The International Staff Band (Bandmaster Dr. Stephen Cobb) made its first weekend visit to Bedlington in 26 years on the weekend of 24 – 25 February 2007. The weekend began inauspiciously, when the coach which was to transport the Staff Band failed to arrive. After ascertaining that the coach company had somehow booked the following weekend for the trip, Band Secretary Kevin Ashman, resourceful as ever, quickly arranged for a large van to carry instruments and equipment and a somewhat smaller coach to carry the players.
The capacity crowd in Bedlington in the concert hall at Blyth Community College, unaware of the Staff Band's trials in getting to the venue, enthusiatically greeted the first item of the Saturday evening festival, Concertante for Cornets and Band. It was noted that the acoustics in the hall were very good, every detail of the performance being heard.
Several soloists were featured, including Gary Rose, who demonstrated the qualities of the baritone horn (not often used as a solo instrument) with Hymn from “Adiemus”. Other solo items included Concertino on a Theme by Richard Slater for Cornet and Band played by Kevin Ashman, euphonium solo Canaan's Land played by Derick Kane, a vocal solo by Damian Wileman, and the Staff Bandmaster's youngest son, Philip Cobb, who played Virtuosity with fine technique and style, showcasing his musical potential.
Band items included music from many eras, ranging from modern compositions such as Steven Ponsford's Kerygma to classic pieces such as Leslie Condon's The Present Age. Scripture readings and commentary from Lt.-Colonel Trevor Davis enhanced the worship experience. The Staff Band, in what is becoming a firm tradition, ended with Ray Farr's exhilirating arrangement of J. S. Bach's Toccata in D minor.
The Sunday morning service included a prayer by Damian Wileman and a moving testimony from bandsman Kevin Coates. Instead of a sermon, Lt.-Colonel Davis spoke in several short segments on the theme of “Shelter”, interspersed with congregational singing and music from the Staff Band. The Bedlington Songsters contributed with Spirit of the Living God. The meeting concluded with Brian Bowen's My Strength, My Tower, a setting of George Herbert's paraphrase of Psalm 23, conducted by the deputy bandmaster, Derick Kane.
On Sunday afternoon, the Staff Band gave a festival concert at the Bedlington Corps Hall, again featuring a mixture of different styles of music. Items included two classics by Eric Ball, Sound Out the Proclamation and Songs in Exile, Rolling Along (William Himes), Everlasting Praise (Nicholas Samuel), Hosea (John Larsson, arr. Bruce Broughton), and Supremacy (Dean Jones).
Gary Fountain gave a strong performance of Mozart's The Queen of the Night's Aria (arr. Andrew Blyth) on soprano cornet. Principal trombone Andrew Justice gave a brilliant performance of Song of Exuberance (Leslie Condon). Steven Hanover gave humorous but effective personal testimony. The host corps was ably represented by the Bedlington Singing Company (consisting of three children and their leader), who presented Nothing But Thy Blood.
International Staff Band web site, original report by Keith Oxley