Led by Bandmaster Ron Waiksnoris who has been at the helm from 1992, the NYSB, who were surely slightly jet-lagged, gave a stirring, communicative performance to a packed capacity audience in Carnmoney Presbyterian Church.
The programme was well balanced with necessary inclusions to suit all tastes.
Balance and control
Stephen Bulla's 'Diamond Jubilee' displayed the band's balance and control and provided an opening to the concert proper after a brief introductory piece.
Soloists for the evening included Gordon Ward performing a new solo written for the tour by Irish composer David Catherwood entitled 'Blessings'.
Similar to David's other solo works for cornet, this piece has distinct latin rhythms throughout and lots of flashy semi quaver work for the soloist.
Gordon executed this with customary ease and fluency.
Arthur Henry on horn with his focussed and strong sound showcased Brian Bowen's new work 'Emerald Isle Fantasy' which features tunes/melodies from the local area.
Main pieces in the first half included Ken Downie's ‘Exultate’ which has the usual treatment of interesting harmony, development of a strong melody and featured some fine playing from Andrew Garcia (flugel), Gordon Ward (cornet), Dorothy Gates (trombone) and Ryan Mc Crudden (euphonium).
Throughout, the band had commitment and produced solid sounds. Lt Colonel Maynor read from the Holy Scriptures Mark 1 verses 40-42 and brought our thoughts to the divine before the band played Dorothy Gates's 'Your Anointing'.
The closing item to the first half was Ken Downie's large scale work, 'The Hope of Glory', once again developing a well known strong tune melody and the band relishing every moment of it.
Great team work from all the soloists in particular Simon Morten on Eb Bass and the tag team of solo cornets Douglas Berry and Gordon Ward.
This was a difficult piece and one that BM Waiksnoris and his team performed with distinction.
Lighter in flavour
The second half of the programme was definitely lighter in flavour and it was in this second half programme where the New York Staff Band's panache and stylistic swagger came to the fore.
Joseph Turrin's well constructed cornet sextet 'Eternal Song' featured the bright sounds of Michael Baker, Derek Lance, Ian Anderson, Douglas Berry, Gordon Ward and Chris Ward.
Based on the hymn tune 'Colne' this sextet showed the cornet group in an almost 'commercial' style.
Ryan Mc Crudden is doing a great job on solo euphonium, his reading of the melody ‘Carrickfergus’ showed great emotive quality.
Ryan has ancestral roots within Belfast and his commitment and passion to this well-known melody displayed that.
Andrew Garcia on flugelhorn brought Chuck Magnione's 'Children of Sanchez' in a reading so stylistically correct and communicated with such ease and flair that this became one of the highlights of the evening for this listener - great ensemble work from the band within this solo work aided the latinesque style.
Mark Freeh is a well known arranger of lighter works for band and his fantastic arrangement of 'Ol Man River' brought the capacity audience to their feet, not just with the uncharacteristic fine commercial style, but due to the animal drummer, Robert Jones giving a performance that Buddy Rich would be jealous of!
The NYSB male chorus is always an attraction. Here led by Belfast girl Dorothy Gates, they displayed and pushed boundaries in new repertoire and male chorus sounds.
Dorothy led the group singing her arrangement of Heaven featuring a small ensemble of cornets, guitars and kit.
This was a welcome change in sound colour and showed the male chorus continues to be at the cutting edge of fine singing, something that very few SA bands even consider engaging with nowadays.
Peter Graham has been a member of the NYSB and is well known throughout the brass band scene and wind band scene for fine accessible music as well as large-scale contest works.
Here, his well known 'short symphony' for band, 'Shine as the Light' which is in memory of one the former NYSB bandsmen, Al Honsberger was given a very assured and fine reading showcasing all the band's unique sounds and rounding off this evening in fine fashion.
Throughout the evening and in any event the NYSB play at they are always displaying the SA flag and the flag of the US, as an encore item the band performed Sousa's very popular 'Stars and Stripes Forever' march.
Special mention must be given to soprano cornet Chris Ward for his tidy playing of the piccolo part at the end of a full band programme.
Another encore item followed, namely the time honoured 'Rock of Ages' male chorus item.
This item has long been associated with the NYSB and here led by Dorothy Gates brought the audience close to God.
As a third encore, they performed an arrangement of a Beatles melody by Dorothy Gates called 'All You Need is Love'.
A fine concert of a really well stuctured programme showcasing the unique and unparalleled ministry of the NYSB.
Jonathan W Corry