Sunday at Ferntree Gully

The Melbourne Staff Band (Bandmaster Ken Waterworth) visited the Ferntree Gully Corps, in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne, on Sunday 18 April 2010. The visit included the morning service, an outdoor concert (with a march to and from the venue) and an afternoon concert in the corps hall.

The morning service began with a musical prelude from the Staff Band, including Refiner’s Fire and the cornet solo ’Mid All the Traffic, presented by Gary Todd. The opening song, “To God Be the Glory,” was followed by a Scripture reading from Leviticus by Nigel Mapes. After a children’s story given by Alistair Straughan, Damien Rawlings led the congregation in singing I Worship You and Shout to the Lord. Gail van Gaalen presented her personal testimony, speaking on the importance of responding positively to God’s calling in our lives and the rewards He gives us.

The Staff Band’s musical message for the morning was the classic meditation Just As I Am (Wilfred Heaton). Executive officer Lt.-Col. Ian Hamilton brought the spoken message, taking as his theme “Living in His Presence.” He reminded those present that, through the sacrifice of Jesus, we can be in God’s presence and know His presence in our lives. The benediction was brought by the Staff Band, playing The Lord Bless Thee and Keep Thee (John Rutter, arr. Olaf Ritman).

The local congregation and members of the Staff Band were able to share together over lunch, which included a fine array of desserts. With the prospect of a march to follow, a number of bandsmen were seen to “knock back” an extra bowl of trifle.

Ferntree Gully is located at the foot of the Dandenong Ranges and the march was picturesque as the band moved down the hill towards them. The destination was Tim Neville Arboretum, a fantastic park named after the former local council executive who played a prominent role in its development. Apart from many exotic and native plants, the park contains an amphitheater, secret garden, two ornamental lakes and a large adventure playground.

The Staff Band presented a short concert at the park, where the wonderful weather had drawn a large number of people. Items such as I Will Follow Him, Wade in the Water, Deep River and the William Tell Overture caught the attention of many and were warmly received.

In contrast to the march down the hill, the march back to the hall up a constant incline was difficult for many and was the perfect preparation for the Anzac Day march through Melbourne scheduled for the next week.

The afternoon concert was played to a full hall, which included neighbors and members of the local community who had heard the band during the outdoor concert and marches. The concert began with Sam Creamer’s arrangement of Agnus Dei, followed by Marche Militaire Francais. The trombone section was featured in Panis Angelicus (Franck) and Mark Hamilton displayed great skill with the euphonium solo We’ll All Shout Hallelujah.

Hamilton followed his solo by having a rest in the audience, as the Staff Band was joined by some young members of the Ferntree Gully band for March in Scipio (Handel) and Southdown, the latter being conducted by one of the Ferntree Gully bandsmen.

For the first time in while, the band also presented a vocal item, Jesus, Thou Art Everything to Me.

A number of items played in the afternoon concert are featured on the Staff Band’s recent recording, Battle Ready, including Pastorale (James Curnow), In the Love of Jesus (Sam Creamer), Full Surrender (Feltwell) and Lord of All (Jones). The major work of the afternoon was a favorite of many, Dean Goffin’s Symphony of Thanksgiving. The concert concluded with the congregational singing of “Storm the Forts”.

Following the concert, as most of the Staff Band packed up, a small group was detached to play at the local nursing home.

Melbourne Staff Band web site, original report by Alistair Straughan