The North York Temple Band (Bandmaster Glenn Barlow) took the stage at the Toronto Centre for the Performing Arts on Easter Saturday (3 April 2010) to present the annual “The Glory of Easter” concert. Joining the band this year were the Elmer Iseler Singers (Musical Director Dr. Lydia Adams), a 20-voice professional choral group founded by the late Dr. Elmer Iseler, the “Dean of Canadian Choral Conductors.”
The band, joined by the North York Junior Timbrel group, kicked off the proceedings with the sparkling march The Spirit of the Army (Norman Bearcroft). Following words of welcome from the Territorial Commander, Commissioner Bill Francis, Bandmaster Barlow led the band through the first movement of At the Edge of Time (Ray Steadman-Allen). This is vintage Steadman-Allen music, and topical for the season, as it features the hymn tune “St. Magnus”, associated with words by Thomas Kelly, “The head that once was crowned with thorns is crowned with Glory now.”
Next, the Elmer Iseler Singers presented Edward Gregson’s lovely setting of Before the Cross. Then, to the surprise of many, Commissioner Francis announced that Lt.-Col. Norman Bearcroft was in the audience. Bearcroft made his way to the stage, where he led the Singers in Lord of the Dance (arr. Ray Steadman-Allen), a song often featured by the International Staff Songsters when he was their leader.
Robert Venables is no stranger to the concert stage, and he thrilled the crowd with his performance of the cornet solo The Heavenly Light (Ivor Bosanko), which features the old Salvation Army song “Open and Let the Master In”, set in a theme-and-variations format.
The Singers then presented two contrasting songs. The first was an interesting arrangement by Lt.-Col. Bearcroft, setting the words of the Easter hymn “Christ is Ris’n from the Dead” to the tune “Scarborough Fair”. The second was the majestic Hallelujah Chorus, with the huge choral sound, produced by only 20 voices, much enjoyed by the appreciative audience.
To conclude the first half, the North York Temple Band gave an excellent reading of Martin Cordner’s major work Day of Freedom. The piece takes as its theme the contemporary worship song Midnight Cry, with references to “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” (Lobe den Herren) also evident in the music.
To begin the second half, Bandmaster Barlow returned to music by Martin Cordner, with the stately march Temple Visions, featuring “Lead On, O King Eternal” in the trio. The North York Singing Company (youth choir) provided a nice contrast as they presented There Is a Green Hill Far Away (Leonard Ballantine). The Elmer Iseler Singers followed with a beautiful setting of Wondrous Cross (Philip Wilby).
For its final contribution of the evening, the Temple Band performed Ray Steadman-Allen’s iconic work, The Holy War. Written 45 years ago for the Salvation Army’s centenary celebrations, the music is based on John Bunyan’s allegory of the same title. The work is designed to remind the listener of the never-ending struggle between good and evil, using as its central them Martin Luther’s famous Reformation Hymn. Even considering its age, the work is still a stern test for the best of bands, and under the confident and skillful direction of Bandmaster Barlow, the band came through with flying colors. It is of interest to note that the baritone solo in the central portion of the piece was played by Ken Rawlins, son of Colonel Ken Rawlins, who was present at the piece’s premiere by the International Staff Band in 1965.
To conclude the evening, the Elmer Iseler Singers presented a major choral work by Lt.-Col. Bearcroft, the three-movement suite, Above Every Name. The movements of the suite are as follows: (1) The opposition to Jesus, (2) A meditation on His death (“O come and look awhile on Him”) and (3) The dawn and triumph of Easter Day (“Look ye saints, the sight is glorious”). Following this, the Singers completed the concert with the lovely benediction The Lord Is Gracious (Darren Bartlett).
North York Temple Band web site, original report by Stan Ewing