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International Staff Band

Symphony Sounds
Conductor: Dr Stephen Cobb
Featuring: International Staff Songsters; Amsterdam Staff Songsters; Salvation Army Big Band
Symphony Hall
Birmingham
Saturday 2nd June

Moving the annual Gospel Arts Festival to Birmingham has given the opportunity for groups to present music in the Symphony Hall foyer during the afternoon. 

This year it consisted of youngsters who had participated in a music theatre workshop at Regent Hall – the enthusiasm infectious as they presented extracts from the musicals 'Annie', 'Matilda' and 'Take-Over Bid'.

Three Fellowship Bands took part as well as the Amsterdam Staff Songsters, following a rather tortuous journey to get to Birmingham.

Full of energy

The International Staff Band opened with 'The Spirit in Me'; a feature for the whole cornet section that was full of energy but had a tranquil close-harmony setting of 'They Need Christ' at its core. Their excellent main contributions were 'Variations on ‘Was Lebet’’, and Kevin Larsson's 'The Fruit of the Spirit'.

It was interesting to compare the styles of the two vocal groups.

The International Staff Songsters were classical in approach whilst the Amsterdam Staff Songsters more relaxed, enhancing their presentation with carefully thought-out videos.

Both presented new songs: Amsterdam's 'King of Love' benefiting from the fine addition of a brass ensemble from the ISB. Stephen Pearson provided the thought-provoking words to Andrew Blyth's music, as he had for Richard Phillips' 'Choral Symphony No 3: Symphony of Love' presented by the ISS. 

The Dutch also sang Chris Brindley's 'A Door May Open', written especially for the occasion. Both vocal groups made a considerable impact with their choice of repertoire and singing.

Hitting the ground

The Salvation Army Big Band was the other featured group; hitting the ground with 'Sing, Sing, Sing'. They were joined by James Morley in 'For Once in My Life', continuing with 'Blessed Assurance'. 

They were later joined by Kerry Sampson and the Music Theatre group for an interpretation in voice and dance of 'If Crosses Come’ as well as providing a lively backing for the congregational song before their up-tempo version of 'Battle Hymn of the Republic'.

The Salvation Army Big Band was the other featured group; hitting the ground with 'Sing, Sing, Sing'. They were joined by James Morley in 'For Once in My Life', continuing with 'Blessed Assurance'. 

Paul Sharman had devised the finale, based on music from 'Take-Over Bid' incorporating all participants. 

It worked well, with the children featuring in 'Hundreds and Thousands', the combined trombones in 'All That You Need is a Miracle' and the united songsters (unaccompanied) in 'Someone Cares'.

The congregation joined in the triumphant acclamation 'For Thine is the Kingdom' to close the evening.

Peter Bale



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