Staff Band in Florida

The New York Staff Band (Bandmaster Ronald Waiksnoris) spent a busy weekend in Florida, 19 – 22 November 2010, with a Friday evening concert at the First Baptist Church in Bradenton and the balance of the weekend at the Community Church of Vero Beach.

The First Baptist Church in Bradenton was full of enthusiastic listeners on Friday evening, many having travelled long distances to hear the Staff Band. The program commenced with Overture for Brass (Joseph Turrin), which set the tone for a program of high-caliber playing and enjoyable listening.

The first half of the program featured two soloists, both in fine form. Gordon Ward (cornet) played Blessings, written for him by David Catherwood, based on “Count Your Blessings” and “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”. This was followed by tenor horn soloist Art Henry, who played The Higher Plane (Stephen Bulla), a popular solo based on the well-known gospel song “Higher Ground”.

Former Staff Bandmaster Brian Bowen composed a piece titled Consecration for the Staff Band’s performance at Hendon Highlights in London, England in January 2010. It is based on the hymn tune “Hendon”, often associated with Francis Ridley Havergal’s familiar lyrics “Take my life and let it be”. The composer was present at the concert in Bradenton, and in a special moment was asked by Bandmaster Waiksnoris to conduct this item.

The first half of the program ended with the major work Metamorphosis, composed by Bandmaster Richard Phillips.

The second half commenced with an old favorite, The Redcliffe March (D. G. Hollis), followed by two more outstanding solo items. Andrew Garcia played Over the Rainbow (arr. Ray Farr) showing mastery of the flügelhorn with great tonal qualities. Robert Jones delighted the audience with his incredible percussion skills in Ol’ Man River (arr. Mark Freeh), which brought a standing ovation.

The Band Chorus, under the capable leadership of Dorothy Gates, contributed two items. The final piece on the program was William Gordon’s arrangement of excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s Finale from Symphony No. 4.

The Staff Band travelled on Saturday morning to spend the weekend at the Community Church of Vero Beach, where a magnificent new organ had just been installed. The afternoon was spent in rehearsal with the organist, Dr. Jose Daniel Flores. The acoustics in the sanctuary were excellent and the blend of brass band and organ was a great listening experience.

The Staff Band took part in two worship services with near-capacity attendance, contributing Almighty (Roger Trigg) and Consecration (Brian Bowen).

On Sunday evening the Staff Band played as a part of the church’s Community Concert Series. From the first item, Also Sprach Zarathrustra (Richard Strauss, arr. Peter Graham), known as the theme from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, to the final stanza of Eric Ball’s classic The Kingdom Triumphant, the audience was kept on the edge of their seats by some incredible playing. Soloists included Gordon Ward, Art Henry, Andrew Garcia and Ryan McCrudden (euphonium). Doug Berry also contributed a vocal solo, Feelin’ Good, arranged by the gifted Dorothy Gates.

Dr. Flores played Toccata from Symphony No. 5 in F minor by Charles-Marie Widor, showing the incredible range and sound from the monster organ. The Staff Band played Symphony of Thanksgiving (Dean Goffin) and really did “give to Jesus, glory”.

The highlight of the evening was the final item on the program, The Kingdom Triumphant, portraying the doctrine of the Second Advent of Christ at the end of this age. The Staff Band combined with the organ produced a transcendent sound, making it feel as if the listener were a part of the music. A great way to end a special weekend in Florida.

New York Staff Band web site, original report by Captain Brian Clark, NYSB public relations secretary.