Over five hundred people attended the Adrian Boult Hall on the 21st of September to witness the celebration of Birmingham Citadel Band’s (BCB) 120th anniversary. Salvationist and world-renowned trumpet virtuoso Philip Cobb supported the band performing four solos, of which three were written for him.
BCB began with William Gordon’s triumphant arrangement of ‘Laudes Domini’. A rousing fanfare, with associated words: “When morning gilds the skies, my heart awakening cries may Jesus Christ be praised!”
‘Guardian of my Soul’ is a piece of music that has only recently become extremely popular in Salvation Army circles. Written by Darren Shaw of Southsea corps, it fuses together his own reflective melody with the old hymn tune ‘Aurelia’, using the words: “Oh, let me hear Thee speaking, In accents clear and still, above the storms of passion, The murmurs of self-will; Oh, speak to reassure me, To chasten, or control; Oh, speak, and make me listen, Thou Guardian of my soul.” Darren wrote the piece as a reflection of a period in his life when there was uncertainty in his physical health. The band complimented this with some beautiful playing.
The band’s next piece was a world premiere of Martin Cordner’s called ‘Skydance’, specially commissioned for the night’s celebrations. Cordner’s work signals the last piece in his Eternity trilogy which has included ‘Escape Velocity’ and ‘Fusion.’ The format of the piece is written around the famous “Shaker Tune” which was written by Sydney Carter in 1963. The words say: “Dance then wherever you may be, I am the Lord of the Dance said he, and I’ll lead you all wherever you may be, and I’ll lead you all in the dance said he.” The exciting ending to the piece celebrates the energy and exuberance that Cordner believes eternity will represent.
Philip Cobb, who is the principal trumpet player of the London Symphony Orchestra, presented ‘Jubilance’ as his first solo. Published in 1994, Himes’ work was originally penned for Peggy Thomas, who was and still is the principal cornet player of the Chicago Staff Band. The solo has quickly become one of the leading cornet solos in the Army movement due to its exuberant, fast paced nature. Popular tunes such as “Because of You” and “If You Want Joy” are skillfully crafted into one by Himes in the middle section which gives all Christians a message as John 5:11 says: “These things I have spoken unto you, that my joy may remain within you, and that your joy may be full.” Philip’s performance of this solo was exquisite and precise, showing off his professional talent.
The next piece of the night was written by Sheffield-born composer Wilfred Heaton entitled ‘The Golden Pen.’ Born to Salvationist parents, Heaton started crafting music together from a very early age and built a reputation for his intense and creative works. Although his music is now considered to be masterful, in the 1950’s, many believed his ideas to be too radical for the Salvation Army repertoire. After Heaton’s death in 2000, Paul Hindmarsh, a former member of Birmingham Citadel Band found many unpublished works and a year later, the Williams Fairey band premiered ‘The Golden Pen’. The simple words of “I put my finger upon the Golden Pen to write my name up there” are associated with the timeless melody.
Philip Cobb was reintroduced into the concert to play his next solo of the night, which was called ‘Interlude,’ written by film composer Andrew Pearce. Philip’s latest solo CD “Songs From The Heart” demonstrates many genres of music, but this brief but charming solo was played faultlessly by Phillip as a reminder of the immense lyrical playing that he possesses.
The first half of the celebration was brought to a close with the band’s moving rendition of Eric Ball’s masterpiece ‘Resurgam.’ First performed nearly 20 years after it was originally written, Ball’s epic work is considered to be the most coveted piece in the brass band world. The work depicts a Christian’s life and walks through the struggles that they may face. However, Ball with his artistry and grace grabs the listener by using different styles of music to illustrate the differing emotions. The end of the piece resolves from the conflictions and ends in tranquility, with the words: “I shall rise again” - the promise of eternal life from God.
After the second half resumed with a congregational song and Kevin Larsson’s ‘Fill The World With Glory’, Philip Cobb played his penultimate solo ‘Variations on a Wondrous Day’, which was arranged by former Birmingham Citadel bandsman Paul Sharman. The work is based on the original solo work of ‘Wondrous Day’, written by Erik Leidzen for Philip’s grandfather, Roland. However, the new version is a modern twist of the old edition, and Philip’s world-class skills were highlighted throughout as he demonstrated his expertise on the Flugel Horn and Piccolo as well as the Trumpet.
The next two items of the night celebrated the tenures of the former Bandmaster’s of the band during its 120 years of service. Wesley Kendrick, who conducted the band between 1983-1997 conducted Robert Redhead’s ‘Reflections in Nature,’ before David Nicholson who took over from Wes in 1997-2006 led the band through Martin Cordner’s ‘He is Exalted.’
Philip rejoined the band for his final solo of the night, which was again written by ISB Bandsman, Paul Sharman, called ‘Flourish.’ The energetic solo defined Philip’s bravura as he treated the crowd to his flawless technique and flair before leaving the stage to rapturous applause.
Another former BCB Bandmaster was the late Graham Lamplough, and his life was celebrated in the next premiere, called ‘Everlasting Hope’ by Paul Sharman. Graham devoted his life to the Salvation Army before his death in 2011, and his favourite words “Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow” are perfectly depicted in the peaceful setting created by the composer. Those famous Salvation Army words kept Graham’s faith strong during his brave battle against illness, and were a perfect solace for him as he met his maker in Heaven.
Peter Graham is a well-known name in not just Salvation Army circles but also the wider brass banding world. The band’s final piece of the night, entitled ‘Renaissance’ followed on from Peter’s earlier work, ‘Shine As The Light.’ Major Joy Webb’s song ‘Come into our World’ is heavily featured throughout the work and the band delivered an assured performance. The piece seeks to portray the revival in music form of Christ’s return. As the night drew to a close, the concert finished in the same triumphant way as is started, as a passion of praise- “My heart awakening cries, may Jesus Christ Be Praised!”
Words: Oliver Ridley
Pictures: Christian Lewis and Laura Sharman
Comments from the audience....
I was at the concert at the Adrian Boult Hall on Saturday evening and would like to express my thanks for a wonderful celebration of faith through music .The band was superb and Philip Cobb was beyond words. He truly represents the glorious God given gift of music that we are blessed with both as players and listeners. Thank you once again.
I just wanted to write and express my thanks for a wonderful evening on Saturday. It was apparent that every detail had been thought through carefully and the planning had been meticulous. The band were well rehearsed, the multi media was simple, clear and effective, the brochure provided good context, the compere was relevant, the soloist was amazing and the venue was fitting for such a memorable occasion. Well done to BCB. I felt it a privilege to have been part of it all. I will look forward to the 130th!
What a truly wonderful evening! The band were superb and the soloist astonishing! We enjoyed the programme so much and I was personally so pleased to hear Resurgam - thank you. Reading about the stories behind the music and the words associated has resulted in lots of conversations in our house this weekend.
I am sure that you will have been inundated with positive comments re Saturday evening. I just want to add ours to the pile. I thought it was one of the best concerts I have ever attended. The band were outstanding as was the soloist but the arrangements and content were perfect. If 'the best is yet to come', your successors will have to work very, very hard! God Bless
Just a note to thank-you for last night.It was a pleasure to be a member of the congregation. The choice of programme was inspirational and the standard of playing superb. It was wonderful to meet old friends, but most of all it was a privilege to hear and see the modest virtuosity of Philip Cobb.
I am so pleased we travelled down to Birmingham - the best concert I have ever been to!
Congratulations on a wonderful night at the Adrian Boult Hall. The content was entirely pleasurable to listen to and is a great credit to both you and the current members. Once again many thanks for a fine uplifting occasion. Worthy of the 120years of service for God.
Just a quick line to congratulate you and the band on a job well done last night. From the very first note to the last chord of the night you displayed what Salvation Army banding/music is all about.
I had a fab night. Thanks BCB!
Just to say congrats on a great evening - I thought the band were a fine credit to you and the band’s heritage.
A superb concert with superb playing - I never knew there was so much great Salvation Army repertoire!
Well done to all who were involved tonight.
Well worth a drive over to Birmingham tonight :) Thanks to all involved with BCB and to the writers of some great music!
Had a brilliant evening listening to BCB. What a fantastic SA band!
Just want to say what a total musical experience was on Saturday! You know me I say it as it is and the whole evening was exceptional in performance and pleasure of listening……everyone is to be congratulated on a superb evening. Thank you very very much! Probably the best Resurgam for a long time! Good playing everyone.
The band did very well - It just goes to show that the SA still has its place and that the relevance of banding is not lost on people......all I have heard is positive reports. Here is to the next 120!
I want to say how much I thoroughly enjoyed your 120 year Band Celebration on Saturday 21st at the Adrian Boult Hall. Philip Cobb was just the consummate professional and the compering was truly first class. Birmingham Band really did themselves proud. You played extremely well and I don't think I have ever heard them play as well! Many congratulations to you and the Band. Your corporate witness really was a joy not only to the audience but I feel sure to the Lord himself and I felt quite privileged to think that I was even a member once upon a time!