Birmingham Citadel Returns to Tamworth

For a third year the Birmingham Citadel Band (Bandmaster Gavin Lamplough) returned to Tamworth to play at Coton Green Church on 5 October 2011. The band is always well-received in the modern and purpose-built Evangelical Church and was delighted to return for the 2011 season.

The band opened with a fanfare in the form of Andrew Mackereth’s arrangement of the 16th-century hymn Eine Feste Burg. Following this majestic opening the band played Kenneth Downie’s expansive He Can Break Every Fetter. This wonderful arrangement, with its colorful harmonic progressions, gives the band the opportunity to show an “organ-like” quality of tone.

Following the introductions the band played Wilfred Heaton’s Victory for Me. Heaton struggled to gain wide-spread popularity during his lifetime, largely due to his intellectual music being hard to access by most Salvation Army bands of the day. In his later years he did see increasing amounts of his work published and performed both in Salvation Army circles and the larger brass band community, including test pieces for competitions. Victory for Me, typically for Heaton, is a piece that, although not technically complex, calls for a great deal of musicality and the band relished the opportunity to do just that.

Two soloists were featured in the first half of the program. Principal horn Neil Blessett displayed his trademark tonal qualities in Demelza (Hugh Nash) and Deputy Bandmaster Mark Sharman (principal trombone) adopted a “Don Lusher approach” to play the jazz arrangement This I Know (Terry Camsey). Both soloists acquitted themselves well before the band presented the Salvation Army classic For Our Transgressions (Morley Calvert). This deeply spiritual and intense music was well-received and was followed by some thoughts from Edward Dixon.

The first half ended with a performance of Paul Lovatt-Cooper’s Vitae Aeternum. This work was the composer’s first large-scale composition for the Black Dyke Band and has, in recent years, become popular with bands and audiences alike. This evening was no exception as the band’s reading was greeted with prolonged applause and a standing ovation.

The second half of the program was much lighter in terms of repertoire. This was evident from the outset when the band played a swing arrangement by Danish Salvationist Erik Silfverberg, The Pearl. Deputy Bandmaster Sharman then led the band in I Have Decided to Follow Jesus (William Himes), a piece that takes its inspiration from Ravel’s Bolero.

Two more soloists were featured in the second half. David Taylor has enjoyed a fantastic year completing his MA studies at Birmingham Conservatoire while winning a number of competitions along the way, and his solo performances with Birmingham Citadel Band have been of equally high standard. Brillante (Peter Graham) is one of the pieces which have provided a platform for his talents in recent months and he once again “wowed” the audience with his virtuoso technique. Bringing just as much pleasure was Edward Dixon’s light-hearted performance of The Bare Necessities (Leigh Baker). The usual antics associated with this solo brought much hilarity to the evening. Rounding off this section of the program was Ask! (Peter Graham), a Latin American slant on the Salvation Army chorus “Ask and it shall be given” by Gowans and Larsson.

The evening ended with two more items, in a more serious vein. First, Jesus Answers Prayer (Kenneth Downie) provided the audience with time for contemplation. In his introduction, Bandmaster Lamplough explained that since the band’s last visit to Coton Green it had been on somewhat of a roller coaster journey. With undoubtable highs, such as the Canadian tour, have also come unfathomable lows. The traumatic illness and subsequent passing of Bandmaster Graham Lamplough had affected Birmingham Citadel Band in many ways. But the bandmaster made it clear that the members of the band were still left with no doubt that “Jesus answers prayer”. He may not answer prayers how we would like to think he should, but He always answers.

The final item of the concert was James Curnow’s Joyous Celebration, ending another enjoyable visit to Tamworth. This was the first full-length program under the leadership of Bandmaster Gavin Lamplough and it is hoped that the band will continue to connect with many more responsive audiences like this one during the coming years.

Birmingham Citadel Band web site