A capacity crowd filled Sheffield Citadel on 10 September 2011 as the [bclink id=”986″ target=”_blank”] (Bandmaster Keith Wileman) celebrated Alf Wileman’s 66 years of banding service. People traveled the length and breadth of the country to be there, showing the high regard of so many who have been encouraged and influenced by Alf, particularly through his work with young people. The congregation was comprised of current members of the Corps family, as well as a number of former band members and many of the “old” South Yorkshire division young people.
The evening commenced with the festival march Celebration (Leslie Condon) – a fitting opener, during which former band members were invited to march into the hall behind the band flag. This was not just a celebration about Alf, but in this, the Sheffield Citadel Band’s 130th year, it also celebrated the band as a whole and the service of those who have gone before. Two recent retirees from the band, Roland Hill and Harold Fisher, were recognized for their service, having clocked up over 100 years between them. Also, Barry Furmidge was enrolled as a bandsman. Barry was taught to play by Alf many years ago and so it was fitting that he was commissioned into the band as Alf retired.
Music presented during the evening was chosen by Alf and included the old favorite Army of the Brave, the classic Constant Trust and the contemporary Glorifico Aeternum, the last being enhanced with a visual presentation and receiving rapturous applause from the congregation.
Alf’s youngest son, Andrew, presented the vocal solo It’s Been a Wonderful Day and his daughter, Hannah, read a poem about Alf which she had written especially for this occasion.
Derick Kane was the guest soloist and conductor for the evening. He delighted the audience with his renditions of Bravura, Donegal Bay, and ALf’s special request, The Song of the Brother. Alf and Derick also blessed the congregation with their sensitive playing of the duet Brahms’ Lullaby.
Messages were received from around the world, from family, friends and former band colleagues, and a selection of these were presented during the evening. Maisie Wiggins congratulated Alf on his years of loyal service and added that his influence had be invaluable to so many people. Trombonist Nick Hudson, who was taught as a youngster by Alf, spoke of the huge impact that Alf had on his life and added that no one “deserves more recognition for their services to Salvation Army brass playing and services to young people.”
In his words of recognition, Bandmaster Keith Wileman told how he was privileged to represent all of the bandmasters under whom Alf has served. He mention that Alf’s playing has remained at a very high standard throughout the 66 years of service. He added that Alf never complained and had never missed a beat on the march, no matter how far the band was marching.
After a standing ovation, Alf, clearly moved, told how he has always had “a calling to be a Salvation Army bandsman” and how he has striven to serve his Lord through playing the euphonium. The influence he has had on so many people during that time cannot be measured, but the love and appreciation for the “greatest Bandleader in the world” could clearly be seen on the faces of all those present.
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