Kettering New Year Festival

The New Year Festival presented by the Kettering Citadel Band (Bandmaster Richard Phillips) has for some years now been a fixture in the Salvation Army banding calendar, with a number of renowned soloists gracing the stage over the years. This year’s concert, held on 4 February 2012, was no different as Chris Jeans (trombone) of the Virtuosi GUS Band starred alongside Debbie Crane (vocal) of Reading Central Corps and the International Staff Songsters.

Although the inclement weather clearly had an effect on the number in the audience, this did not dampen spirits as an enthusiastic crowd gathered to enjoy a well-balanced program. The band began proceedings in a sprightly fashion with Martin Cordner’s festival march South Shields Celebration. This march also commences the band’s latest recording, That’s the Spirit.

Classical transcriptions are still a welcome addition to band programs and there can be few better than Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony. As Bandmaster Phillips, the compère for the evening, revealed, this work has been described by the composer as the “jolliest piece I have ever done”. Played at a brisk tempo, the demanding technical challenges were well handled by the band and the required orchestral sounds authentically recreated.

There is surely no more decorated trombonist in the brass band movement at present than Chris Jeans, but it was his ability to entertain that most resonated with the audience. From the very first notes of DL Blues (Don Lusher), he had the audience in the palm of his hand as he strolled around the hall before timing his return to the stage perfectly for the final few bars. In contrasting fashion, his next item was Gordon Langford’s substantial Rhapsody for Trombone, which was performed entirely from memory.

Jeans’s set in the second half of the program, which featured Goedecke’s Concert Etude, Feelings and Cry Me a River (Arthur Hamilton, arr. Alan Morrison) was no less impressive. To the delight of Kettering Citadel Band’s trombone section, Jeans even joined the band for the last couple of items.

Kettering Citadel Band’s major item of the evening was Ray Steadman-Allen’s tour de force, Victorian Snapshots – On Ratcliff Highway. The performance was enhanced by a multimedia display, kindly donated by the Melbourne Staff Band, which effectively communicated the narrative. The sound pictures were adeptly portrayed by the band and the final triumphant statement of the tune, “We’ll be heroes, we’ll be heroes, when the battle is fierce ...” brought the first half to a majestic conclusion.

Debbie Crane’s contribution to the evening was much appreciated. She presented six songs, including Rejoice, Summertime, It Must Be Love, Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man, Were It Not for Grace and O Happy Day. She was adeptly accompanied on piano by David Mortlock.

A sensitive rendition from the band of The Joy of Loving Hearts (Kenneth Downie) followed a thought-provoking message from the band’s Executive Officer, Lt.-Colonel Geoff Blurton. The final programmed item was one which has become a mainstay of the band’s concerts over the last couple of years, Riverdance (Bill Whelan, arr. Ray Farr). This featured fine playing from the band’s principal cornet, Gary Fountain, in an exposed solo and a break-neck finish. An enjoyable evening was brought to a close with about as brisk a reading of Ray Ogg’s march Rousseau as one is likely to hear.

Kettering Citadel Band web site, original report by Andrew Wainwright