BCB at The British Open
Birmingham Citadel welcomed Norwich Citadel Band last weekend as the two corps continued their fruitful relationship that has lasted for a number of years.
The weekend started with Birmingham Citadel Band presenting its own annual concert in front of a packed crowd at this year’s 163rd British Open Championships at the spectacular ICC.
BCB began their concert with Samuel Shelley’s transcription of the beautiful song, ‘Bow The Knee’, originally written by Chris Machen and Mike Harland. The lyrics offer hope and the understanding that when we feel alone, God is always there: “Bow the knee; Trust the heart of the Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see.”
Barrie Gott is a name that is synonymous with Salvation Army music around the globe. His arrangement of ‘Let There Be Praise’ which was originally made famous by Christian singing supremo, Sandi Patty in the 1980s was played next by the band. Excitement filled the air as the words "So lift your voices, with gladness sing, proclaim through all the earth that Jesus Christ is King” sang through the audience.
Nicholas King a relatively new composer who already has a glowing reputation for both contemporary choral and brass band works. ‘Let Everybody Praise His Holy Name’ was initially made famous by various singing groups within the Salvation Army. However, the newly published brass band work gives the song a new dimension, which engages with the audience, which builds to an exciting climax.
Deputy Bandmaster, Mark Sharman was the first soloist of the concert, playing Peter Graham’s Trombone solo, ‘Fiesta’. The piece is packed full of quirky and contemporary rhythms and an extended cadenza which was expertly delivered by the band’s principal Trombone player.
The band continued their up-tempo section of the concert with Michael Kenyon’s arrangement of ‘March Militaire Francaise.’ The piece is the final movement of Saint-Saens symphonic poem ‘Suite Algérienne’ which was written in the final years of his life. Initially used in a wind ensemble or orchestra environment, the scoring has been expertly portrayed by Kenyon who captures the audience’s attention with its signature complex rhythms and beautiful lyrical lines that offer the audience a wide variety styles.
BCB changed the mood of the concert, playing Thomas Rive’s beautiful arrangement of the hymn tune Colne. Although the arrangement may not create many technical obstacles, the piece requires a sense of full lyrical lines and that is what the band delivered with great assurance.
‘Make His Praise Glorious’ is another song that was made famous by Sandi Patty in the 1980’s. William Gordon’s excellent arrangement of the song has become a favourite of a number of Salvation Army brass bands over the past two decades because of its infectious energy of the percussion and driving rhythms. The crowd were treated to a vibrant performance as the piece came to an explosive climax.
Principal Euphonium David Taylor was the band’s next soloist, as he played ‘Locomotion’, written by the pen of Norman Bearcroft. The solo was written to imitate the noises and motions that a train goes through on a journey. Conversations between each section of the band occur throughout, while David dealt with the challenging nature of the semiquavers and the high register jazz section with virtuosity and technical brilliance.
‘Skydance’ was written for Birmingham Citadel Band’s 120th anniversary by Martin Cordner. The piece which is part of a three-part trilogy which also includes ‘Escape Velocity’, opens with Sydney Carter’s ‘Shaker Tune’ of which the full piece is based on. The work takes the listener through three separate sections, which offer alternative styles and tempos. Cordner explains his thoughts on the piece in his notes by saying: “The dance (Shaker Tune) explores the idea that the dance, representing the propagation of God’s love for humanity began long ago in the form of Jesus Christ and will now go on for eternity.” The piece ends with a celtic style original tune that is built up through an exciting fusion of Carter’s tune, and running quavers that are passed around the band which brings the piece to a pulsating climax.
The penultimate piece of the concert was Olaf Ritman’s ‘To The Cross I Come Lord’. The tune which was originally for choirs but has become popular among army brass band circles in recent years has these words associated: “To Thy Cross I Come Lord, There for me is room Lord. Poor unworthy me, yes even me. Pardon every sin, Lord.” Ritman’s beautiful setting of the tune is simple yet affective which is why the talented writer has become so popular in recent times. The piece was played beautifully by the band which was greeted by appreciation by the watching audience.
‘The King’s Highway’ by army stalwart Erik Leidzen was the band’s final piece of the morning. The march was originally published in the American journal’s, and was used on the streets due to Leidzen’s unmistakable musical character coming to the forefront with his timeless style and poise. The concert finished in front of a grateful and rapturous applause as BCB delivered not just a musical performance but a strong christian message throughout.
1.Bow the Knee (arr. Sam Shelley)
2.Let there be Praise (arr. Barrie Gott)
3.Let Everybody Praise His Holy Name (arr. Nik King)
4.Trombone Solo: Fiesta (Peter Graham) – Mark Sharman
5.Marche Militaire Francaise (Saint-Saens; arr. Kenyon)
6.Colne (Thomas Rive)
7.Make His Praise Glorious (arr. William Gordon)
8.Euphonium Solo: Locomotion (Norman Bearcroft) – David Taylor
9. Skydance (Martin Cordner)
10. To Thy Cross I come, Lord (Bosanko; arr. Ritman)
11.The King’s Highway (Erik Leidzen)
Visit of Norwich Citadel Band
The long awaited return visit of Norwich Citadel Band began with James Curnow's 'Hallelujah', swiftly followed by a smooth transition into the graceful 'David of the White Rock' – a composition by former Norwich Bandmaster John Gibson. Band Sergeant Graeme Hall then prayed on behalf of the congregation for a God-glorifying evening and weekend. Steven Ponsford’s march ‘Diamond Jubilee’ ended the introductory segment of the programme. Following introductions from Bandmaster Richard Woodrow, David Winch skilfully presented a solo written for him – the complex ‘Air and Rondo for Tenor Horn and Band’ by Steven Ponsford; the display of soloists continued with principal euphonium Daniel Beattie expertly handling ‘Canaan’s Land’, a solo originally written by Peter Graham for use by the ISB and Derick Kane. The true reason of this concert was then brought home as Ian Grimshaw offered his heartfelt testimony, speaking of where he was on his spiritual journey. The congregation was then taken on a musical roller coaster as NCB brought Kevin Larsson’s pacey ‘Fill the world with Glory’, followed by a band vocal and Dudley Bright’s major work ‘Confrontations’. Despite its minimal use in Salvation Army circles, the well-known tune I’m in his hands offered a sense of familiarity to the music. This work allowed the band to display much of its skill, but more importantly, present its message.
The short interval was brought to a close by a group of young bandsmen and women playing 'Righteousness, Peace and Joy', and after a congregational song (William Himes' modern arrangement of 'Zepheniah’s Song'), NCB then presented another rarely heard work – Eric Ball's 'Songs of the Morning': the beautiful writing and careful playing made the piece easy to listen to. Daniel Frost then brought the final brass solo of the night, playing Peter Graham's challenging cornet solo 'Whirlwind' - here, not only the skilful playing of the soloist must be acknowledged but also the accompaniment of the band. The ever-lively James Morley then brought a further vocal element to the night singing 'Bring him home' from the musical Les Miserables: the hushed silence at its conclusion was testament enough to the quality of James' performance.
Martin Cordner's relatively new 'On High' offered a distinct change in mood, as did the succeeding 'Prelude on a Hymn Tune Lavenham': this piece was donated to the Salvation Army by Geoffrey Nobes and is fast becoming a favourite with bands across the UK. The words on the screen coupled with the sensitive playing led perfectly into the time of reflection led by the band’s Executive Officer Major Richard Welch. The evening concluded with Steven Ponsford's 'Let There be Light' - a piece with an energetic start, reflective middle section and a bold conclusion (in many ways an analogy for the concert as a whole). Major Steve White then pronounced a benediction before the band sent everyone home with their feet tapping to Martin Cordner's 'Call of the Gospel'. Following the programme, the bandsmen and women met their billets, and everyone went home looking forward to sharing further fellowship the next day.
William Himes’ ‘Precious Fountain’ was the prelude to the morning meeting as Norwich Citadel band welcomed the congregation into worship before joining in the congregational songs ‘O Worship the King’ and Lord, I come Before your Throne’. This preceded the prayer time, taking the meeting into a reflective atmosphere was Bandsman Jason Beattie leading the prayer. Birmingham Citadel Singing Company then treated us to their contribution, followed by a testimony by Bandsman Matthew Frost. This was followed by another congregational song ‘He leadeth me!’. The morning’s bible reading, read by Bandswoman Heather Russell was John 10: 1-18:
“1 Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them. 7Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 11“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
Leading us into the Bible message the band played ‘Guardian of our Way’. The bible reading was delivered by the bands executive officer Major Richard Welsh. Following the message ‘Master Speak!’ was sung reflectively. After this appropriate time of reflection the mood was changed once again with the rousing song ‘Crown Him with Many Crowns’ ending the mornings worship. Just before the hall was vacated a benediction was pronounced and the band played in postlude the popular arrangement, by Olaf Ritman, ‘The Lord is Gracious’.
Juxtaposing the gentle beginning of the mornings worship, the band stared with a fast paced festival march, Marcus Venables’ ‘Abundance’, Characterised by its interval orientated semiquaver motifs dominating the piece as a whole, this proved as an exciting opening to the evenings worship session. In quick succession came the congregational song ‘All hail the power’ followed by a prayer by Bandsman Matthew Peek. The band then followed up by another energetic contemporary work, ‘Celebrate and Sing’this time by Martin Cordner, whom was recently part of Norwich Citadel band with his appointment in the Anglia Division.
Two soloist then took to the stage, both whom are now studying in Birmingham. Thomas Carr (Cornet) performed Himes’ ‘I’d Rather have Jesus’ with a distinctive warm sound and musical line which lead to a moment of silent and reflective appreciation. Next up was Mark Woodrow (Eb Bass) who played ‘Introduction & Allegro Spiritoso’ with excellent technical proficiency and control, especially of such a large instrument!
Birmingham Citadel Songsters were next contributing to the evenings worship. This followed by Norwich Citadel band presenting us with Mozart’s dramatic opening to arguably his most popular, if a little peculiar, Opera ‘The Magic Flute’. This version was transcribed by Michael Kenyon, bringing the orchestral colours of Mozart and manipulating them to suite the radically different colours and sounds of the brass band, a nice contrast and compliment to the more contemporary music we had already heard this evening.
After the Norwich Citadel Band brought to us more of Cordner’s music in the march ‘Trinity Praise’, we were treated to a trombone Solo by James Morley. After his rich singing tones from Saturday Night’s festival, James presented almost an oxymoron of style with Himes’ Latin/Samba influenced ‘Blessed Assurance’, with a silky smooth tone, perhaps comparable to the great Don Lusher.
The bible reading in focus for the evening meeting was Ephesians 3: 14-21; A Prayer for the Ephesians. This was brought to us by Phil Green. Following the reading the band lead us into the message with the gorgeous rendition of ‘In the Love of Jesus’. The bible message was one again presented to us by Richard Welsh, with his combination of anecdotes, and his take on the passage of scripture this lead seamlessly into a time of reflection whist the congregation plaintively sang ‘His Love remains the same’.
Perhaps the most major work of the evening as Kenneth Downie’s ‘Christ is Alive’ from the opening fanfare from the cornet section through to the symphonic sounding of the tune and extended euphonium cadenza followed by a full blooded and triumphant finale, this served as a fitting end to the excellent weekend.
There was just time for the band to make a heartfelt presentation to former Norwich Citadel bandsman Walter Green MBE as thanks for the tremendous service he gave to the Salvation Army in Norwich before his recent move to the midlands. This segment finished with the band playing their signature march ‘Norwich Citadel’ conducted by former bandmaster at Norwich, Douglas Beattie before his also recent move to the Birmingham Citadel.
All in all this weekend saw a tremendous reiteration between the already strong bonds between both the Salvation Army in Birmingham and Norwich, but most impotently and prominently of all, the weekend showed a real passion and excitement in worshiping God!