CD cover - The Essential James Williams MBEThe Essential James Williams MBE

19-Jan-2005

Enfield/Tottenham Citadel Band
Featuring James Williams, Deryck Duffey
Total Playing Time: 70.27

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James Williams MBE, has had an association with the Enfield/Tottenham Citadel Band for over 60 years: upon being asked to write this review, I wondered how I could comment on a CD that celebrates this immense achievement when I have only been alive for 24 years of this period! You only however, need to look around the world of SA music now and see the obvious impression that Bandmaster Williams has had on the banding scene within this setting. Many of the movement's players and conductors will point to his leadership as a model. This CD covers over five decades of recordings, featuring remastered tracks from '78' vinyl records up to a new recording of two works, one of which was featured only a few weeks ago at their annual pre contest festival.

As a cornet soloist, James Williams was and still is, considered one of the finest players of his generation. On the evidence the 1957 recording of 'Happy all the Day', it is easy to see why. Sounds and style may have changed over the years, but the clarity, expression and consistency demonstrated in this classic theme and variations solo is timeless. Of particular interest on this CD is the inclusion of the duet 'Deliverance' by Phil Catlinet, performed here with Deryck Dyffey in 1954. After emigrating across the Atlantic in the mid 60's, Deryck became one of the founder members of the re-formed Canadian Staff Band in 1969. 'Golden Slippers', a cornet solo recently showcased by former Enfield principal cornet David Daws, was written for Deryck and he is considered as one of the all time great SA instrumentalists. The fact that these two gentleman are captured here together, only adds further historical interest to this disc. Deryck continues to be an active player and encourager of young musicians (although now retired from CSB), while James Williams occasionally comes out of 'playing' retirement when the ECB has guest direction or when they are in their busy Christmas Carolling period. They both clearly still have much to offer and are perhaps not ready to confine their instruments to the garage or cellar just yet!

The early years of Bandmaster Williams' leadership are represented by a terrific performance of Sir Dean Goffin's 'Symphony of Thanksgiving' from 1961. This interpretation is bright, detailed and full of conviction and makes compelling listening, despite the obvious limitations of recording technology at the time.

The primary role of Salvation Army bands is to support Christian Worship Services within their own centre. This disc provides two fine examples of music that I am sure will have been used within such meetings at Enfield Citadel. Robert Redhead's 'How Charming is they Name' is featured (1979) and in particular 'Lord, with my all I part' (1996) by Brian Bowen is an exquisite track. I am sure this performance will appeal whether you are familiar with the song the music is based on or whether you simply want to enjoy the beautifully controlled 'hymn' playing presented here.

Two substantial SA works are featured side by side on this disc, the first of which being Leslie Condon's 'Festivity'. This work was originally scored for brass quintet and James Williams was one of the members of the group that premiered this version at the Royal Albert Hall in 1972. It is interesting to hear how the Bandmaster shapes this full band version (1996) scored some years later. The second of these two works, is Ray Steadman-Allen's magnificent 'At the Edge of Time'. It is disappointing but understandable that only the final movement is included here. The recording is live and was taken from what is now known as the 'SA Gospel Arts Festival' in 1993, held at the Royal Albert Hall. The playing is of the highest order, perhaps comparable to some of the fantastic contest performances produced at the RAH over the years. Full of drama, excitement and soulful playing, this track is the highlight of the disc for this listener.

For someone to draw up a list of players who have served under James Williams at Enfield would reveal a host of fine players. Keith Hutchinson, (Principal Cornet for over twenty years), David Daws (already mentioned), Richard Martin (now Principal Trumpet of the Northern Sinfonia) and Matt Baker are just four examples of outstandingly talented players who have taken their place on the solo cornet bench of this band over the years. Another outstanding soloist of the band was their Euphonium soloist, Peter Wise. His exciting rendition of Redhead's 'Euphony' is taken from the bands souvenir recording of the their four week 1980 Australian tour. Peter has recently concluded his 12 year stint as MD with Championship Section Hyde Band. When you read the names above, you begin to grasp what a trail of influence that James Williams has had a 'hand in'.

To complete my thoughts, what of the current band? This recording suggests the tradition of fine making at Enfield is set to continue. Another writer recently made mention of the originality that James Williams' interpretations contain. This is certainly the case with this new recording of Kenneth Downie's popular 'Purcell Variations'. By stretching some of the phrases in the slower music and notching up the tempo at other times, this presentation certainly has the stamp of 'Williams' on it. Special mention must be made of the active 2-man percussion section and Tim Buckle on Soprano for some effective 'flourishes' that compliment some very solid work from the rest of the band.  Brian Bowen's Festival March 'Southern Cross' is a slightly disappointing end to the disc for this listener. There are hints of unbalance and it gives the impression of being a little disjointed (none of which is evident in 'Purcell') but this is perhaps as much to do with recording or technical aspects as it is with the players or the direction however.

Overall, ECB is to be congratulated for producing this tribute recording. The sleeve notes are excellent and importantly recognise James Williams' work outside the SA such as his long-time role as a teacher within North London Music Education and also his role as an adjudicator at our major brass band contests. B&H Sound's work is effective throughout, in particular their remastering of the earlier tracks allows us to appreciate such a terrific period of outstanding playing and leadership from the one of the
banding world's most charismatic figures.

More details available from www.enfieldband.org.uk

John Ward

What's on this CD?

1. Symphony of Thanksgiving, 8.41
2. Happy All The Day, Cornet Solo James Williams, 4.38
3. Meditation How Charming is they Name, 5.50
4. Euphony, Euphonium Solo Peter Wise, 7.53
5. Purcell Variations, 14.12
6. Deliverance, Cornet Duet James Williams & Deryck Diffey, 2.47
7. Festival Arrangement, Festivity, 10.03
8. Sinfonietta, At The Edge of Time (movement III), 8.28
9. Song Arrangement, Lord With All My I Part, 4.44
10. Festival March, The Southern Cross, 5.15

Total CD running time: 70.27

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