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The Symphony Hall was packed with Brass Band enthusiasts for the annual British Open Band contest.  One such enthusiast in Birmingham for the weekend was Emily Croucher, and she writes...


The weekend of the British Open Band Championships at the Symphony Hall has quickly become one of my favourite weekends, and what makes it even more special is hearing Birmingham Citadel Band give a pre-contest concert in the foyer. It wouldn’t be the same without them. What a great place to witness and entertain, amongst spectators and musicians of the world’s finest Brass Bands. Birmingham Citadel Band always provide a much varied programme, something to suit all tastes, genres, ages and moods. 


After Rob O’Connor had taken a photo of the band to mark the occasion, the band opened the program to an already good sized audience with none other than one of the Salvation Army’s most famous & popular marches, ‘Celebration’ by a much missed Major Leslie Condon. It was quite to clear to see how well received this opener was by the audience’s reaction. 

The mood quickly changed twice with an emotive performance of Wilfred Heaton’s ‘Just as I am’ and then on to a piece that displayed the quality of players in the band, Mozart’s ‘Overture: Magic Flute’, arranged by Michael Kenyon. How the band got to the end of the piece together, all their instruments and lips in-tact, and still prepared to carry on with the mini-concert I’ll never know, but it goes to show the talent of the band and hard work they put in. 


The middle of the section of the band had an important part to play in the next few pieces with Bill Broughton’s ‘Deep River’, and then a tenor horn solo from the gifted Neil Blessett. His performance of ‘King of Kings’ (written by Bandmaster Gavin Lamplough) was very special and I could sense for definite the people stood around me were captivated in his playing, and rightly so. A lot of conversation had stopped from people around me as they listened, and the atmosphere, although we were not in a ‘holy place’ was very extraordinary. This moment stuck out for me from the whole programme and is still with me, 10 days on. Thank you Neil! 


There come times in the Army Brass Banding world, that pieces become very popular and you hear certain pieces played by different bands; one of those pieces being Sam Creamer’s ‘High Over All’. This gave different sections of the band opportunity to feature both individually and with each other, and also brought a samba party feel to the foyer of the Symphony Hall.


The mood was changed once again with Thomas Rive’s reflective arrangement of ‘I Know a Fount’. The last soloist of the program was the very talented David Taylor on euphonium who played Keith Wilkinson’s arrangement of ‘Auld Lang Syne’. You may think it was too early to hear something that is more commonly heard in about 3 months’ time, but when you’re stood in awe of someone’s talent, and how he made playing it look so effortless, that thought didn’t matter!!


Major Martin Cordner has become a popular composer within the Salvation Army by creating pieces that incorporate different styles, different genres of music and feature both modern and traditional songs, really capturing the listener’s imagination. The band’s major work for the morning was ‘The Adventurers’, composed by Martin Cordner. This piece included ‘He leadeth me! O blesséd thought!’, ‘By His hand’ and ‘Lead me’. This really was a great major work to use as the atmosphere at the Symphony Hall intensified, and the British Open contest loomed closer. 


It wouldn’t be a Salvation Army concert without finishing with a march. On this occasion, it was Bruce Broughton’s ‘Hillcrest’ that took the chance to end what was once again a fantastic concert from Birmingham Citadel Band. The audience had certainly grown in size as the concert went on, entertaining many people and giving the Band the opportunity to be out in the community where they call ‘home’. 


Thank you Birmingham Citadel Band for another great time spent with you!  See you next year!



Words:  Emily Croucher
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