Brass Clinic at Alexandria

2010 marks the 85th anniversary of the National Capital Band (Bandmaster James Anderson). As the Band Board was discussing how best to celebrate this milestone, the idea developed to have a typical ministry weekend in the National Capital Area. Although the band is based in Washington, most of the ministry weekends are held in other parts of the division. The weekend consisted of a brass clinic held on Saturday morning at Alexandria Citadel, a joint concert with The Dominion Brass at McLean Presbyterian Church on Saturday night, and Sunday morning worship at the Solomon G. Brown (Southeast) Corps in the District of Columbia.

The first part of the weekend was a brass clinic held on Saturday, 10 April 2010, at Alexandria Citadel.

Ninety “budding musicians”, representing eight corps – Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, Fredericksburg, Montgomery County, Prince George’s and Solomon G. Brown (Southeast) – were treated to classes and a performance session with the National Capital Band. The event kicked off at 10:00 am in the sanctuary, with a devotional thought from the NCB’s executive officer, Major James Allison. This was followed by a fascinating and informative session on proper breathing techniques conducted by Dr. Steve Kellner. The the participants were assigned to a number of masterclasses, each with at last one member of the NCB. In fact, every room in the building that could be used for a class was used, and some had to be conducted in the corps’ social services offices next door.

Dr. Steve Kellner gives a lesson on breathing techniques.
Dr. Steve Kellner gives a lesson on breathing techniques.
Horn class, with Andy Bulla instructing.
Horn class, with Andy Bulla instructing.
David Delaney and the cornet 'bench'.
David Delaney and the cornet “bench”.
Another cornet class, with David Mersiovsky conducting.
Another cornet class, with David Mersiovsky conducting.
Hands-on instruction from Noel Morris.
Hands-on instruction from Noel Morris.
Not all budding musicians are children. Here, Kevin Downing instructs one of the more mature participants.
Not all budding musicians are children. Here, Kevin Downing instructs one of the more mature participants.

Following the masterclasses, the corps groups that would be performing in the grand finale concert of the clinic were given time to rehearse. During the rehearsals, a pizza lunch was set up in the corps parking lot, as the weather was fine, although a bit windy. Then everyone headed back into the building for the grand finale of the clinic, a mini-concert featuring the NCB and several groups from individual corps music programs.

The only space large enough to hold all of the musicians and their instruments was the gymnasium. The sound of 120 brass musicians (90 clinic participants and 30 members of the NCB) all warming up at the same time was, quite simply, enormous. In the absence of Bandmaster James Anderson, who was unable to be with the band on this weekend because of cancer treatment, conducting duties were split between deputy bandmaster Matt Sims and principal euphonium Steve Kellner. The NCB got the finale off to a fine start with Cornerstone (Andrew Mackereth) with Steve conducting, followed by words of welcome from Matt Sims and an invocation from Major Allison.

The first group to perform was the youth band from the host corps, Alexandria Citadel, under the direction of Dave Downing. They presented the old classic Jesus Shall Reign (Vernon Post), a piece which many of the members of the NCB remembered as having been used when they were members of a corps youth band.

Next, all of the musicians joined together for a rousing rendition of William Himes’ Muffins Rhapsody, with Matt Sims conducting the NCB and David Delaney leading the assembled participants. The youth band from the Fairfax Corps then performed Duke Street (William Himes), led by Scott Bedio.

The NCB continued the program with Jesus Loves Me, using the well-known arrangement by Bandmaster Anderson. The next group to perform was a combination of players from the two Maryland corps represented, Montgomery County and Prince George’s. Under the direction of David Delaney (bandmaster at Montgomery County), they presented When the Spirit Says Sing.

Over the last three years, under the inspired direction of Bandmaster Matt Sims, the Richmond Area Command has developed the School for the Performing Arts, which now has about 120 students with instruction at three locations. Many of the members of the Richmond Citadel youth band are benficiaries of this excellent program. With Matt conducting, the youth band presented Down the Street (Erik Silfverberg). Then, 10-year-old Angela Li presented the cornet solo Whiter than Snow with David Carter accompanying on piano.

The final item from the NCB during the mini-concert was I Will Follow Him, featuring the trombone section. As a grand finale to the clinic sessions, all of the assembled musicians again gathered, this time playing another special item by William Himes, Classics in Brass. Major Allison closed the proceedings with a benediction.

Classics in Brass
Classics in Brass
The NCB kicks off the mini-concert with Steve Kellner conducting.
The NCB kicks off the mini-concert with Steve Kellner conducting.
Alexandria Citadel, Dave Downing conducting.
Alexandria Citadel, Dave Downing conducting.
Muffins Rhapsody
Muffins Rhapsody
Scott Bedio conducts Fairfax Corps.
Scott Bedio conducts Fairfax Corps.
Montgomery County and Prince George's bands combined, David Delaney conducting.
Montgomery County and Prince George’s bands combined, David Delaney conducting.
Matt Sims and the Richmond Citadel group.
Matt Sims and the Richmond Citadel group.
Major James Allison gives the benediction.
Major James Allison gives the benediction.