On the weekend of 17 – 19 February 2012, the New York Staff Band (Bandmaster Ron Waiksnoris) completed its latest recording, entitled Pressing Onward. The album was recorded and produced by World of Sound, based in the United Kingdom. It features a number of original and world premier pieces.
The Friday evening session began on a pensive note with Consecration, skillfully composed by Brian Bowen, a former bandmaster of the Staff Band, based on the tune “Hendon”,. This arrangement offers a sincere musical representation of Frances Ridley Havergal’s familiar words:
Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.
These words are a collective prayer of the band, and it was appropriate to reflect on them upon embarking on this new project.
The band then recorded two solo numbers, the first of which was Blessings (David Catherwood). This cornet solo, skillfully performed by principal cornet Gordon Ward, is based on Robert Robinson’s hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”. It offers both new and classic treatments of the hymn and displays musical prowess on the part of composer and soloist.
Principal euphonium Ryan McCrudden also performed a solo, entitled Carrickfergus. This classic, well-known Irish air has been expertly arranged by Stephen Roberts, and likewise expertly conveyed by the soloist. Its soaring, melodic style and technical flourishes are sure to please the listener.
Saturday’s session began with Just As I Am, Wilfred Heaton’s beautiful arrangement, which has become firmly rooted among brass band meditations. The flowing melodies and triumphant chords of this piece truly display divine inspiration and are sure to stir the heart of the listener.
Kenneth Downie’s major work The Hope of Glory was recorded next. This is a technically challenging piece with many layers and styles offering a valuable listening experience. The “Hope” referenced in the title is, as spoken of in Scripture, Christ in the heart of the believer, and the joy this hope brings is shown in Charles H. Gabriel’s words which inspire the climax of the piece:
When with the ransomed in glory
His face I at last shall see,
’Twill be my joy through the ages
To sing of His love for me.
Next, the band recorded a new work by Joseph Turrin written for its 125th anniversary celebration. Entitled Rejoice and Be Glad, it is a stunning musical representation of the theme consistently conveyed in the Psalms, to rejoice and be glad in the Lord. This adept translation of joy in musical form will certainly add a stirring and delightful dynamic to the collective listening experience.
The final item recorded in Saturday’s session was Fire in the Blood, an exciting work from Paul Lovatt-Cooper, Composer in Association of the famous Black Dyke Band. This piece contains several contemporary worship songs, including “Come Let Us Sing for Joy”, “Lord, You Know That We Love You” and “I Love You, Lord”. The skillful implementation of these melodies and deep, layered scoring offer a compelling listening experience. This piece was given its premier in June 2011 at the International Staff Band’s 120th anniversary celebration at Royal Albert Hall, and it will surely endure for many years to come.
Sessions on Sunday, the final day of the recording, began in the early afternoon, as the band reconvened after the members attended their home corps. The session began with a march, Diamond Jubilee (Stephen Bulla), written to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Star Lake Music Camp.
Next was another brand-new piece, written for this recording by world-famous composer Peter Graham. Voyage to Worlds Unknown is meant to convey the experience of leaving the familiar to embark on a journey through the unfamiliar, in search of potential and opportunity. Graham’s parents experienced such drastic change firsthand upon immigrating to the United States, and the simultaneous emotions of excitement and apprehension are masterfully conveyed through this composition.
Following this was a piece written by the Staff Band’s own Dorothy Gates, who recently received her doctorate in composition. She took the staple Salvation Army song “Ever Is the War Cry, Victory!” and arranged it into an exciting and engaging piece, simply titled War Cry.
Finally, the Staff Band recorded the title track for the recording, Pressing Onward. This is a classic march in the truest Salvation Army spirit, composed by Erik Leidzén.
Special recognition is given to Adam Goldsmith, Feargus Murphy and Phil Bulla, who worked diligently and professionally in the engineer room for the entire weekend.
New York Staff Band web site