Saturday, 27 February 2010
At seven o’clock on a warm Saturday evening, the International Staff Band (Bandmaster Dr. Stephen Cobb entered onto the platform at the Gloucester Salvation Army hall. A certain air of excitement and expectance abounded; the opportunity to play to a capacity crowd in a Salvation Army hall was one the Staff Band seemed to relish. Psalm of Thanks (Paul Sharman) was used as the opener for the first time at an ISB concert. Written for the Birmingham Citadel Band, the full-bodied sound of the cornets in the opening bars brought an exhilarating start to the evening festival.
The first soloist was principal cornet Kevin Ashman. He chose to play Arthur Gullidge’s Jubilate, which will be included on the upcoming 1940’s disc from the Heritage Series. Ashman showed versatility and utmost technical ability from the bery involved opening of the solo, and his performance was followed by three ovations!
Next up was Derick Kane, longstanding (33 years) principal euphonium, who played Canaan’s Land (an intentional pun). He proved his outstanding reputation for musicality and sheer technical brilliance in this three-movement work written for him by Peter Graham.
The first half came to a close with a new piece from the pen of Kenneth Downie, Variations on a Celestial Theme. Written in Downie’s inimitable style, the diverse variations explore all aspects of the brass band, musically challenging every player.
The audience returned from the interval with the congregational song Sound the Battle Cry, accompanied by an arrangement by Dorothy Gates which was first used by the Territorial Youth Band only a couple of weeks before this concert. This portion of the concert was somewhat lighter in style, starting with a contemporary march by Martin Cordner, South Shields Celebration. Other items included another Corder arrangement, In Christ Alone, and Ein Feste Burg (Andrew Mackereth).
Flügelhorn soloist Richard Woodrow astounded the audience with his range in So Glad! (William Himes), a solo originally made popular by Woodrow’s predecessor, Robert Foster.
The trombone ensemble There Is a Redeemer was written by Ralph Pearce in response to the atrocities of September 11, and the sensitive playing of the trombone section, combined with appropriate multimedia images, led to a silent appreciation.
The last programmed piece of the evening was Seize the Day, recently written for the ISB by Peter Graham and recorded on The Peter Graham Collection. Following the benediction, the Staff Band finished the concert with Wilfred Heaton’s Praise, a classic march with many intricacies, which brought the house down.
Sunday, 28 February 2010
Sunday morning began in a suitably reflective manner with a prayer meeting led by Lt.-Col. David Hinton, the Staff Band’s executive officer, leading into morning worship. The Staff Band was saddened to learn of the Promotion to Glory of one of the stalwarts of the Gloucester Corps, Eric Matthews, the father of corps bandmaster Cliff Matthews. However, the Staff Band was also honored to witness the public enrollment of Eric Matthews’ youngest granddaughter as a Salvation Army soldier. The words associated with the Staff Band’s epilogue, The Lord Is Gracious (trans. Olaf Ritman) seemed to be fitting:
“The Lord is gracious, abounding in perfect love,
He offers His compassion still to those who trust in His name.”
– Darren Bartlett
Unfortunately, a planned open-air meeting after the worship service had to be cancelled because of inclement weather.
The International Staff Band was delighted to play to a nearly full hall again on Sunday afternoon. The festival opened with Let Everything Praise, an exciting piece by Martin Cordner which was premiered at the Gospel Arts Festival 2009. Carl Neilson was featured with the cornet solo Crossroad (Stephen Bulla) and the euphonium solo Home on the Range (Erik Leidzén) was expertly played by Jonathan Evans.
The ISB is always encouraged to have the support of a local section, and on this occasion the Gloucester Songster Brigade presented a sensitive reading of The Well Is Deep (Norman Bearcroft). Although missing one of their basses, the unaccompanied singing was superb.
Two more items from the upcoming 1940’s disc were presented: Minneapolis IV (Emil Söderstrom) and Portraits from St. Paul’s Epistles (Bramwell Coles). Both very much pieces of their day, they were given a fresh, but authentic reading, the latter forming a fitting crux to the afternoon’s program.
Kenneth Downie’s arrangement of In the Love of Jesus achieved a sensitive, atmospheric conclusion, prior to the message by Lt.-Col. Hinton. The Staff Band finished with Blazon, written for the ISB’s centenary in 1991, and also featured on The Peter Graham Collection.
Staff Bandsman Anthony Smith reflected after the weekend, “It was an inspiration to have visited a corps with such a wealth of Salvation Army heritage, and which upholds standards of music ministry in these days to the glory of God – the sole aim of the International Staff Band.”
International Staff Band web site, original report by Staff Bandsman Anthony Smith