The National Headquarters of The Salvation Army in the United States, located in Alexandria, Virginia, just across the Potomac River from the Nation's Capital, was the venue for the celebration of 80 years of continuous service for the National Capital Band. 117 delegates, some traveling from as far as California, the Caribbean, and Sweden, gathered for a Reunion Weekend celebrating the ministry and music of the band over its long history. In addition to the Reunion Sessions held at the National Headquarters, the weekend also featured an Anniversary Festival concert by the National Capital Band on Saturday evening, and a Reunion Concert featuring a Reunion Band and Chorus, on Sunday afternoon.
The weekend began on Friday, 11 November 2005, with the first of three Reunion Sessions. These sessions, held in the dining hall of National Headquarters on Friday evening and Saturday morning, featured various members of the band, current and former, relating their memories of service with the band. Interspersed with the reunion sessions were rehearsals for the Reunion Band and the Reunion Chorus. In the Catherine Booth Room on the first floor of the Headquarters building an historical display with many photographs and other memorabilia from the band's history was set up, with items from the official band archives and also brought in by various current and former members from their personal collections.
Perhaps the greatest highlight of the reunion sessions was Commissioner Paul Kellner's devotional talk during the second session on Saturday. Many think of the ministry of a Salvation Army band as being toward the public and the listeners, but in some cases it is the ministry to the members of the band that is just as important. The commissioner related how his struggle over whether to go to the mission field was ended after hearing Bob Goodier play the cornet solo Clear Skies during an NCB concert. This moment confirmed his call to the mission field, and sent him on his way to appointments in Haiti and central Africa. His emotional and moving depiction of the effect that the band had on his ministry was exceptional.
On Saturday evening, the action shifted to the First Baptist Church of Alexandria, the venue for the Anniversary Festival featuring the current National Capital Band. An appreciative audience of over 250 was present. One of the highlights of the weekend was the recognition of former NCB bandmasters during this event. Former bandmasters present at the festival included Commissioner W. R. H. Goodier (1957–1959), A. Campbell Robinson (1961–1983), Stephen Bulla (1983–1998), Lars-Otto Ljungholm (1998–2002), Ian Anderson (2002–2003), and John B. Jones (2004).
The NCB opened the concert with Fanfare and Flourishes (Martin Cordner). This was followed by William's Himes' Prayer of Thanksgiving (a nod to the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday), which was used as an accompaniment for a congregational song. The NCB's Executive Officer, Captain Kelly Igleheart (participating in his first major weekend with the band) gave the invocation.
Two upbeat numbers in contrasting styles followed, Winchester Revival (Kenneth Downie) and the swing-style arrangement Since Jesus (Leonard Ballantine). Several of the band's outstanding soloists were then featured. Principal euphonium Major Tony Barrington played the classic solo The Ransomed Host (Ray Steadman-Allen). The moving vocal solo They Could Not (arr. Brian Bowen) was sung by vocal soloist Deborah Bearchell, accompanied by Christina Anderson on piano with the band joining in the final verse. Deputy Bandmaster Ian Anderson, the band's principal cornet, played William Himes' comtemporary solo Caprice for Cornet.
Stephen Bulla, in addition to being a renowned composer, conductor, and trombonist, is a virtuoso pianist. Over his years with the National Capital Band he has often been featured as a piano soloist, and on this occasion he reprised one of his most entertaining solos, the exuberant Down by the Riverside. The first half of the concert ended with Kenneth Downie's triumphant festival arrangement Christ Is Alive.
The second half of the festival opened with a march composed by Stephen Bulla, Washington Salute 125, which was originally written for a visit to Washington by General Eva Burrows, during the 125th anniversary year of The Salvation Army. More solo items followed, beginning with the cornet duet Quicksilver (Peter Graham), brilliantly played by Ian Anderson and soprano cornet Noel Morris.
The Music Secretary for the USA Southern Territory, Dr. Richard E. Holz, has been a strong supporter of the National Capital Band over the years. Following the cornet duet, he came to the podium to present the former bandmasters in attendance with engraved crystal pieces in appreciation of their service to the NCB.
This was followed by an interesting new vocal arrangement by Stephen Bulla, Shine On Us (Michael W. Smith), sung by Wendy Hopper and accompanied by Stephen Bulla (piano), Randi Bulla (flügelhorn), and former NCB principal Eb horn Connie Barrington.
Traveling furthest to the Anniversary Weekend was former NCB bandmaster Lars-Otto Ljungholm and his wife Ingrid. Ljungholm, Divisional Music Director in the National Capital and Virginia area for 13 years, is now the Territorial Music Secretary in his native Sweden and bandmaster of the renowned Stockholm South Citadel Band. Because of travel arrangements, Ljungholm was not able to stay for the Reunion Concert on Sunday, and so was asked to participate in the Saturday festival. Following the vocal solo, he played the cornet solo I'd Rather Have Jesus, leading into a devotional section of the program.
Two of the hallmarks of the National Capital Band over its long history have been the support for younger players joining the band and a strong spiritual component to the band's mission. At the Anniversary Festival, both of these were illustrated by a personal testimony given by Kevin Affum, first cornet, who is a sophomore at the University of Maryland, preparing for eventual studies in medical school. This was followed by Kenneth Downie's sensitive arrangement Shekinah, conducted by Bandmaster Ljungholm. Band Chaplain Joe DeMato read a portion of Scripture as the devotional period ended.
The major work for the second half of the program was the tone poem A Psalm of Praise (James Curnow), which was featured by the NCB in its performance at the Great American Brass Band Festival in June 2005. The final item was William Himes' arrangement of the Founder's Song, O Boundless Salvation, a four-verse setting with the audience enthusiatically singing. At the last verse, Robert Schramm jumped up from his first baritone chair and grabbed the band's Salvation Army flag, waving it as the congregation and the band brought the piece to a ringing conclusion. Following the benediction, the band played one encore item, the old classic march On the King's Highway (Erik Leidzén).
The final event of the 80th Anniversary Weekend was the Reunion Concert, featuring the Reunion Band and Chorus. Fifty former and current members of the National Capital Band played in the Reunion Band, filling the platform at the Alexandria Citadel Corps, and even more participated in the Reunion Chorus. Seven different conductors took the baton, and the five NCB members known to have more than thirty years of service with the band were recognized.
The festival, held on Sunday afternoon, 13 November 2005, began with words of welcome from the corps officer at Alexandria Citadel, Major Tony Barrington, who is the band's current principal euphonium. Commissioner Raymond Cooper led a congregational song and Lt.-Col. Mary Lee Goodier offered an invocation. The concert was then turned over to former NCB executive officer and principal trombone, Lt.-Col. Tom Jones, who chaired the proceedings in his own unique style.
The concert began with two items conducted by Bandmaster Campbell Robinson, the longest-serving conductor in the history of the band. He conducted two items, the first being Leslie Condon's festival march Celebration. The second was a more lyrical item, The Beautiful City (Erik Silfverberg). Robinson was followed by Deputy Bandmaster Robert C. Schramm, conducting his own composition, The Children's Song. Schramm, who served as deputy bandmaster under both Campbell Robinson and Stephen Bulla (a total of 37 years), was unable to take his usual seat in the euphonium section because of a recent health problem.
Fittingly, the next conductor was Stephen Bulla. He led the Reunion Band in two of his own compositions, beginning with the selection Amidst His Love, written in 1985 for a Divisional Congress celebrating the centenary of the Salvation Army in Washington DC. The second item was a new march, Red Bank, composed for the celebration of a new building for the Red Bank Corps in New Jersey. Campbell Robinson then returned to the stage, this time using his considerable vocal talent, singing the old Eric Ball classic The Sergeant at the Door.
The next two items, conducted by Commissioner Paul Kellner, began with a euphonium solo played by the Commissioner's son, Steve Kellner. Steve chose to play Now I Belong to Jesus, a melody which embodies his own personal testimony. Commissioner Kellner also conducted The Risen Saviour (also known as He Lives!), a march-style arrangement which for many years was known simply as “Number 5”, and which was used during the 1970s as the NCB's “signature” piece.
There are five members of the National Capital Band known to have thirty or more years of service with the band, and all were in attendance at the Reunion Concert. They were recognized during the concert with an engraved crystal piece as an appreciation for their long service. The five honored were David Downing, Campbell Robinson, Joan Robinson, Robert Goodier, and Robert C. Schramm. Goodier and Schramm jointly hold the title of longest-serving NCB member, with 37 years of service each.
Over the years the National Capital Band has had a number of outstanding vocal soloists, and the next item on the program was Amazing Grace, sung by Captain Margaret W. Davis, arranged for her by Stephen Bulla. This was followed by Donald Osgood's well-loved arrangement of the hymn tune French, conducted by Ian Anderson. Currently the deputy bandmaster and principal cornet of the NCB, Anderson served as bandmaster for one season (2002-2003), “standing in the gap” when the band was in desperate need of leadership.
Vocal performance, both by soloists and by the band forming a chorus, has long been a part of the National Capital Band repertoire. In recognition of this, the Reunion Concert featured two items by the Reunion Chorus, conducted by Campbell Robinson, who served as the choral conductor for his entire tenure with the band. Items by the Reunion Chorus included This Is the Day (arr. Stephen Bulla) and When We All Get to Heaven (arr. Norman Bearcroft).
Captain Kelly Igleheart, current Executive Officer of the National Capital Band, gave a Scripture meditation. This weekend represented Igleheart's first official performances with the band, having become Executive Officer in June of this year.
The concert concluded with two more items, the first conducted by the Territorial Music Secretary, Dr. Richard E. Holz. During his long tenure as the head of the territorial music department in USA South, Dr. Holz has always been extremely supportive of the efforts of the National Capital Band. He conducted the band in a classic mediation by Erik Leidén, Sweet Hour of Prayer. He was followed by Commissioner W. R. H. Goodier, who served as the bandmaster of the NCB from 1957-1959. Goodier conducted one of the great marches of Salvation Army band literature, Montreal Citadel (Norman Audoire). Goodier, a native of Canada, was a soldier at Montreal Citadel and played the march when it was still in manuscript.
The concert concluded with the current bandmaster, James Anderson, expressing courtesies. This included the presentation of framed covers from the reunion brochure to the members of the Reunion Committee, Ellen Jones (chair), Maria Mathieson, and Robert D. Schramm. The benediction was given by the Reunion Chorus, who sang May the Grace of the Lord, a piece which was used on several international tours for this purpose, drawing the 80th Anniversary Weekend to a fitting end.
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