Members of the Salvation Army Symphonic Wind Ensemble began to gather at 1:00 pm on 5 March 2011 at Reading Central for an evening concert. Some traveled considerable distances, demonstrating their commitment to the ensemble. After three hours of practice, they were ideally prepared to present an enjoyable and at times challenging performance.
Local arrangements for the event were undertaken by retired bandmaster David Mortlock, and, in his opening remarks, Andrew Mackereth, Musical Director of the ensemble, paid tribute to the organization which was so helpful in the groups settling in and preparing for the concert.
The Salvation Army Symphonic Wind Ensemble is made up of orchestral brass and woodwind instruments. The music presented included rousing arrangements of Salvation Army band items, such as Edward Gregson’s Variations on “Laudate Dominum”, as well as pieces written specifically for the ensemble. The audience proved to be both appreciative and sensitive, with the atmosphere created by the more reflective contributions acknowledged in silence, among them To Him Belong, written by a founding member of the ensemble, Alan Lakin, and On Eagles Wings by Rob Wiffin.
Michael Babb’s ten years of membership in the ensemble was recognized during the program, before he introduced his own composition written especially for the ensemble. Based on the song In Christ Alone, the work is entitled The Love and Power of Christ. The arrangement beautifully exploited the orchestral tones of French horns and woodwinds, not often heard in Salvation Army meetings. This performance was also appreciated in silence.
Maidenhead Songsters, under their leader, Graham Gray, supported the program and provided some sensitively performed contributions. Toward the end they contrasted with more robust numbers, Swinging with the Saints and Blessed Be the Lord (featuring Carol Gray as soloist).
The concert proved to be an admirable prelude to Self Denial Sunday at Reading Central. The leaders for this event were Majors Stephen and Heather Poxon from Territorial Headquarters. Major Stephen’s message on the Gospel of the second chance brought Mercy Seat responses. Major Heather used her experience of living in Africa to challenge the congregation to be generous, contrasting how little some Salvationists abroad have to exist, yet how fulsome they are in their praises to God.
Salvation Army Symphonic Wind Ensemble web site, original report by Patricia Bennett