On March 18, 1893, a headline for an article in the War Cry reads: BIRMINGHAM: As it is, and as it is Going to be. The feature certainly gives a unique insight into early-day Salvation Army activities in Birmingham and introduces us to many of our Salvationist ancestors who pioneered the corps of Birmingham Citadel Salvation Army.
However, it also makes one significant revelation which pin-points the formation of the corps band, a fact that seems to have proved elusive to previous generations of band historians. In one brief sentence it reads:
“A brass band is being formed under the leadership of Capt. Wright.”
This announcement, of course, had followed the opening of Birmingham Citadel Corps in September of the previous year.
According to a further article entitled: WARRIORS OF THE BIRMINGHAM CITADEL, this time from the December 17, 1898 issue of the War Cry, the Citadel Band had twenty members and the Bandmaster was a certain “comrade” Pollock – a foreman in a bicycle-chain factory. It seems that Bandmaster Pollock had previously been Bandmaster at Middlesbrough 1 corps for six years and he had held the position at Birmingham for “upwards of two years”.
Few photographs exist of the early Citadel bands, but strangely enough, evidence of an early BCB exists in the form of a rather grand pose of the band’s swimming team of 1909.
The first mention of the band in the corps history book dates from 1908, chronicling the band’s attendance at a funeral and, later, the Christmas carolling programme.
It is recorded that, in 1910, Brother F. Godrich was commissioned Bandmaster, along with Brother Tom Griffiths as Deputy Bandmaster.
In 1912 an instrument scheme was started for replacing old instruments and re-plating those in good order. The scheme, completed in just 8 weeks, met its budget of £120!
Other early Birmingham Citadel Bandmasters include F. Godrich, Reg Hodgetts, Tom Griffith, Will Powey, Arthur Bailey and Charles Lefevre.
A photograph of an early-day band exists, taken in 1914, but from this time until the 1940’s, records of the band continue to be very sketchy. We do know, however, that in 1929, Bert Burford was commissioned Bandmaster and held that position until 1936. During his time as Bandmaster he showed himself to be an innovator. Amongst the many initiatives was the purchase of the band’s very first set of red festival tunics. They were regarded as being very modern as BM Burford preferred to avoid the traditional “lion tamer” embroidery for something much more ‘plain’ – a bold step at that time!
In November 1936 Deputy Bandmaster Bennett was appointed as acting Bandmaster with B.T. Langworthy as Band Instructor. The eventual commissioning in 1946 of B.Tregoning Langworthy as Bandmaster was a significant landmark in the band’s history. BTL, who came from Penzance, Cornwall, was the first recipient of the LRAM for cornet playing in this country and he also made a broadcast as a cornet soloist from the BBC Midlands studios in 1923. Known as a strict disciplinarian and excellent band trainer, he was also a composer of some repute, perhaps best remembered for his marches “Birmingham Citadel” and “Regeneration” as well as his cornet solo “Heavenly Gales”.
In 1949, the band undertook its first studio broadcast and in 1953 came a high point when the band was invited to play at The Royal Albert Hall, London in the presence of the then General – Albert Orsborn. Their featured pieces were “Moments with the Masters” and “In My Redeemer’s Praise”.
March 12/13, 1955 marked the retirement of Bert Langworthy and his successor, Bram Williams was commissioned. Under Bram’s leadership the band continued to flourish. An early highlight from this period was appearing as “solo” band at The Bandmaster’s Councils Festival at The Royal Albert Hall in 1964. The featured pieces were “None Other Name” and the march “Spirit of Joy”.
The band embarked on its first overseas tour to The Netherlands in 1967. Its first LP record “Tour 67”was released for the tour. A further tour to Norway followed in 1977. To coincide with this, the band released an LP recording “Joyous Proclamation”. At the end of that year, the band recorded with the songsters and famous singer and radio personality Ian Wallace, a special Christmas programme for BBC Radio 4. The following year, the band was featured in the National Band Festival at the Royal Festival Hall playing “Kaleidoscope”. The band’s final tour under Bram Williams’ leadership was to Sweden in 1983 and to promote this, an LP recording was released called “Sound of Britain”.
Bram Williams retired in October 1983 after over 28 years as Bandmaster, and Wesley Kendrick was commissioned as Bandmaster in October 1983.
The fine traditions of the band were continued. Two tape recordings “Marches and Melodies” were produced and a tour of four European countries (Denmark, Holland, Germany and Sweden) took place in 1989. The LP recording “Poem” was released to coincide with this. More unusually, the band had earlier (1987) been represented by an ensemble taking part in a “Central Weekend” Television programme – a live programme, with the famous footballer, George Best making a guest appearance!
Other highlights from this time included the band’s appearance at the “Composers Festival” at Wembley in 1990, and in the following year, a performance of the “Messiah” at Birmingham Town Hall.
In 1994, the band produced its first CD recording “Centre Point”. This was a timely release as the band undertook a tour of Western USA at the end of 1994 and early 1995. A highlight from this tour must surely have been the band’s participation in the world famous Roses Parade.
A ground-breaking initiative was the band’s appearance at the NIA in 1992 to support Cliff Richard in his Christmas Spectacular, a tradition which continued for several years afterwards. The band’s flirtation with the world of celebrity would continue later with an ensemble’s appearance on the award winning BBC1 Television series “Dalziel and Pascoe”.
In 1997, Retired Songster Leader Fred Crowhurst took temporary charge of the band from September to December prior to the commissioning of David Nicholson as Bandmaster.
In May, 2000, BCB took part in the British Congress at The Royal Albert Hall, London, playing “Triumph of Peace” and the march “Forward 2000”. In the following year a new CD, “Jubilate” was released. The band was further invited to take part at the annual “Hendon Highlights” in 2002. Also at this time came an invitation from the organisers of the “British Open Band Contest” to give a pre-contest programme at The Symphony Hall, a tradition which remains to this day.
A ten-day tour to USA took place in 2003, based mainly in and around the districts of Iowa and Washington. Again, the band was able to promote their latest CD recording “Pictures of Perfection”.
The Christmas CD “Amazing Gift” was produced in 2005 and this proved to be one of the final highlights of this period, before the eventual commissioning of Bandmaster Graham Lamplough in 2007, following a period as acting Bandmaster in 2006.
Under Bandmaster Lamplough the band continued its traditions of festivals, concerts and week-end campaigns, including visits to Boscombe, Sheffield and Cardiff Canton Corps. The band is also fortunate to perform twice each year at Birmingham’s magnificent Symphony Hall. In July 2008, the band’s 115 years of service was celebrated in a memorable “Reunion Week-end” when bandsmen past and present met to re-new friendships and exchange memories. Colonel Trevor Davis led the Sunday meetings.
In 2009 Bandmaster Graham Lamplough commissioned the construction of this website, seeing the need to respond to the demand and publish the band on the “world wide web”.
The Band released its first CD recording under BM Lamplough, “The Spirit of Joy” in September 2009 and continued to develop exciting initiatives such as the annual “Night at the Proms” concert at Birmingham Citadel which always attracts a capacity audience. In anticipation of its overseas tour to Canada at Easter 2011, Birmingham Citadel Band released the second album with Bandmaster Graham Lamplough. Always looking for new and attractive ways to present the Gospel, the CD “Seasons in Splendour” is a concept album featuring music that takes the listener on a journey through the seasons and this is linked with narrations.
The Tour of Canada in 2011 was a triumph, but the buildup to the trip was shrouded in disappointment. The band learned that Bandmaster Graham Lamplough would be prevented from traveling with the band due to ill-health. The Bandmaster had already invited Lt. Col. Anthony Cotterill to travel with the band as the Executive Officer but he also invited Assistant Territorial Director of Music Andrew Blyth to deputise for him as Bandmaster on the tour. Despite the disappointment that the Bandmaster would not be on the tour, the Lord richly blessed BCB in Canada. The musical and spiritual success of the tour was unrivaled, and this was due in no small part to the thorough preparation of Bandmaster Graham Lamplough.
Sunday 15th May 2011 saw the retirement of Bandmaster Graham Lamplough and the commissioning of his son, Bandmaster Gavin Lamplough, as his successor. Since this time the band has continued to build on it’s fine reputation with a series of high profile events and recordings. The first innovation under BM Lamplough was the BCB “open rehearsal”. Twice annually BCB hold an open rehearsal which in its first year attracted over 200 brass band enthusiasts. In 2012 the band was privileged to be invited to play at the Territorial (National) Congress in London for which the General was in attendance. As part of the day at the Royal Albert Hall BCB performed a concert at the Royal College of Music’s Britten Theatre as well as an afternoon concert for the many Salvationists at the Royal Albert Hall. The band was also privileged to perform in a BBC Radio 2 broadcast and also appeared on the iconic BBC Radio Brass Band programme “Listen to the Band” with Frank Renton. In September 2012 the band was back in the studio recording the first CD under BM Gavin Lamplough: “Victory for Me!”. 2012 also saw, for the first time in the band’s history, four of it’s members playing with the International Staff Band. Four is a significant number of members from one corps and is yet another sign of the reputation of the Birmingham Citadel Band.
In August 2012 five BCB members set out on a challenge to visit the 92 Premier and Football League clubs in just 92 hours for Cancer Research. They completed this mammoth challenge in just 74 hours and thanks to the incredible support they received they managed to raise in excess of £8000! 2013 marked the 120th anniversary of Birmingham Citadel Band and to celebrate this landmark the band enjoyed a concert at Birmingham’s Adrian Boult Hall with guest soloist Philip Cobb (Principal Trumpet of the London Symphony Orchestra). 2014 saw Birmingham Citadel Band back in the recording studio with the release of the second CD under the leadership of BM Gavin Lamplough entitled “Everlasting Hope”.
In 2016 Birmingham Citadel Band hosted William Himes for the weekend and enjoyed their final concert at the Adrian Boult Hall before its relocation with BM Himes, Derick Kane and Stephen Kane. Later that month the band undertook a tour to Switzerland. The tour to Switzerland was an outstanding success when the band witnessed capacity audiences responding in a quite overwhelming way to their music and ministry. The band was accompanied by Corps Officer Major Steve White and it was wonderful to hear many encouraging stories from the Swiss people in the days following the tour of how people engaged with the band’s ministry in a wonderful way.
In 2017 the band accepted an unusual invite to collaborate with a Saxophone ensemble for a CD project named “Salvation Saxophones”. BCB have always embraced innovative projects and this was no exception as the CD aimed to explore the timbres of the early SA bands, which included Saxophones in their instrumentation, whilst featuring more contemporary music by Salvationist composers. In 2018 Birmingham Citadel Band celebrated 125 years of Music-Ministry. The weekend of celebrations commenced with a rehearsal for the current BCB augmented by former bandsmen. In the evening BCB presented the first half of the concert whist the reunion massed band presented significant repertoire from the band’s 125 year history.