The British Open is one of the premier brass band contests, and it is highlight of the year for the [bclink id=”953″ target=”_blank”] (Bandmaster Gavin Lamplough). Held at Symphony Hall in Birmingham, this year’s event, held on Saturday, 3 September 2011, was no exception.
For several years, the Birmingham Citadel Band has opened the contest day with an early-morning concert. This year, the concert began at 9:00 am, and a good number of brass band enthusiasts had made the extra effort to be present for this early start to the day. As is customary for this event, the audience grew in number with each piece the band played and within a few items a large crowd was enjoying the music – some said that it was the largest crowd for many years. The audience generally consisted of Salvationists from all over the world as well as banding enthusiasts and players from the bands competing during the day. For such a knowledgeable audience, the Birmingham Citadel Band has always found them to be most encouraging, and this day was no exception. Interest in the band and its repertoire generated a long line of well-wishers and questions about the items played.
The band always seems to rise to the occasion for this event – no mean feat given the timing, immediately after the summer break – and the band and soloists performed to a very high standard. The marches Praise (Wilfred Heaton) and The Liberator (George Marshall) were “tight” and full of color, bringing back many happy memories for the current and former Salvation Army bandsmen in the audience. More contemporary arrangements such as Ein Feste Burg (Andrew Mackereth) attracted a lot of attention.
Deputy Bandmaster Mark Sharman (trombone), who played This I Know (Terry Camsey) and Neil Blessett (tenor horn), who played Demelza, represented the fine soloists of the band. Larger scale works of the Salvation Army brass band literature were represented by the classic writing of Morley Calvert in For Our Transgressions and the more contemporary style of James Curnow in Joyous Celebration.
Traditionally, the Sunday following the contest is designated as “Band Sunday”, with the band responsible for leading Sunday worship at Birmingham Citadel. This tradition was continued this year, with a number of visitors joining the congregation having stayed over from the contest the day before. The theme for the morning service was “For Our Transgressions”, based on the Morley Calvert composition. Based on Isaiah 53, the meeting took the congregation on a challenging journey from Christ’s sacrifice to the sense that we are compelled to use the resources afforded to us wisely. The congregation was challenged with the question, “How will you invest your resources of time, talents and relationships this week?” before the band played For Our Transgressions.
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