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”. It is always a great pleasure to play there and the band always enjoys playing in the world-renowned acoustics of Symphony Hall.
“Rejoice” started with a specially commissioned arrangement for “Rejoice 2011” by BM Gavin Lamplough entitled “Morning Stars”. From the mysterious opening (which makes reference to the “March of the Magi” and the three melodies associated with the carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem”) a voice over set the scene as “glow in the dark” helium-filled Star balloons floated into the hall. From this initial tableau every participant was introduced to the audience as the musicians grew in number. First to join the band were our guest soloists, husband and wife duo, Kerry Sampson and Nick Lester (Regent Hall). Kerry is the deputy leader of the International Staff Songsters and Nick sings with Glyndebourne Opera. As the overture unfolded the songsters entered the stage before the congregation joined for the glorious sounds of several thousand people singing the final verse of the carol and the full and expansive sounds of Birmingham Citadel Band.
It was a great privilege to accompany Nick Lester during the day and the first piece in which we joined forces was for Stephen Adams’ “The Holy City”, which dates back to 1892.
The Band’s major work for the day was the much loved “The Kingdom Triumphant” by Eric Ball. The Kingdom Triumphant is a descriptive tone poem and, from its opening crescendo drum roll and fanfare, is powerful music that stirs the soul. The initial fanfare introducing The Blast of the Trumpet in a reminder of the Last Judgement but BCB focussed on the First Advent rather than the second Advent for this Christmas performance. The images and text on the screen encouraged the listener to consider the Old Testament prophesies of the birth of a Saviour. “For unto us a child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6) were words which brought, perhaps, a fresh take on the powerful fanfare figures of the opening of this well-known work. The piece then moves into a time of reflection on the First Advent with the poignant prayer “O Come, O Come Immanuel” before returning to the fanfare motif which introduced the vision of the Second Advent. It was refreshing to be reminded of the “full picture”, so to speak, at this time of year and of the promise that one day Christ will return.
In an unfamiliar formation due to staging restrictions, the band also played the swing arrangement of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” by Robin Dewhurst. The band also presented Peter Graham’s festival march “The Shining Star” and the old favourite “The Carollers”.
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 2011”. But most of all, the band were able to emphasise the true meaning of Christmas to the thousands who gathered for the two concerts.
Happy Christmas from Birmingham Citadel Band, and we hope to see you in 2012.
Photographs: Pam Daff