Birmingham Citadel Band had the privilege of playing, once again, at Birmingham’s magnificent Symphony Hall as part of the annual Christmas Concert known as “Rejoice”. This year there seemed to be even more people gathered in eager anticipation for this event with very few empty seats for either performance in the huge auditorium.
“Rejoice” started with a quintet of bandsmen playing the familiar melody of “O come all ye faithful”. Dressed in warm overcoats and standing beneath a lamp post, the familiar sounds of the carol emerged from pre-recorded sounds of the “hustle and bustle” of Birmingham city centre, thus replicating the scene of the Salvation Army carolling every Saturday in December for many years. Principal cornet Gavin Lamplough had taken this idea in a specially commissioned arrangement for “Rejoice 2010” and from this initial tableau every participant was introduced to the audience as the musicians grew in number. First to join the quintet was guest soloist Songster Leader Darren Bartlett (Boscombe), before a lightly scored band joined with the singing company. As the overture unfolded the songsters entered the stage before the congregation joined for the glorious sounds of several thousand people singing the final verses of the carol and the full and expansive sounds of Birmingham Citadel Band.
It was a great privilege to accompany Darren Bartlett during the day and the first piece in which we joined forces was for Amy Grant’s “Christmas Lullaby”. This had been attractively arranged by Marcus Venables.
The Band’s major work for the day was a piece which was written for them nearly 5 years ago and is a piece of music that is to be featured on the band’s latest CD, due to be released early in 2011. “Venite Adoremus Dominum” translates as “O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord” and through the music composer Gavin Lamplough (Principal Cornet, Birmingham Citadel Band) tells the story of the first Christmas. After introducing the prophecy of Christ’s coming through the tune “O come Immanuel”, he reminds the listener of the austerity of the Roman rule. Then comes the good news of Christ’s coming to earth as we hear a lively presentation of the carol “On Christmas night all Christians sing” with changing time signatures and colourful percussions depicting the excitement that must have spread. This gives way to the familiar strains of “Away in a Manger” as the listener is ‘taken’ to the manger scene. The music comes to a climatic conclusion with “Joy to the World” and a triumphant statement of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”.
In an unfamiliar formation due to staging restrictions, the band accompanied Darren Bartlett in what is a favourite Christmas carol for most: “O Holy Night”. This was a colourful arrangement by David Clydesdale which kept both soloist and band busy with some great symphonic writing! An ensemble of bandsmen then accompanied Birmingham Citadel Songsters as they presented Mark Hayes’ ‘rock-pop’ song “Sing Gloria”. The band also presented Peter Graham’s festival march “The Wonder of Christmas” and the old favourite “The Carollers” as well as joining with Darren Bartlett and the Birmingham Citadel Songsters in the finale: Andrew Poirer’s arrangement of “When a Child is Born”.
It was, once again, a fantastic day with two excellent performances from not only Birmingham Citadel Band but every member of Birmingham Citadel Corps who was involved in “Rejoice 2010”. But most of all, the band were able to emphasise the true meaning of Christmas to the thousands who gathered for the two concerts which, incidentally, included local comedian Jasper Carrot!
Happy Christmas from Birmingham Citadel Band, and we hope to see you in 2011.
Photographs: Graham and Pam Daff