The visit of the International Staff Band is always much anticipated and this was certainly the case when the ISB landed in Birmingham. This was never in doubt and was highlighted by the way Birmingham Citadel ran out of chairs when an “over-capacity crowd” gathered for the Saturday evening concert!
The band opened with Martin Cordner’s exciting “Call of the Gospel” and it was clear from the opening bars that the band was in top form and we were in for an inspiring evening.
It was particularly pleasing that since the last time the ISB visited Birmingham some 8 years ago Birmingham Citadel Band now has 4 of it’s own playing with the ISB (BM Gavin Lamplough, Nicola Redhead, Andrew Dickinson and YPBL Robert Hayward) and so it was a special occasion for them. Joining Gavin and Nicola in the ISB Solo Cornet section is Paul Sharman who was himself a member of Birmingham Citadel Band and it was his arrangement of “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” that was featured next.
The first large scale work of the night was Steven Ponsford’s “The Day of the Lord” - an exciting number in the style of a film score that will surely receive wide popularity upon publication. The first of the band’s soloists was principal cornet Carl Nielson who played Eric Ball’s much loved solo “Clear Skies” before Derick Kane wowed the audience with Bulla’s “Air ‘n Variations”. BM Cobb had mistakingly introduced Derick as “the ISB’s principal cornet for over 35 years” and Derick seized the opportunity to share a joke with the audience before he played! Over 35 years on and he still makes it sound so easy!
The band concluded the first half with another composition from the pen of Paul Sharman - “Quest”. This is an extended work intended to mirror the life of a young Christian.
The second half opened with a bright arrangement of “Every Time I Feel the Spirit” before the congregation were invited to join the band in a congregation song. The second half was seemingly lighter in the choice of music and this was well received by the audience with much to be enjoyed.
Further solos from Andrew Justice and Richard Woodrow represented latin jazz and Irish folk melodies respectively and there was real energy in the playing of “Jubilo Jubilo”, written for this year’s Territorial Youth Band course.
The programme was brought to a close with the exciting music of Paul Lovatt-Cooper (“Fire in the Blood”) and then the ISB signature march “Praise”.
The band led the services on the Sunday with Executive Officer Mark Herbert accompanying the band and leading the meeting in this his first season with the ISB. There was a thoughtful testimony from Jonathan Evans (Hendon) and of course music from the band to aid worship.
The afternoon march through the city centre was cancelled due to inclement weather but the much anticipated Sunday afternoon festival more than compensated for the disappointment.
Following the old march “Unconquered” and the inventive “Festivity” by Leslie Condon which was originally written for a quintet at the 1972 Bandmaster’s Councils, the congregation enjoyed two duets. Firstly BCB Bandmaster Gavin Lamplough was joined by Carl Nielsen for Martin Cordner’s “Synergy” before Derick Kane was joined by Jonathan Evans to play Peter Graham’s “Brillante”. The extended applause from the audience reflected their appreciation.
New works by Dudley Bright (“Fantastia on ‘Glory to His Name’”) and Martin Cordner (“Escape Velocity”) brought a hugely enjoyable and inspiring weekend to a close. It was great to hear new works by Salvation Army composers as well as SA classics.