CD cover - American AnthologyAmerican Anthology

21-Nov-2007

Enfield Citadel Band
Conducted by Andrew Blyth
SP&S Ltd: SPS 229 CD
Total running time: 70.20 mins

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For many years the name of Enfield Citadel Band – and prior to 1972 Tottenham Citadel Band – has been synonymous with the best of Salvation Army banding.  They have built up an impressive discography, from the old shellac 78s through the LP era and up to the age of the CD.  

Their latest release, “American Anthology”, has been produced in conjunction with a visit to the United States of America, and is the first recording under Andrew Blyth, Bandmaster since October 2005.  The repertoire is drawn from the works of four American composers with their roots in the Salvation Army.  

William Himes, Stephen Bulla and James Curnow are still actively involved in Army music-making, whilst Bruce Broughton, renowned for his scores for film and television, “maintains cordial relations with the SA”, in the words of Ronald W. Holz, writer of the informative sleeve notes. 

First in order of appearance on the disc is Stephen Bulla who is, in addition to his work for brass bands, a noted pianist and trombonist, and Staff Arranger for the President’s Own Band of the US Marine Corps.  

The fanfare prelude “Praise Him!”, based round the song “Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our Blessed Redeemer”, was written for the USA Southern Territorial Band, with which the composer has worked quite closely.  Making use of the rising third of the initial phrase of the tune, it is a lively opener, flowing smoothly along in 6/8 metre.

One of the major works on the recording is Bulla’s “Images for Brass”, premiered by the brass choir of the US Marine Band, and reworked for brass band for the 1995 Star Lake Music School.  

It marks the 50th anniversary of one of the bloodiest encounters of the Second World War, the invasion of Iwo Jima, recently the subject of two films by Clint Eastwood, and from which comes the iconic image of the planting of the US flag on Mount Suribachi.  The composer incorporates references to the “Marine’s Hymn” and “The Star-Spangled Banner”, whilst the third movement, “Chorale Prayer”, features the sailors’ hymn “Melita” (“Eternal Father, Strong to Save”).  

The conductor has a good grasp of the structure of the work, ensuring that the various quotes are assimilated into the overall picture, and the band gives a vibrant account, if possibly a little aggressive at times.  In the final “Engagement” phrases are exchanged between various sections of the band, with contrasting dynamics and impressive forte-pianos.

Stephen Bulla has contributed several marches to the repertoire, often marked by his own quirky features, frequently using his own instrument, the trombone.  Many of these have been written to mark anniversaries, and “New York 90” celebrates 90 years of the New York Staff Band, the writer being Principal Trombone at the time.  There is striking use of cross-rhythms, and it is definitely not a march for processional use!

“The Higher Plane” is a notable addition to the catalogue of works for soprano cornet, and is based round the old gospel hymn “Higher Ground”, which includes the lines - “. . . a higher plane than I have found, Lord plant my feet on higher ground”.  Written for Gordon Ward during his tenure of the soprano chair with the New York Staff Band, it combines lively passages calling for great agility with a singing central melody, allowing the soloist to soar over the band.  Tim Buckle produces a clear, sweet sound in a subtle reading that has both power and delicacy as appropriate.

The three works by Bruce Broughton all date from the late 1960s and 1970s.  This reviewer recalls playing the newly-published chorale prelude “The New-Born Babe” in St Paul’s Cathedral at one of the annual Watch-night Services, its mellow tones echoing around the dome as the chorale tune sang out over the chromatic harmonies.  There is some particularly fine legato playing from the trombone section carrying the melody, and the other parts are never allowed to over-power the tune.

The composer is at pains to stress that “Covenant”, although based on the hymn tune of that name, was not intended to have any link with the words most commonly associated with the melody, “There is a Fountain filled with Blood”.  Rather he is concerned with the drama inherent in the tune itself, from the shot notes at the opening, taken from the opening interval of the melody,

Less astringent but no less energetic is Bruce’s treatment of “The Firing Line”, one of a number of settings he has penned featuring songs from the early days of Salvation Army warfare.  It is bright and breezy, with a touch of the razzamatazz of the American marching band, with good use of the tone colours of the various sections of the band.

James Curnow is particularly well known for his works for wind band, having won several composition prizes.  In addition to his Salvation Army pieces for brass band he has had considerable success with items as varied as “Apalachian Mountain Folk Song Suite”, “An Australian Christmas” and “Sinfonietta”, recently used as a test piece for the Pontins Championships.  

His concert march “Faith is the Victory” shows the influence of American writers such as Eric Osterling, especially in the trio section.  There are effective repeated patterns building up from the bottom of the band which call for control and clarity if they are to be evenly balanced.  Andrew Blyth holds the tempo right back towards the end, before picking it up again for the final bars. 

Curnow wrote the selection “Guardian of our Way” when he was bandmaster of Flint Citadel in Michigan in the 1970’s.  Drawing on the scriptural depiction of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, he brings together four related songs, “Saviour, like a Shepherd lead Us”, “The Lord’s my Shepherd”, “He leadeth Me”, and “Where he leads me, I will Follow”.  The band catches well the reflective nature of the music, with the glockenspiel adding its distinctive colour to the overall sound.

“A Psalm of Praise (Psalm 100)” was featured by the Chicago Mont Claire Band (now Norridge Citadel) during their visit to London for the 1978 International Congress.  

It soon became very popular with many bands, even appearing on programmes by the Yorkshire Imperial Band under Ray Farr in the 1980’s, this being a few years before the official release of Salvation Army music for general performance.  

Its snappy rhythms and brief answering phrases make for a dramatic start, whilst the use of 5/4 metre, and the subsequent distorted shape of the featured melody “Praise my Soul” help to sustain the interest as the music develops.  Towards the end, the hymn tune is heard in augmentation against some of the earlier material, drawing the piece to a satisfying close.

William Himes, Bandmaster of the Chicago Staff band since 1977, has a great gift of communication, both through his music and also in person, and has travelled widely conducting workshops with bands around the world.  

He wrote the demanding solo “Journey into Peace” to feature himself as euphonium soloist but here it is presented most effectively on trombone by the band’s Deputy Bandmaster, Andrew Justice.  Making use of the chorus “All your anxiety, all you care” it presents a number of challenges to both soloist and band, with precision needed in the occasionally sparsely-scored accompaniment and careful attention to tuning.  

Certain aspects of the writing clearly suit valves better than a slide, but Andrew shrugs these off, coping well with the repeated semitone shifts and the occasional trill, whilst the melody itself is beautifully smooth. 

The most recent work on the disc is “Cause for Celebration”, combining original material with a powerful presentation of the tune “Old Hundredth”, which bursts out in all its glory in the closing moments of the piece.  Before the entry of the melody, the whole band is put through its paces, with some excellent playing by the horn section in particular. 

In total contrast, the cornet solo “I’d rather have Jesus” eschews any such elaboration, simply allowing the melody to speak for itself with a straightforward accompaniment.  The soloist, on this occasion second man down Maurice Patterson, starts off unaccompanied and the band is never allowed to overshadow the melody.

The march “Motivation” comes complete with drum-corps style treatment of the song “Would you know why I love Jesus?”  Once again the band’s playing is very precise, making the most of the catchy rhythms and syncopations.

The production of this enjoyable recording is first class, with information on the four composers, Andrew Blyth and the band, whilst Ronald W Holz’s notes offer a detailed musical analysis of many of the works featured.  The band is undoubtedly playing well at present, with strong soloists and a balanced sound, apart from a couple of instances where they seem to be pushing a little too hard.  

With a number of young players having joined from the young people’s band in recent months, Enfield Citadel Band seems set to go from strength to strength.

Peter Bale

What's on this CD?

1. Praise Him! �����Stephen Bulla, 2.49
2. The New-born Babe, Bruce Broughton, 3.01
3. Faith is the Victory, James Curnow, 3.57
4. Journey into Peace, William Himes, Andrew Justice (Trombone), 7.58
5. Images for Brass, Stephen Bulla
6. I. Prologue, 2.07
7. II. Approach by Sea. 2.07
8. III. Chorale Prayer, 3.45
9. IV. Engagement, 1.56
10. Guardian of our Way, James Curnow, 4.31
11. New York 90, Stephen Bulla, 2.52
12. Cause for Celebration, William Himes, 4.42
13. The Higher Plane, Stephen Bulla, Tim Buckle (Soprano Cornet), 5.58
14. Covenant, Bruce Broughton, 6.23
15. I'd Rather Have Jesus, William Himes, Maurice Patterson (Cornet), 3.22
16. The Firing Line, Bruce Broughton, 2.41
17. A Psalm of Praise, James Curnow, 6.19
18. Motivation, William Himes, 4.20

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