MSB at Ballarat

A drizzly overcast afternoon met the Melbourne Staff Band (Bandmaster Ken Waterworth) as they arrived in Ballarat for a weekend of engagements, 3 – 4 March 2012. The venue for the Saturday night concert was the Wendouree Performing Arts Centre (WPAC), which is at the Ballarat Grammar School and is the base for the school’s extensive music program. The festival raised almost $1,000 for the Salvation Army’s Jessore School for the Hearing Impaired, Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

As the Staff Band was joining with the Ballarat Grammar School Symphonic Band for the finale of the evening concert, their first task was to rehearse a number of combined items. Following this, the Staff Band and students were provided with a delicious meal by the Ballarat Emergency Services Team.

Despite the questionable weather, a great crowd arrived for the concert. Major Bruce Stevens, Divisional Commander for the Western Victoria Division, welcomed the Staff Band to Ballarat and prayed at the beginning of the concert. The concert opener was James Curnow’s transcription of the exciting Procession of the Nobles (Rimsky-Korsakov).

Principal cornet Garry Todd was in fine form for his first performance of Paul Sharman’s Flourish, which features the songs “Hand Me Down My Silver Trumpet” and “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder”.

Rebecca Raymond’s singing is a highlight of the Staff Band’s concerts and on this occasion she thrilled the audience with her contrasting solos, Hosanna and The Prayer.

The Staff Band enjoys the compositions of Peter Graham and gave an exhilarating performance of Seize the Day. This was followed by a transcription of John Rutter’s haunting Distant Land, enhanced by a multimedia presentation by Vaughan Duck.

It was then the turn of the euphonium section, Jamie Smith and Craig Downes. They launched into Brillante (Peter Graham), a musical duel between the two, exchanging high notes and low notes and triple-tonguing at “supersonic” speed. The crowd went wild at the conclusion of this performance.

The Staff Band’s major work for the evening was Turris Fortissima (Steven Ponsford). Bandmaster Waterworth had put the group through some solid rehearsal leading up to the performance and this was evident from the energetic performance, capturing the various emotions portrayed in the music.

Rebecca Raymond was featured again, singing A Time Like This, and the trombone section gave a polished rendition of Heavenbound!, a new composition by Paul Sharman.

The Staff Band’s final contribution was a lively rendition of the popular Riverdance. Special mention goes to Garry Todd (cornet), Scott Downes (flügelhorn), and the hard-working percussion section.

After the interval, the Ballarat Grammar School Symphonic Band took the stage, performing A Shaker Gift Song (Ticheli) and Into the Clouds (Richard Saucedo). Members of the school’s pipe band and Highland dancers added variety to the evening by presenting a medley of Scottish melodies.

Following a quick stage change, the Staff Band joined the Symphonic Band. Joint items included the fanfare Agnus Dei and a new arrangement of Abide with Me. The evening concluded with both bands and the pipers joining together under the baton of Andrew Dale, Music Director of the Grammar School, producing an enormous wall of sound with Highland Cathedral.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

For Sunday morning, the Staff Band split into two ensembles, participating in worship services at the Ballarat and Delacombe corps. At Ballarat Corps, the ensemble provided preliminary music and accompanied the congregational singing. Alistair Straughan easily slipped into “teacher mode” and presented the Kid’s Segment. The meeting concluded with stirring congregational singing of “Your Greatness Forever” and “Stand Up and Bless the Lord”.

Darren Waterworth led the opening of the meeting at Delacombe Corps, Scott Downes shared his personal testimony and Rebecca Raymond sang Enter Paradise. Both ensembles used, as their musical message, William Himes’ arrangement This I Know, based on “Jesus Is the Sweetest Name I Know”.

Blue skies appeared in the afternoon, allowing the Staff Band to present an outdoor concert at Lake Wendouree. For a number of years, this lake was dry because of the drought in Victoria, but in the last few years it has filled with water again and is again a popular spot for Ballarat locals.

The outdoor concert featured lighter music, including Eine Feste Burg (Andrew Mackereth), the swing arrangement A Robe of White, Barrie Gott’s classic Lightwalk and the always popular William Tell Overture. Rebecca Raymond, using a good sound system supplied by Stuart Lees, sang Your Grace Still Amazes Me and Makes Me Wanna Pray. The band was interested to learn that one member of the audience had “broadcast” the concert to relatives in Shanghai, China, using an iPhone. The final item for the concert and the weekend was a requested repeat performance of Riverdance.

The Melbourne Staff Band thanked Major Bruce Stevens and Heather Slater from Divisional Headquarters, Andrew Dale of Ballarat Grammar School, and Captains Dean and Jenni Sutton and Captains Johnmark and Nicole Snead, corps officers at Ballarat Corps and Delacombe Corps respectively, for their assistance and hard work making the arrangements for the band’s visit.

Melbourne Staff Band web site