The second away weekend of the year for the International Staff Band (Bandmaster Stephen Cobb) was to the Rock Ferry Corps on 25 – 26 February 2012. The last time that the ISB visited this corps was in 1991 and the only piece repeated on this occasion that was played on the prior visit was Leslie Condon’s The Present Age.
The venue for the Saturday evening festival was the former Oxton Congregational Church, a Grade II-listed building that has been labeled the “Gateway to Birkenhead” because of its commanding position. For almost two decades, the building lay derelict, but, having spent over £1.25 million on restoration, it was reopened as a place of worship for the Wirral Christian Centre. What a great place for the ISB to present its varied program of music!
The featured soloists were shown great appreciation with prolonged applause for their performances of Scottish Folk Variants (Derick Kane, euphonium), Synergy, (Kevin Ashman and Carl Neilsen, cornets) and Soul-Full (Richard Woodrow, flügelhorn). However, the most prolonged applause of the festival seemed to be for Fire in the Blood, a new work written for the band by Paul Lovatt-Cooper. The piece, which was the finale of the festival, is dramatic and powerful, testing the limits of the acoustics of the church and the dynamics of the band to the extremes. Following the audience’s appreciation, calm and tranquility was restored with the band’s choice of an encore, A Celtic Blessing, a recent arrangement of a traditional Celtic melody by Erik Silfverberg.
Sunday morning worship and an afternoon festival were held at the Rock Ferry Salvation Army hall. Both were very well attended and the ISB was delighted to meet up with former horn player Bill Binns. Soloists during the afternoon festival included Carl Neilsen (cornet) playing Crossroad and Jonathan Evans (euphonium) playing The Conqueror. A highlight for many was The Present Age (Leslie Condon) but the congregation really “lifted the roof” after a Kevin Larsson arrangement of They Shall Come from the East given the “Lion King” treatment, featuring Ashley Durrant and Rob Hayward on djembe drums.
During the weekend the band was supported by the Rock Ferry Songsters and Youth Singing Group. The Executive Officer of the ISB, Major Noel Wright, led worship in his own unique style. It was another good away weekend for the ISB, sharing worship and fellowship with the friendly people of Rock Ferry.
International Staff Band web site