Birmingham Citadel Band released the album Spirit of Joy on 12th September 2009.
The Call of the Righteous
Cornet Solo: Heavenly Gales
Procession to Covenant
Trombone Feature: Wonders Begin When the Lord Comes in
A Robe of White
Psalm of Thanks
Horn Solo: Over the Rainbow
Symphony of Thanksgiving
Spirit of Joy
The Irish Blessing
What people are saying about ‘Spirit of Joy’
The title ‘Spirit of Joy’, Birmingham Citadel Band’s latest CD, is taken from Herbert Rive’s finely crafted march of the same title. It’s inclusion on this excellently presented CD is, as Martyn Pearce’s informative sleeve notes suggest, not just as “the title of a piece, but a description, an expression of what it is like to be a Christian, a Salvationist and what we feel as members of Birmingham Citadel Band in being able to present the Gospel in so many ways but particularly through this recording.” For this particular listener, that spirit pervades many of the CD’s tracks.
Particular mention should be made of Bandmaster Graham Lamplough’s carefully selected programme of varied, quality material. To find five of my all time Army band favourites on one CD is some going! Add to that two completely new pieces for this listener, both having musical interest and worthy of inclusion.
Two of the vast treasury of SA marches are included, the aforementioned splendid older styled ‘Spirit of Joy’ and the rather more modern American festival march ‘Milestone’ by William Himes, which once again refers to the joy we find in service.
The band is served by excellent principals and soloists, two of whom are featured on this CD. What a stunningly thrilling rendition Gavin Lamplough gives of the rarely heard cornet solo ‘Heavenly Gales’! How appropriate it is that this particular band should record their former Bandmaster Langworthy’s fine traditional theme and variation style solo. He would have been proud of the present incumbent’s interpretation, technique and tone, and it reminded me of another outstanding Midlands’ cornet soloist, the late Bandmaster Charlie Dove of Stapleford playing ‘Jubilate’.
Tenor horn soloists with a rich, broad tone are worryingly rare within our ranks, and a worthwhile tenor horn SA repertoire that actually works is sparse. Not surprising then that Neil Blessett turns to Goff Richards’ classic scoring of one of Hollywood’s best known songs ‘Over the Rainbow’. Neil’s lyrical style admirably suits this lush, plaintive melody. Happily we believe life’s troubles melt in Christ, not ‘lemon drops’!
I am a great fan of trombone ensembles and the jazzy laid back style of ‘Wonders begin when the Lord comes in’ from the musical ‘Take Over Bid’ really works in this setting. This, together with Barrie Gott’s big band setting of ‘Light-walk’, provides a welcome lighter contrast within the bands’ overall programme.
Of the major works included two absolute gems remind me of my former playing days, Leslie Condon’s thrilling ‘The Call of the Righteous’ in which the bands’ fine percussion section shine, and Dean Goffin’s unsurpassed masterpiece ‘Symphony of Thanksgiving’. What masterly writing we find in these two pieces, which represent a golden era of SA composition and come up fresh every time they are well performed. Add to them the rarely played Leidzen ‘A Robe of White’ and the more recent Himes favourites ‘Procession to Covenant’ and ‘Amazing Grace’ and you have a fine programme of inspiring pieces.
Of particular interest for this listener, however, was the inclusion of Hans Zimmer’s ‘Crimson Tide’ and Paul Sharman’s ‘Psalm of Thanksgiving’. Both were first hearings and made immediate impact. What a splendid composition the latter one is, once again expressing the idea of joy in its exciting use of the fine tune ’Now thank we all our God’, which doesn’t disappear until the end unlike so many of our works in this format.
This is a fine CD, very professionally presented with informative CD notes and illustrations, and the playing of this hard working band is of a good standard throughout. And what better way to finish the CD than with Stephen Bradnum’s arrangement of Joyce Eilers Bacak’s moving benedictory setting of ‘The Irish Blessing’, just as I would have chosen.
BM John Broadhurst (Leicester South)
The new Birmingham Citadel Band recording entitled Spirit of Joy could not be more apt in that this disc represents the ongoing ministry of this fine corps band and the first for its present Bandmaster Graham Lamplough. For many years we have come to ‘expect’ any recording from a band with a tradition of fine music making like Birmingham to have a high standard of playing. The reality is that it is extremely difficult to keep and maintain this standard and it takes dedication not only from the leadership but from each individual member. It is never an easy task but I recommend to you that here is a corps band that celebrates its past, enjoys the present but also relishes its future!
Excellent cover design from David Purkiss and comprehensive sleeve notes by Martyn Pearce help greatly from the start. How often do we listen to a CD and not have the full experience of engaging art work and informative detail on the playlist? This is not the case and I must say that this recording is one of the best I have seen in terms of its production. There is a comprehensive history of the group, excellent and informative detail on the music, leadership and soloists and most important of all a clear raison d’etre of the motivation and ministry which has been achieved for over 115 years.
The programme has a number of strong connections with the band including a new work written by former Birmingham Citadel Bandsman Paul Sharman for the bands 115thanniversary reunion weekend in 2008. This premiere recording of Paul’s Psalm of thanks certainly captures the spirit and energy of the music and will be a work that will prove popular, when published, for many corps bands. From a new work with BCB connections we also have an old favourite Cornet Solo written by a former Bandmaster of the band. Bert Langworthy’s fine solo Heavenly Gales is expertly played by Principal Cornet Gavin Lamplough. Gavin displays a fine technical ability with a sound musical line and good phrasing. For me this is a highlight of the CD and congratulations must go to the soloist for tackling one of the Salvation Army classic solos.
One of the strengths of this recording is that we are invited to enjoy all different forms of music. For me the balance between non SA and SA music is crucial as both are engaging and both can communicate to all audiences. There are two tracks on the CD, Crimson Tide and Over the rainbow which are taken from well known films. The latter piece is played by Tenor Horn Soloist Neil Blessett whose warm sound and lovely phrasing shapes this beautiful and well-known melody very well.
It is pleasing to see some of the Army ‘classics’ make there way onto the disc. Major Leslie Condon’s The call of the righteous commences the recording. In listening to this it is clear that the Bandmaster keeps the tempo steady which on reflection is refreshing to hear. As players have improved technically throughout the years it is often thought that tempos should be ‘taking up a metronome mark or two!’ The same could be said for Dean Goffin’s work Symphony of Thanksgiving but in both renditions the band feel comfortable and secure at the speeds set which is vital in making a musical performance for there is much music to be found in both pieces! For me Erik Leidzen’s piece A robe of white is a welcome inclusion and provides a delightful opportunity to hear again the artistry and ability that Leidzen had of clothing melodies with a rich harmonic texture.
William Himes’ music is always popular for both listener and performer to be part of and three of his works are to be found on this recording. Amazing Grace, Procession to Covenant and Milestone are pieces that have been found on many recordings now but the band provide convincing readings of these fine works.
Light-walk and Wonders Begin When The Lord Comes In offer a lighter side which in no way detracts from the CD and offers a good balance to the playlist. For me the Trombones are a little over balanced in the latter work which detracts from the good work put in by the section. Finally the CD rounds off with the imposing and demanding march Sprit of Joy, which is always good to hear and again well handled, and then the beautiful The Irish Blessing bringing us to a conclusion.
For those that have an interest and passion for Salvation Army banding this recording is for you but it is also a recording that has the ability to reach out and communicate to a wider audience. With the reading of the notes people who do not know anything about this band would be in no doubt who and what they are about. The band has maintained an excellent standard throughout the years and congratulations must go to all the members along with the Bandmaster in maintaining that heritage but, more importantly, pursuing the goal that is music rehearsed and played to honour and glorify God Almighty. That is the essence of the Spirit of Joy!
Andrew Blyth (Assistant Territorial Music Director, MMU)
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