Weekend in Gippsland

The Melbourne Staff Band (Bandmaster Ken Waterworth) visited the Gippsland area of Victoria for its first away weekend of the year, 2 – 3 March 2013. The trip took them to Traralgon Corps and Morwell Corps, referred to by locals as “the heartbeat of Gippsland”.

Heading east from Melbourne, a pleasant 2-hour drive had the members of the Staff Band arriving in Traralgon, meeting with the members of the Traralgon City Band to rehearse music for the concert finale. The Traralgon City Band was led by Captain Martin Scrimshaw, corps officer of the Leongatha Corps. During the rehearsal the two bands created a wall of sound which promised to bring the evening concert to an exciting conclusion.

The weekend revealed a “new look” Staff Band with a number of new members and instrumental changes. New members included Brad Todd (first cornet) and Paul Prince (Bb tuba). Previous members returning to the band were Mark Hamilton (first baritone) and Mark Creasey (second baritone). Also with the band was Trent Franks, who is assisting on percussion for the first part of the year.

The concert venue was the Latrobe Valley Performing Arts Centre, which provided surprisingly good acoustics for the bands. It was good to for the Staff Band to see a full house, with many people attending a Salvation Army concert for the first time.

The evening commenced with the Traralgon City Band presenting Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (arr. Bocook/Blanken). Bradley Cruickshank, the band’s principal cornet, presented the trumpet/flügelhorn solo Blessed Assurance. The City Band concluded with The Irish Blessing (arr. Bradnum), dedicating the performance to Duncan Orr, a member of the band who had recently been killed in a tragic accident. Members of Orr’s family were in attendance at the concert.

The Melbourne Staff Band took the stage, commencing its program with Australian premieres of Christ the Lord (Marcus Venables) and Temple 125 (Kevin Larsson). Martin Cordner is currently one of the Salvation Army’s prolific composers, and the Staff Band enjoyed performing his composition, Fusion. This major work combines old and new tunes, including “Untitled Hymn (Come to Jesus)” (Chris Rice) and the tune “Brantwood”, associated in this instance with Albert Orsborn’s words, “My name is joined with Thine”.

Principal euphonium Jamie Smith gave a scintillating performance of the demanding solo Mozart Variations (Kenneth Downie). Dean Rusling and Scott Downes put the audience into a musical trance with the soprano cornet/flügelhorn duet Pié Jesu from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Requiem. Vocal soloist Rebecca Raymond thrilled the audience with Now I Belong to Jesus (Norman J. Clayton, arr. William Broughton) and They Could Not (arr. Brian Bowen).

A first-time performance for the Staff Band was Leonard Ballantine’s Daniel’s Band, which was written some years ago but only recently published in the Maple Leaf Brass series. A jazz-waltz in a style similar to Stan Kenton, this was a contrasting and popular item compared with most of the traditional brass band writing performed during the concert.

The Staff Band’s guest leader for the weekend was Captain Mal Davies, National Editor-in-Chief, and he presented a Bible message preceding the performance of the meditative Guardian of My Soul (Darren Shaw). The Staff Band’s portion of the program concluded with the exciting and popular Fire in the Blood (Paul Lovatt-Cooper). Although this music commences and concludes with plenty of “PLC fireworks”, the middle movement, using the melodies “Lord, You Know That We Love You” and “I Love You, Lord” allowed the band to clearly communicate the message behind the music.

The Melbourne Staff Band and the Traralgon City Band combined for the finale of the evening. This included Temple 85 (Norman Bearcroft) and Excerpts from “Les Miserables” (arr. Ron Glynn) with Rebecca Raymond singing Bring Him Home. The final item was Andrew Blyth’s arrangement of St. Clements.

On Sunday morning, the Staff Band split into two groups, leading services at both the Traralgon and Morwell Corps. At Morwell, under the leadership of Major Gary Hart, the service included songs old and new, and the congregation was blessed by the ministry of the band. Scott Downes led a time of congregational singing, Mark Hamilton brought out his trusty “Edward the Emu” book for the children’s story and Gail van Gaalen gave her personal testimony. The band used Oh, How I Love Jesus (James Curnow) as its musical message. Major Hart based his message on Acts 3:1-10 and encouraged the listeners to look for opportunities to help others. He also spoke about Project New Dawn, a partnership program with BP Australia which provided assistance to the homeless in a number of Australian cities. During a time of reflection the band sang Spirit of the Living God.

The group at Traralgon introduced worship with My Prayer (Sam Creamer), a beautiful arrangements evoking the words “I am praying, blessed Saviour, to be more and more like thee”. Captain Davies welcomed the congregation and led the opening song, “Immortal, invisible”. Rebecca Raymond led a time of contemporary worship, including the popular Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) (Chris Tomlin). Two of the Staff Band’s newer members participated with Britteny Ling sharing a personal testimony and Bradley Todd reading the Scripture passages John 1:10-13 and Ephesians 1:11-12. During the service, two musical items were presented. Brian Hogg’s reflective arrangement Thine is associated with the words “All my days and all my hours”. Also, Rebecca Raymond sang God, I Look to You. Captain Davies encouraged those present through his engaging sermon to “Seek God and discover Him and make Him the power in your life”.

To conclude the day, the Staff Band reunited for a sumptuous barbecue lunch at Traralgon Corps. The Staff Band thanked Envoy Graeme Bright, corps officer at Traralgon, and his team for their hard work and arrangements for the weekend.

Melbourne Staff Band web site