(Report by Colin McFarlane, Band Secretary, Govan Citadel)
The International Staff Band (Bandmaster Dr. Stephen Cobb) were guests of the Govan Citadel Band on the weekend of 24 – 25 April 2010, with the Saturday evening concert held in Paisley Town Hall.
The Staff Band, under the direction of Bandmaster Cobb, began the concert with an excellent “opener” written by one of their solo cornets, Paul Sharman, entitled Psalm of Thanks. This was written recently for Birmingham Citadel Band and based on the hymn “Now Thank We All Our God,” and provided an exciting glimpse of what was to come in the concert with a tight, balanced ensemble and good dynamic range in evidence.
St. Francis (William Gordon) followed before the Staff Band contributed one of the major works of the evening, Steven Ponsford’s Turris Fortissima. It was evident that the large audience was to benefit from the ISB’s recent return from an 10-day tour of the western United States. This was evidenced in some delightful warm sounds in ensemble playing, which was then seamlessly transposed to an extraordinary level of rhythmic security in the faster flowing passages.
Derick Kane, almost in home territory as he comes from nearby Hamilton, assumed the soloist role for Peter Graham’s Canaan’s Land. Another solo written for Kane, as expected this item provided an opportunity for a demonstration of technical excellence while including in the middle section a delightful and delicately played “A Little Star Peeps o’er the Hill.”
Two lighter numbers followed, Ask! (Peter Graham) and Richard Woodrow on flügelhorn playing So Glad (William Himes), providing some clever and appropriate embellishments of his own to the number.
The second major work of the evening, Kenneth Downie’s Variations on a Celestial Theme, followed. This is a work which can listened to on a number of levels. There are a number of Salvation Army songs, cleverly interwoven throughout, each arranged in a manner that would maintain the interest of “non-bandos”. However, there are a number of other facets of the piece that would take another rendition to fully appreciate the harmonic and rhythmic complexities. The Staff Band coped admirably with all of the challenges presented and seemed entirely comfortable dealing with the technical aspects of the item, whilst still dealing with the emotive and spiritual components in a meaningful manner.
The second half of the program was of a lighter nature with items including Heavenward and Barrie Gott’s Lightwalk providing another opportunity for the band to demonstrate its comfort in a variety of genres. A seamless transition into a more devotional phase followed, with the Staff Band’s vocal group following William Himes’ arrangement of Blessed Assurance. A very lovely arrangement by Ralph Pearce of There Is a Redeemer preceded a Bible reading and thought presented by the band’s executive officer, Lt.-Colonel David Hinton.
The International Staff Band closed off their planned program with a third Peter Graham composition, the recently arranged Seize the Day. This composition continues Professor Graham’s highly successful formula of arranging three melodies together into a suite.
The band proved themselves to be well in command of the music portrayed, and, as previously indicated, their recent return from tour has bonded the conductor, players and music extremely effectively. The entire program was totally secure and portrayed in a thoughtful yet confident manner. Further evidence of the band’s recent exertions in the USA came with the encore, which did not suffer from the intonation difficulties and overblowing of many tired bands when playing encores.
Submitted by Colin McFarlane, Band Secretary, Govan Citadel