Birmingham Citadel Band enjoyed a fantastic weekend in Gainsborough. A weekend of great ministry for the band was enhanced by great music and fellowship. John Sharman and Graham Andrews reflect on our time in Lincolnshire.
From the minute we arrive we were kept busy. Our first action was to march through the town to the “Old Hall”. Gainsborough, which features in the Domesday book of 1087, is a town with lots of history and the The Old Hall was built between 1460-1480. A building with an interesting past, Henry VIII stayed there for a time and it was this building that provided the backdrop to our first concert of the weekend. A crowd gathered to to hear the band play music including marches, hymn tune settings (such as “‘Mid all the Traffic”), and a cornet solo (“Share My Yoke”) played by principal cornet Nicola Redhead, alongside more up-tempo items such as the rock transcriptions of “Stand up for Jesus”. Following this there was an impromptu tour of the “Old Hall” before the band marched back to Gainsborough Salvation Army to set up ahead of the evening festival.
The next involvement for the band was a civic reception. The band was well looked after all weekend and the way in which the district council welcomed the band into their chambers for dinner was yet another sign of the appreciation of the towns-folk. The band then returned to the hall for a prayer meeting ahead of our festival.
John Sharman writes.......
In my prayer, offered in the band room before the festival, I asked that God would bless our efforts and that we would be a means of entertainment, inspiration and blessing to the waiting, capacity congregation. I am sure that God and the audience would not have been disappointed with what followed in the next couple of hours.
From the opening number, Paul Sharman’s ‘Amazed’ (specially written for the Bands’ recent appearance at the London Congress), to the final magnificent strains of Eric Ball’s ‘The Kingdom Triumphant’, the band displayed an assured, confident sense of excitement and musicianship.
As is the norm with BCB band programmes, there was an eclectic mix of old and new, large scale and smaller scale works. Wilf Heaton’s clever skills were displayed in the ever popular ‘Victory for Me’, whilst Paul Lovatt-Cooper’s ‘Vitae Aeternum’ gave the band the chance to generate excitement and devotion all in one package, a real crowd pleaser!
Other items included ‘Peace’ (Ken Downie), ‘Ask’ (Peter Graham), ‘For Our Transgressions’ (Morley Calvert), ‘Moses Get Down’ (Barrie Gott), ‘Shalom’ (Erik Silfverberg) and William Himes’ well crafted ‘Soli Deo Gloria’.
The band is blessed with several excellent soloists, four of whom were featured in this concert:- Neil Blessett (Tenor Horn) featured Hugh Nash’s ‘Demelza’ ( Demelza is the Cornish name of a character from ‘Poldark’). Mark Sharman (Trombone) imparted much blessing with ‘Somebody Prayed for Me’ (Arr Peter van der Horden). David Taylor (Euphonium) played Philip Sparke’s ‘Harlequin’ with his usual aplomb. Edward Dixon provided some humourous light relief as his Tuba solo ‘The Bare Necessities’ (Leigh baker) was hi-jacked by the rest of the band.
My Mum, who was my biggest critic when I was an SA Bandmaster in the 1970s, used to complain bitterly that I didn’t include enough Marches in my band programmes. So I know that she would have been delighted to hear the band’s final contribution of the evening, George Marshall’s ‘The Liberator’, sending the audience home feeling that they had indeed been blessed, entertained and inspired by what they had seen and heard.
Graham Andrews writes......
After a restful night, 9.45am saw us meeting together for prayer at the commencement of our day’s worship and activities. The theme for the morning meeting, “The Blood of Christ”, was introduced by the band’s playing of Kenneth Downie’s “He Can Break Every Fetter”. The congregation was drawn into worship by the soulful playing of the trombones as they introduced the words “He can set you free”. These were repeated with more and more certainty as the rest of the band joined in, finalising in the triumphant chords - testimony of a band who knew them as a truth.
Worship was led by our assistant band sergeant Robert O’Connor, supported by testimonies from Nicola Redhead and Robert Hayward, and we were all blessed by the singing of Gainsborough Songsters, led by their leader Sue Blyth. The powerful message of “The Crimson Tide” music was greatly enhanced by the multi-media words and pictures. Although this piece has been in our repertoire for a number of years, it always comes afresh both for the band and listeners alike. Seeing members of the congregation with eyes closed and heads bowed at the end of our playing showed that the message had once again been conveyed to them.
As he brought his thoughts to us, band sergeant Ian Kershaw reminded us of the redeeming, atoning and restoring power of the blood of Christ, shed for us at Calvary. Although a familiar story, Ian gave us all something challenging to ponder both then and later in our own devotions.
After a cup of coffee and conversations with the Gainsborough folk, the band again had the privilege to march the streets of the town for an open-air meeting at a shopping precinct. Just as on Saturday afternoon, people came out of the shops to look, listen and take photographs as the band marched past. About 200 people stood around listening, and contacts were made with many of them. Because of the great interest shown, the planned walk back to the Army hall was cancelled, and we marched instead.
Following lunch together another near capacity congregation greeted the band as we marched onto the platform for our final meeting of the week-end. Andrew Mackereth’s “Ein’ Feste Burg” got the programme off to a rousing start, and the band’s range of styles and sounds was clearly evident in the contrasting “Joy of Loving Hearts” (Kenneth Downie) and “Before His Throne” (Paul Sharman).
Four new items were then presented. First was a tenor horn solo “The Piper O’ Dundee” (Kenneth Downie), ably presented by Andrew Dickinson before Norman Bearcroft’s classic euphonium duet “Timepiece” was superbly played by David Taylor and Keith Watts. Again a contrast in style was heard in the simple but emotive arrangement of “This is My Father’s World” from the pen of the Gainsborough bandmaster, Andrew Blyth. “Fire In The Blood” by Lovatt-Cooper has become a favourite of audiences since it was first heard during the ISB’s 120th celebrations in 2011. From its explosive opening, into the thought provoking solo melodies played by Nicola and David, and its exciting finale, this was a superb first rendition by the band.
Many comments afterwards reflected how people were excited, challenged and blessed by our playing. Thanks once again to Gavin and Malcolm for the informative multi-media which always enhances our music. Bandmaster Andrew Blyth then gave some emotional words of appreciation for the band’s ministry over the week-end. He recalled our tour of Canada where he had been our guest conductor, and of the happy memories and experiences we shared. He was then invited to conduct the band in Albert Jakeway’s march “Rosehill”, one of those memories.
After the rousing congregational song “Crown Him With Many Crowns”, the band said farewell to our hosts by playing “An Irish Blessing” (arr Bradnum), with special emphasis on the last phrase that ‘God would hold us all in the palm of His Hand’.
Reflections on the coach journey home were that this was a tiring, but rewarding week-end. We felt that we had been used by God to support and encourage the corps at Gainsborough, not only in their own worship, but by also raising the profile of the Army in the town. But above all this, we felt we had been used by God to bring blessing and challenge to the many people who had seen and listened to us. Our prayer is that He will continue to bless and challenge them as they reflect and remember our visit.