Premier Brass 2011

On Saturday, 26 March 2011, the Amsterdam Staff Band (Bandmaster Olaf Ritman) was in the Brabant town of Terheijden for the annual Premier Brass concert. Each year, the Staff Band invites a non-Salvation Army band for a joint concert. In recent years, several top bands such as Soli Brass, The Waldsang, Schoonhoven Brass Band and Brass Band Rijnmond, among others, have made music with the Staff Band. For 2011, the Altena Brass Brabant was invited.

Early in the afternoon, the Staff Band gathered for an extensive sound check in a room in which it appeared somewhat difficult, to say the least, to perform. A dry acoustic would demand the most from the musical skills of the bands. Even so, during the sound check some items were immediately recorded for later transfer to a live recording. Although the attendance from the public was a bit disappointing, the atmosphere between the audience and the performers and between the bands was excellent.

The Amsterdam Staff Band got the ball rolling with an exciting and mixed repertoire. The opening item was a new work by Dean Jones, one of the bright young Salvationist composers from England, entitled A Prelude of Praise. This immediately put down a good impression of the band. A little-heard item by Swedish-American composer Erik Leidzén, A Secret Prayer, subdued but musically superb, followed. The smooth swing of In His Joyful Service (William Broughton) was a wonderful contrast to this and was obviously popular with the audience.

Bandmaster Ritman wrote the beautiful euphonium solo By His Throne for Michel Rosenquist, for some years the principal euphonium of the Amsterdam Staff Band. Rosenquist begins the solo unaccompanied, and sections of the band gradually join in the accompaniment. An excellent presentation, combined with a warm sound, hushed the audience – you could hear a pin drop during this performance.

If you ask genuine music enthusiasts for their favorite Salvation Army work, there is a strong possibility that Leslie Condon’s The Present Age will top the list. With this wonderful work, a classic of Salvation Army brass band literature, the Staff Band’s portion of the program concluded.

A quick exchange of chairs and Altena Brass was in the starting blocks ready to begin. The first notes came from their charming flügelhornist, as they played Vitae Lux (Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen), a beautiful work that serves perfectly as a concert opener. The next work was Requiem (David Bedford), followed by the euphonium solo Tango (Gavin Higgins). Altena’s euphonium soloist, Kobus Verhey, is in everyday life a professional musician. The solo is a real tour de force for the soloist, and Verhey brought an impressive performance of this very difficult solo.

The final song before the break was Red Morningstar and Bucimis by Frode Ryland. Again, an unusual and therefore very interesting brass band work, which aroused the interest of the audience.

Following a reorganization of the seats the two bands were together on the makeshift stage and it was the massed band’s turn. Eric Ball’s evergreen Torch of Freedom showed the bands together in fine form with this stunning march as the opening number after the break.

One of the most popular cornet duets in the Salvation Army and elsewhere is Peter Graham’s Quicksilver, a technical tour de force for the two soloists. This time, they were the principals of the two bands, Arend Pietersen (Amsterdam Staff Band) and Marlies Keine Mans (Altena Brass). The duet was performed with verve and a special cooperation between the soloists.

Joseph Turrin, an American orchestral composer, wrote his first brass band work following the death of Princess Diana and entitled it Hymn for Diana. Deep emotional music with beautiful chords that open onto a stunning climax was the result.

The Call of the Righteous, another masterpiece by Leslie Condon, with the famous and tough introduction by the solo cornets, was the last work of the evening. The entire concert was recorded for a new live disc with the Amsterdam Staff Band and Altena Brass heard together.

Amsterdam Staff Band web site, original report by Steef Klepke, Jr.