Festival of Music with BAE Systems Brass Band and Canterbury SA Songsters

A thoroughly-enjoyable festival of music was presented by the BAE Systems Brass Band and our own Songster Brigade (adult choir) from Canterbury Salvation Army. Over the years, the Band and The Salvation Army in Canterbury have established a strong bond, with many of our church members being associated with the Band in one way or another; this concert celebrated the relationship between the two groups and gave the opportunity to perform some great music together.

The Band commenced the evening with a traditional march from the Salvation Army repertoire, ‘The Red Shield’ (Henry C. Goffin). This was followed by an opportunity for everyone to join together and sing the hymn ‘Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven’. Corps Secretary Matthew Crick welcomed everyone to the event on behalf of the Corps, and handed over to Melvin White (Musical Director, BAE Systems Brass Band) who introduced and led the Band in two numbers from their recent repertoire: ‘Cortège from Mlada (Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, arr. Gordon Langford) and ‘Selection from Les Misérables (Claude-Michel Schönberg).

Festival of Music 03042017 - Canterbury SA Songsters
The Songsters contributed three items to the first half. They began with Nicholas King’s energetic arrangement of Remco Hakkert’s song ‘Praise His Holy Name’. This was followed in contrast with the a cappella singing of George Marshall’s ‘In The Stillness’ (words by Reginald Woods); this item proved to be an especially welcome addition to the programme for many listening to the message contained within the song:

“Come to my heart, Lord, like dew gently falling; Scatter my darkness like breaking of day.
Now in the stillness I list’ for thy calling, Ready to hear thy small voice as I pray,
Not in the fire, nor yet in the earthquake,
Here do but whisper, and I will obey; Here do but whisper, and I will obey.”

The contribution of Canterbury’s-own Dawn Neeve as a published lyricist by The Salvation Army was celebrated with the Songsters’ next item, ‘This Mighty King’ (music by Andrew Blyth).

The ‘big piece’ of the concert was ‘Rhapsody in Brass’ by Sir Dean Goffin. Not only did its performance enable the Band to present the work in a concert-setting prior to their Contest date later in March, but it also gave Melvin an opportunity to share memories of meeting Goffin – a New Zealand-born Salvation Army officer and composer – and feeling inspired through his several encounters with him. The band performed the work extremely well, and it concluded the first half perfectly.

Festival of Music 03042017 - Melvin White leading singing
Another opportunity for united singing got the second half underway, this time the hymn choice was ‘Guide me, O thou great Jehovah’ to a rock-arrangement of the hymn tune ‘Cwm Rhondda’. The Band presented two further works from the Salvation Army repertoire: firstly, Barrie Gott’s arrangement of ‘Let there be praise’, then Richard Phillips’ arrangement of ‘Such Love’ for solo piano with brass band accompaniment, featuring the Band’s euphonium player Phil Neeve at the piano (Phil has strong links with The Salvation Army in Canterbury… his father is our Bandmaster!)

The Songsters commenced their second set of items with Chris Baker’s lively number ‘He is my way’, followed by Thomas Mack’s beautiful arrangement of Joseph Henry Gilmore’s hymn, ‘By His Hand’ – both songs recognising that Christians look to Jesus for a true sense of direction in life:

“He is my way, like a lamp shining bright, Jesus is my light!”
“His faithful foll’wer I will be, For by his hand he leadeth me.”

Songster Leader Chris Ward introduced the next item explaining how he felt that he had to contribute a vocal work by Dean Goffin in a concert featuring something of a tribute to his work. However, with only 19 published vocal works to Goffin’s name and the Songsters’ library only having 3 of them, Chris went on to illustrate how his selection was somewhat limited. The ‘winning’ choice was a song which Dean Goffin not only provided the music but also the words – ‘Jesus is so wonderful’. A fun, positive and joyful song, it was well received. The Songsters concluded their contributions for the evening in a manner that is a tradition for the Brigade: by presenting the anthem ‘God and God alone’ (Phil McHugh, arr. Tom Fettke, adpt. Andrew Blyth).

Festival of Music 03042017 - Massed bands with Martin Neeve
The concert’s finale presented an opportunity for members of Canterbury Salvation Army Band and the BAE Systems Band to play together. Canterbury SA’s Bandmaster Martin Neeve conducted the massed band in one of Dean Goffin’s marches, ‘Alderney’, and Albert Jakeway’s arrangement of Mozart’s motet ‘Ave verum corpus’. Melvin took the baton once again and the Band presented the fantastic finale of Edward Gregson’s ‘Variations on Laudate Dominum, to which the words of the hymn “O worship the King, O glorious above” are associated.

Retired Songster Leader Chris Neeve gave a word of thanks on behalf of the hosts. Firstly, he thanked the Band for their enjoyable and varied programme, and Melvin for his wit and fascinating compering throughout the evening. Secondly, Chris thanked the Songsters and their leader; being the first substantial programme since his retirement (after 27 years as Songster Leader), Chris amusingly added “I’m enjoying retirement… it means I can now enjoy a concert without having to do anything!” Finally, he thanked the audience for attending, ensuring the two ensembles had people to play and sing to – many of whom were visiting a Salvation Army building for the very first time.

Festival of Music 03042017 - Massed bands with Melvin White
Chris Ward led a short prayer, before Melvin took the massed band in Dean Goffin’s arrangement of Rossini’s ‘Finale from William Tell Overture. Needless-to-say, folks left with a spring in their step and a good two or three notable melodies were being whistled on the way out, too. A retiring collection was held in aid of The Salvation Army in Canterbury and £150 was raised – thank you to all for your generosity and continued support!

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