The Amsterdam Staff Band (Bandmaster Olaf Ritman) celebrated its jubilee with a gala concert on 23 March 2013, with special guest Kenneth Downie. The 50th anniversary concerted was eagerly anticipated and was sold out several weeks in advance.
Despite wind and weather, listeners from far and wide traveled to Almere for the event. The first part of the concert featured a reunion band made up of Amsterdam Staff Band alumni, led by former Staff Bandmasters Don Jenkins, Thijs Musch and Maurice Cooper. The special guest for the evening, composer Kenneth Downie, conducted the reunion band in one of his most well-known song arrangements, In Perfect Peace. This part of the program was interspersed with vocal items from the Amsterdam Staff Songsters, providing a pleasant contrast in the program.
After farewells from Cees Verdam, who for years has done indispensable services for the Staff Band, the reunion band “marched” into the break, leaving the audience with the strains of Montreal Citadel ringing in their ears.
One of the highlights of the anniversary concert was the release of the Staff Band’s newest recording, Escape Velocity. Many copies were sold during the interval.
After the break, it was the turn of the Staff Band, with the Staff Songsters again participating. Most of the items played were very recent, one exception being Kenneth Downie’s Stars of the Morning, an item which has a deep meaning to the Staff Band. Other items included Escape Velocity (Martin Cordner), Flow Gently, Sweet Afton and They Shall Come from the East (Kevin Larsson). In the latter item, the composer takes his father’s familiar melody in a completely new direction with the use of African-style percussion and motifs.
During the evening, the granddaughter of the first conductor of the Amsterdam Staff Band, Lt.-Colonel Rawie, spoke about the career of her grandfather in the Salvation Army. Then she gave a cornet which had belonged to her grandfather to the Staff Band’s principal cornet, Steef Klepke, and she was assured that the historicc instrument would have a beautiful place in the collection of the Staff Band.
The beautiful classic Divine Communion was beautifully performed by the Staff Band and the Staff Songsters. After this, the Staff Band’s executive officer, Major M. J. Kuipers, gave a brief thought on the how and why of music in the Salvation Army.
The evening concluded with a wonderful work composed especially for the Amsterdam Staff Band by Kenneth Downie, The Long Cloud of Witnesses. After this the Staff Band and Staff Songsters reminded everyone that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son”.
Amsterdam Staff Band original report by Herman A. Haverkate (in Dutch)