no doubt stirred many more memories of their service, perhaps, for some, back in the old Bull Ring days. To conclude a wonderful weekend the opportunity to further share memories with old friends was made possible as lunch was enjoyed together.

Birmingham Citadel Band, original report by Keith Watts
Photos by Graham Daff