Monthly Archives: August 2015
The Band were paying their third visit to Worthing Corps, which was a bonus for the six local boys playing with the band on this occasion, who normally need to make the long trip from the South Coast to South London for most band engagements. The evening unfortunately clashed with a number of other SA and other brass band events in the area and robbed us of quite a number of our regular supporters for band concerts. Nevertheless, a good crowd turned up to hear a varied programme, which was enjoyed by both band connoisseurs and those who “just like a good tune”.
The festival march “Celebration” has stood the test of time extremely well since its first performance by the International Staff Band at their 75th anniversary in 1966. A sparkling rendition was followed by the reflective “Ask the saviour”, which then gave way to Peter Graham’s well-crafted selection of General John Larsson melodies, appropriately titled “Music Maker”. This piece reminded us that John’s musical compositions were certainly not restricted exclusively to those he created in collaboration with John Gowans.
Norman Bearcroft’s music is aptly described as “music with a smile on its face”, but often demands much from players, both in terms of stamina and range. Our four cornet soloists in Norman’s “Joyous Proclamation” quartette – Kelvin, David, John and Richard – were more than equal to what was required of them and received an enthusiastic response from the listeners at the end. Les Swift then brought welcome contrast with his vocal solo “Bring him home” from Les Miserables, accompanied by the band. This was followed by one of the most exacting Euphonium solos in the repertoire – “Harlequin” by Philip Sparke. Adrian Horwood’s performance confirmed his standing as one of the SA’s finest Euphonium players, and the Band responded with an excellent accompaniment, which requires total concentration from every player from start to finish.
We were pleased that Michael Babb, one of the Army’s most prolific composers was present in the audience, and in recognition of this, the band played Michael’s cultured meditation “Lux Benigna” – music which deserves to be heard much more frequently.
Eric Ball probably played a greater part than any other composer in elevating brass band music to a serious musical level, and he produced many memorable compositions for bands both within and beyond the SA. “Challenge and Response” was one of his later works which has perhaps not received the critical acclaim of his earlier works, but which is nonetheless full of attractive original melodies. This demanding music was well handled by the band, after which the band deservedly took a quick break.
The second half of the programme began with Martin Cordner’s march “Light-bringer”, which appropriately features the Founder’s songs “Send the fire” and “O Boundless Salvation” – a good choice with memories of the Boundless Congress still fresh in everyone’s minds. The band then played James Wright’s “Fantasia for Children” in which many childhood memories were surely stirred through the use of some long-forgotten Sunday School songs.
In a quieter part of the programme, the band chorus sang “You’re never too far from God”, which was followed by some very poignant moments. Phil Edwards brought to us a scripture reading and comment in his last appearance with the band before retirement. Phil was a founder member of the band twenty one years ago and has been a cornerstone of the band ever since, both through his membership of the bass section, but also by his solid brand of Christian experience. We shall miss Phil greatly. This led straight into one of the Army’s great devotional pieces of music. We are fortunate to be able to regularly draw on the services of Keith Hutchinson to play with the band. Keith demonstrated why he is considered to be one of the finest Cornet players ever produced by the Army with his sublime solo work in “The Light of the World”, and there was a hushed response at the end of this wonderful music.
Stephen Ponsford is a composer who is rapidly making a name for himself within the SA. His “Music of a Legacy” introduces excerpts from many of the great SA classics over the years, and cleverly interweaves them with the great hymn of thanksgiving “Lord, for the years…..” There was limited practice time available on this brand-new music, but the band’s Musical Director, Darrell Scholes, wisely ensured that it was sufficiently well-rehearsed for the band to do justice to such a first-class piece of music. It received an enthusiastic response for both the quality of the music and its performance. As ever, Darrell directed the band throughout the evening with his usual blend of skill and assurance.
There was just time for a slick rendition of the grand old “Sword and Shield” second series march before it was time to pack up the stands and music to head for home – the other side of the South Downs and far beyond for most of the band, except for the lucky local boys!