The weekend of 23 – 24 February 2013 brought the International Staff Band (Bandmaster Dr. Stephen Cobb) to the West Yorkshire town of Castleford for a much-anticipated visit. The corps in Castleford is thriving, with a beautiful contemporary hall, and many of the corps members are known to the members of the ISB, so there was an air of excitement in the build-up to the weekend. This excitement was tinged with sadness, however, as the Bandmaster of Castleford Corps, Steve Roebuck, had lost a brave battle with cancer only a few weeks before.
Following a typical Yorkshire welcome meal (with Yorkshire pudding, of course), the Staff Band was transported to the venue for the Saturday evening concert, the Castleford Civic Hall. As the 600-seat auditorium filled, there was a tangible air of anticipation and this excitement set the tone for the rest of the weekend.
The Staff Band started with the lively Temple 125 (Kevin Larsson) before preparing for prayer with The Lord Bless You and Keep You, arranged by ISB member Paul Sharman.
During this season, the Staff Band has been featuring the latest work from the pen of Steven Ponsford, entitled The Day of the Lord. This music is in the style of an epic film score and has been well-received by the band’s audiences.
The first of four soloists for the evening, principal cornet Carl Nielsen, presented the classic theme and variations solo Victorious (Dean Goffin). This was before Derick Kane played Air ’N Variations (Stephen Bulla), once again showing his consistency as a soloist. The prolonged applause for both soloists reflected the level of technical brilliance.
Following the light-hearted Lift Up Your Voice (Stephen Bulla), the Staff Band ended the first half of the concert with Ray Steadman-Allen’s epic work Victorian Snapshots – On Ratcliff Highway. The music of Ray Steadman-Allen continues to inspire, bless and enthuse audiences and this iconic work certainly seemed to do this on this occasion with its depiction of the pioneering work of early-day Salvationists.
The second half included a number of new works for band. The second contribution of the evening from the pen of Paul Sharman was Amazed!, which was written for the Birmingham Citadel Band’s appearance at the 2012 Territorial Congress in London. Another first for the band was Martin Cordner’s new work Jubilo, Jubilo! which had received its world premiere the previous night in Bournemouth by the Territorial Youth Band.
The second half also featured two more of the band’s soloists. Andrew Justice (trombone) played Blessed Assurance (William Himes) and Richard Woodrow (flügelhorn) played Through the Fair.
Staff Bandmaster Cobb dedicated the singing of That Beautiful Land to the bereaved Roebuck family before the evening finished in typical style with Fire in the Blood (Paul Lovatt-Cooper) and the Staff Band’s “signature march”, Praise (Wilfred Heaton).
Back at the Castleford Corps hall on Sunday morning, the worship service was led by Major Noel Wright, the executive officer of the Staff Band. The service included a contribution from the Castleford Singing Company and a testimony from Staff Bandsman Jonathan Evans. Items from the Staff Band included Soli Deo Gloria (William Himes), Consecration (Brian Bowen) and Take Time to be Holy (Paul Sharman).
The final program of the weekend, on Sunday afternoon, was supported by the Castleford Songsters and presented to a packed Castleford Salvation Army hall. From Arthur Gullidge’s march Unconquered to the contemporary show-like item Fill the World with Glory (Kevin Larsson) there was something for everyone.
Two more of the Staff Band’s soloists were featured. Gavin Lamplough played the iconic cornet solo Tucker (Erik Leidzén) and Jonathan Evans (euphonium) played Norman Bearcroft’s Harbour Light. The concert also featured several works which will be include on the latest “Heritage Series” recording, which will feature Salvation Army music of the 1970s.
The Staff Band ended an excellent weekend with a tribute to Bandmaster Roebuck. Kenneth Downie’s beautiful Dedication features music associated with the words, “Time, health and talents presenting, All that I have shall be Thine” – words which could have been written by Steve Roebuck reflecting a life of dedication to God. The final performance concluded with a spirited rendition of the quick march Jubilee (Paul Drury).
International Staff Band web site, original report by Gavin Lamplough