Gadsden Band Centenary with South London Fellowship Band

Two brothers once again shared a stage as they both celebrate the centenary of their family band. This unique opportunity was made possible by the South London Fellowship Band (Bandmaster Major George Whittingham) agreeing to share the platform with members of the Gadsden Band during their most recent concert at the Addison Centre in Kempston Bedford on 16 October 2010.

The brothers Roger Gadsden (solo horn, South London Fellowship Band) and Stephen Gadsden (euphonium, Gadsden Band) started their musical careers with the family band in the mid-1960s, being grandsons of one of the founding members of the Gadsden Band. Having shared the stage with many prolific conductors and players over a number of years, it was great that they could be on the same stage again, this time with other members of their family and band members.

The Fellowship Band started their program with a march, The Champions (Major G. H. Wilcocks). The band was tightly packed onto the stage and despite Major Whittingham working in an even more confined space the concert got off to a great start. The next piece was Michael Kenyon’s arrangement of Mozart’s overture to The Magic Flute. This certainly demonstrated the technical ability of the band with all sections not letting their conductor down.

The audience was then treated to a showcase of instrumentalists taking the stage to perform individual pieces. First was cornet soloist Keith Johnston with his rendition of Share My Yoke (Joy Webb, arr. Ivor Bosanko). A beautiful sound and interpretation of this piece, with a wonderful accompaniment from the Fellowship Band. Johnston was followed by three of his fellow cornet players, Malcolm Shelton, Eric Rapp and Brian Hillyer, who presented the venerable cornet trio The Veterans (Ray Steadman-Allen). Once again, the band’s accompaniment gave the soloists a great opportunity to show off their skills. How fortunate Major Whittingham is to have such an array of talent in front of him.

Next was the turn of the Fellowship Band’s solo horn, Roger Gadsden, who performed the Rondo from Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 4 (arr. N. Kimberley). The final instruments to be showcased in this part of the program were the trombones, John Spicer, Stan Richardson, Maurice Horwood and Roy Horscroft. They took over the spotlight and played Norman Bearcroft’s arrangement of Over the Rainbow, giving a great rendition of this piece, the arranger would have been well pleased.

The final piece for the first half of the program was Jubilation (James Curnow). This brought this portion of the concert to a fitting conclusion, with the piece featuring various spirituals and paving the way for Anthony Hall.

Anthony Hall works for Release International, the charity for which the concert was arranged. Hall (also a grandson of one of the founders of the Gadsden Band) gave a short insight into the work of Release International. He followed this by reading a passage from Ephesians and finished with a prayer focusing on the work of the Salvation Army in Pakistan.

The second half got off to a great start with Bandology (Eric Osterling, arr. Frank Wright). This was followed by Hymns of Praise (Goff Richards). Like all of the previous pieces, the Fellowship Band displayed everything that is good about this composition.

Giving the band a rest from playing, the next two pieces featured the band’s ability to perform as a male voice choir. The first item, sung a capella, was Were You There? The second piece, with a few members of the band accompanying the choir, was God’s Love to Me Is Wonderful, these two offerings being fully appreciated by the audience.

The final piece performed by the South London Fellowship Band before being joined by members of the Gadsden Band was Eric Ball’s The Kingdom Triumphant.

Eight members of the Gadsden Band, Colin Cook (soprano cornet), Sally-Ann Eburn-Knowles (solo cornet), Elizabeth Gadsden (repiano cornet), Suzannah Gadsden (flügelhorn), Andrea Deane (solo horn), Reg Dilley (baritone), Rhys Champion and Stephen Gadsden (euphonium), joined the Fellowship Band on stage. During an earlier rehearsal, the Fellowship Band had made these players most welcome and it was no different during the concert.

With all of the players even more tightly packed onto the stage, all was set for a historic occasion in the 100-year history of the Gadsden Band. Major whittingham was ready to conduct the first piece; together they played Seventy-Six Trombones (Meredith Willson, arr. W. J. Dulhoit). This was well-received by the audience. Once the applause had died down it was time for the final item of the concert, and how fitting it should be Goff Richards’ fine arrangement of I’ll Walk with God. Back in 1910 the Gadsden Band was formed by four brothers who shared their musical gifts by providing accompaniment for hymn singing in many churches and to this day that remains. They walked with God back then and through the past 100 years many members of the band and the family have continued on that path, even to the present day.

The audience didn’t want the concert to end there, so the massed band played Bandology together as an encore. Major Whittingham, having conducted throughout the evening, decided it was time to relinquish the podium and take safe refuge in the audience, so the group finished the piece without him.

Bandology did end the concert; a time of great joy and fellowship was had by all. New friendships were formed and the day will last long in the memories of all of those who took part. All of the participants pray that the concert brought great joy to those who attended and that for some they will work closer with God and for some that they may have started that walk with God.

South London Fellowship Band web site, original report by Stephen Gadsden, Secretary, Gadsden Band