On Thursday, 2 July 2009, Dr. Stephen Cobb conducted the Chelmsford Citadel Band rehearsal as a part of the band’s “At Home” evening series. The evening began with Dr. Cobb leading the Junior Band during their practice. After a short break, he was welcomed into the Senior Band fellowship. Dr. Simon Schultz, Bandmaster of Chelmsford Citadel Band, opened the rehearsal with words of welcome and then turned the baton over to the special guest for the evening.
Cobb became the bandmaster of the International Staff Band in 1994, ably following some of the Salvation Army’s most famous conductors. In this position and as the bandmaster of the Hendon Band (a position from which he recently retired after 29 years of service) he has achieved the highest standards of musicianship and musical ministry, providing an excellent model for the worldwide Salvation Army musical fellowship. Recordings, concerts and international tours by these two groups have received the highest critical praise and affirmation. Since his appointment, Cobb has led the ISB through an exciting period of innovation which has seen the band’s profile in the wider brass band movement raised significantly.
After playing a march as a “warm up”, Dudley Bright’s Paean was the first item of the rehearsal. Paean (meaning a triumphal or grateful song) was commissioned for the centenary of the Swiss Christian Music Association and provides challenging music for the performers while giving the listener a wide variety of themes and variations.
The band then sight-read a new composition by Kenneth Downie, In the Love of Jesus. The work features a very sensitive and compassionate approach to William Hammond’s well-known melody.
During the rehearsal, both the band and the listeners appreciated Cobb’s approach to the music and his ability to interpret the composer’s writing to get the best from the music. The rehearsal was led by a firm hand and the results were evident, but there were lighter moments, such as when the baritones were told to be subservient to the trombones.
Cobb also led the devotions for the evening and spoke about some of the difficulties he had adjusting to being a soldier at the Hendon Corps after he relinquished his position as bandmaster. This is a situation with which many Salvationist musicians can empathize, particularly after long periods of service. He went on the explain that he now has time to talk with many of the people who he did not have time to talk to before, and has recognized that there are persons of approximately 18 different nationalities attending meetings at Hendon. Also, he has become involved with the learners from the junior band.
“Make a Difference” was Cobb’s theme for the devotions, and he made reference to Chelmsford’s retired junior bandleader, Dave Hayward, and the difference he made to Nick Simmons-Smith, who is now serving as the Territorial Music Secretary in the USA Southern Territory. He also referenced Graham Rogers, formerly a bandsman at Hendon and then a soldier at Chelmsford until his recent Promotion to Glory. Rogers was principal trombone at Hendon during World War II, and at one time was listed as missing and presumed dead in the war. Cobb related how the Hendon Band were engaged in prayer for all of their members on active service when Rogers appeared in the rehearsal hall. He also related how his grandfather took on the responsibility of writing to each of these members every week, keeping them up to date with the Corps activities, and that he now has the originals of some 150 of these letters. The overwhelming thought that came through was that as musicians out contributions should always be meaningful and of such a standard as to “make a difference”, and they would be used by God.
Chelmsford Citadel Band web site, original report by A. Hampel