Birmingham Citadel Band at Cardiff Canton

On 30 – 31 October 2010, the Birmingham Citadel Band (Bandmaster Graham Lamplough) enjoyed a fantastic weekend in Cardiff with the corps at Cardiff Canton. A weekend of great music, lots of fun and inspiring spiritual moments was enjoyed by large congregations. Many commented that it was the best that they had heard Birmingham Citadel play – high praise indeed for a corps band who always strive to maintain the highest musical and spiritual standards.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Following a good weekend in April 2010 when the Cardiff Canton Band visited Birmingham Citadel (news item), it was with an air of expectancy that the Birmingham band embarked on the return visit to Wales.

With the weather cold and wet outside, a warm welcome and a packed hall greeted the band as they took their places on the platform and around the hall for the opening piece of the weekend – Martin Cordner’s exciting Fanfares and Flourishes. With the applause still reverberating around the room, a quieter mood was introduced with The Lord Is Gracious (Darren Bartlett, arr. Olaf Ritman).

Following an opening prayer and introductions, the band picked up the pace again with Spirit of Joy (Herbert Rive), the title track from their latest recording.

The first soloist of the evening was principal cornet Gavin Lamplough, who expertly played Eric Ball’s classic Clear Skies, in its original form which the Salvation Army had considered “too difficult” when it was sent for publication in the 1960s.

Another Salvation Army classic followed, Commissioner Sir Dean Goffin’s rhapsodic variations My Strength, My Tower. Original composed as a contest test-piece, the band showed that it was more than up to the task by producing an accomplished performance – a credit to the training and preparation of the band by Bandmaster Lamplough.

A pause for thought followed, with the Cardiff Canton Songsters (Songster Leader Christine Saunders) providing two songs in contrast, words of Scripture read by Ian Kershaw and the band’s offering of His Provision (arr. Ivor Bosanko). The first half concluded with Andrew Mackereth’s tribute to the Household Troops Band, Trailblazers.

The second half opened with Three Kings Swing (William Himes) followed by Andrew Blyth’s arrangement of Shine Down.

A rousing rendition of “O God of Burning, Cleansing Flame” by the Welsh congregation preceded the introduction of the second soloist of the evening. Principal euphonium David Taylor chose to play Peter Graham’s Brillante, a fantasy on “Rule, Britannia” with a hint of the well-know Welsh tune “Men of Harlech” in a minor key in the middle section. The performance was in keeping with the title – absolutely brilliant.

Music from film scores now followed. The trombone section performed I Will Follow Him (arr. Goff Richards). Neil Blessett, principal horn, played Over the Rainbow (arr. Goff Richards) with great sensitivity. The band offered Crimson Tide (Hans Zimmer, arr. Klaas van der Woude), which featured the hymn tune “Melita”, often associated with the words “Eternal Father, strong to save”. This section of the program was completed by the final soloist of the evening, Edward Dixon, who competently played the Eb bass solo The Bare Necessities in spite of chaotic attempts to sabotage his big moment by the rest of the band.

The final piece of the evening was Steven Ponsford’s Kerygma, which uses a mixture of contemporary worship songs and more traditional songs to focus on the Easter story. Stephen Bradnum’s superb setting of The Irish Blessing brought the evening of music to a fitting, and for some, emotional, conclusion.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

4:00 pm on Sunday saw the Birmingham Citadel Band start the final praise and salvation meeting bringing an excellent weekend to a close.

The band continued to mix traditional and contemporary music in a program that was punctuated with some excellent congregational singing (no surprise in Wales!). The Cardiff Canton Songsters also participated in the program.

The band’s Christian message was emphasized with the aid of drama and some thought-provoking words from Robert O’Connor. This was backed up, as throughout the weekend, by thoughtful use of audio-visual presentations by Malcolm Hayward.

The band’s opening item was a crisp rendition of the festival march The Ambassadors (Peter Graham). The first of the afternoon’s two soloists was Deputy Bandmaster Mark Sharman, whose interpretation of A Never-Failing Friend (Erik Leidzén) was very well-received.

The classics were visited when the band played Slavonic Dance No. 6, excerpted from the classic transcription Melodies of Dvorak. This was followed by Kenneth Downie’s Stars of the Morning, which includes the tune associated with the words of the song “When He Cometh”.

Robert Hayward, the second soloist of the afternoon, completely changed the mood. He showed his dexterity and versatility with the xylophone solo Liszteria (Sandy Smith), originally written for two players. He also included an injection of humor as he “wound up” the bandmaster.

There was no more fitting piece to conclude the weekend’s programmed items than Eric Ball’s timeless Songs of the Morning. The congregation were then sent on their way, clapping and singing along with the band as they signed off with Motondo (Donald Osgood). A splendid way to end a tremendous weekend.

Birmingham Citadel Band web site. Original report (Saturday) by Andrew Clampton. Original report (Sunday) by David Richardson.