Colchester Citadel 125th Anniversary

The International Staff Band (Bandmaster Stephen Cobb) visited Colchester (Britain’s oldest recorded town) to mark the 125th anniversary of the Colchester Citadel Corps. The weekend visit began on Saturday afternoon with a march through part of the town center to the Town Hall, where Staff Band members were greeted by Councillor Ray Gamble, the Mayor of Colchester.

For the evening festival, Swinburne Hall at the Colchester Institute School of Music was crowded, requiring extra chairs to be brought in. The Colchester Institute has a long history of Salvationist students, such as the principal euphonium of the Portsmouth Citadel Band, Marc Harry. For many years, Michael Clack of the Chalk Farm Corps was a senior instructor at the Institute. Included in the large crowd were the Lord Lieutenant of Essex, the Mayor of Colchester, and the town’s Member of Parliament.

The concert opened with cornets standing in a fanfare-like formation for Concertante for Cornets and Band (Stephen Bulla), which was immediately followed by the reflective song Psalm 91 (Stuart Watson). Following a prayer, the first major work of the evening, Christ Redentor, by a young composer from Plymouth, Steven Ponsford. The piece takes its inspiration from the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer on the mountain above Rio de Janeiro, and features melodies such as “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High”, “Ochills” and “There Is a Redeemer”.

Next were two solo items, each showcasing one of the Staff Band’s principal players. First was cornetist Kevin Ashman, who presented a classic solo written by Norman Bearcroft, Song of Exultation. Originally written for Richard Martin, this demanding solo features the melody “Unsworth”, associated with the words “My Jesus, I Love Thee”, and the old chorus “It Was on the Cross”. Next up was a new work from the pen of Dr. Kenneth Downie, Images of Praise, played with exceptional skill by long-time principal euphonium Derick Kane.

A lighter style was present in Erik Silfverberg’s Praising, which was followed by Scripture and some brief remarks from the Staff Band’s Executive Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Trevor Davis. The first half concluded with the Staff Band’s most challenging work of the evening, Trittico by American composer James Curnow, originally commissioned as a test piece for the Swiss brass band championships in 1988, featuring the American hymn tune “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds”.

The second half of the Saturday evening program, lighter in style than the first half, began with the march On Duty, written by Staff Band cornetist Paul Sharman and featuring the old song “The Pathway of Duty”. The audience joined the band to sing Thine Is the Glory, and then four light selections followed in rapid succession – Wade in the Water (Leonard Ballantine), Shalom (Erik Silfverberg), When I Survey (Olaf Ritman) and Blessing and Honour (Paul Sharman). Damian Wileman sang What a Friend We Have in Jesus, which was followed by the Staff Band’s final item of the evening, a new work from the pen of rising young composer Dean Jones. This large-scale offering, entitled Lord of All, seeks to “portray the spiritual journey from the views of a hurting world and personal anguish, through the realisation of the need for Christ’s compassion to the recognition of his overall authority in all circumstances.” The encore was Ray Farr’s energetic arrangement of J. S. Bach’s Tocatta in D minor.

The Sunday morning service, led by Lt.-Col. Davis, was centered around the theme “Gifts”. The Staff Band’s contribution to the theme was the meditation Gifts for His Altar. Following the service, the members of the band joined with the Citadel’s ongoing ministry to the needy, who enjoy lunch in the hall each Sunday.

The conclusion of the weekend was an afternoon festival at Christ Church, a building shared by Anglican and United Reformed Church congregations. Among those at the concert was local policitian and Salvation Army friend Bob Russell MP. In addition to celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Salvation Army in Colchester, the festival marked the first anniversary of the Abbeyfield Community Project, an ecumenical project involving seven local churches including Colchester Citadel.

The concert began with a nod to Salvation Army heritage as the Staff Band played a classic march by Bramwell Coles, Victors Acclaimed, which was followed by a prayer of thanksgiving and another classic piece, Sound Out the Proclamation (Eric Ball). First up among the soloists was principal trombone Andrew Jusstice, who played Song of Exuberance (Leslie Condon). This was immediately followed by Flowerdale (Philip Sparke) played by soprano cornet soloist Gary Fountain.

Because of the ecumenical nature of the gathering, an arrangement of a hymn well-known in all churches was appropriate. This was ably filled by Peter Graham’s setting Swedish Folk Song, featuring the melody associated with the words “How Great Thou Art”. Three clergy members from churches participating in the Abbeyfield Community Project offered prayers of thanks for the past, present and future of the Project. This was followed by the songster brigade from Colchester Citadel, who sang Under the Cover of His Wings (Yvonne Field).

New music from both a young composer, Nicholas Samuel and an established veteran, Brian Bowen, was featured next as the Staff Band presented Everlasting Praise and City of God. Following a congregational song, Andrew Justice gave a personal testimony.

As the afternoon drew to close, Lt.-Col. Davis gave a sermon based on Romans 8, which led into a sermon in music, provided by the Staff Band playing one of the superb works by Ray Steadman-Allen, Romans 8, inspired by that chapter of Scripture. The afternoon of praise and thanksgiving concluded with a recent composition by Dudley Bright, Paean.

Reaction to the International Staff Band’s performance during the weekend was positive, with many being heard describing the band as being in top form. A member of the staff of the Colchester Institute School of Music commented that he enjoyed every minute of the Saturday evening program: “... such a big sound.”

Original report by Adrian Lyons, posted on the International Staff Band web site