Enfield Citadel Band


Bandmaster: Andrew Blyth
Soloist: Steven Mead
Royal College of Music
Friday 19th October

EnfieldA large audience gathered at the Royal College of Music for the pre-contest festival given by Enfield Citadel Band, their second under the leadership of Andrew Blyth.  

Expectations were high, as the band had been working hard in preparation for their forthcoming visit to the USA, and they did not disappoint.  The guest soloist was Steven Mead, no stranger to The Salvation Army having been nurtured in the corps at Boscombe, and celebrity chef (and former member of Chalk Farm Band) Brian Turner once more acted as compere.

The programme got off to a rousing start with Dean Goffin’s festival march “The Crusaders”.  Based on the old crusaders’ hymn “Ascalon” it demands considerable stamina, and the band showed they were up to the challenge, making much of the contrasting dynamics and with some incisive playing from the four-man trombone section.

Joy Webb’s “Candle of the Lord” has become particularly well-known in banding circles since its inclusion in Peter Graham’s popular “Shine as the Light”, but prior to that it was arranged for band by Bandmaster Michael Kenyon.  The prominent flugel covered the tricky horn phrase in the opening bars very effectively, and there was some fine legato playing in the second verse, with tasteful support from the percussion section.

Following prayer offered by Lt Col Lincoln Parkhouse and the introduction of the compere, the band presented William Himes’ “Cause for Celebration”.  The energetic opening was marked by some very crisp rhythms and vivid crescendos, and there were effective duets from soprano, cornet and flugel.  The frequently changing metre kept everyone on their toes, and when the theme of the “Old Hundredth” entered on cornets and trombones it was with a glorious blaze of sound.

As the applause died down, Steven Mead, elegantly attired in patterned waistcoat and open-necked shirt, stepped forward for his first item, Norman Bearcroft’s “Locomotion”.  Written for Derick Kane, and featuring the gospel song “This Train is bound for Glory”, the composer has incorporated train noises – not quite on the scale of Honegger’s “Pacific 231” but effective nonetheless – together with an opening in the lower brass strangely reminiscent of the sort of music frequently accompanying the native Americans in westerns.  

Problems with the music stand provided a few chuckles as Steven kept stepping forward to adjust it during his bars’ rest, but the challenges of the solo line proved no obstacle, as Steven produced a confident and involving performance, dealing comfortably with the high register passages, whilst the middle section was played in a relaxed, swing style.  With lip trills and glissandi, a positive “Welcome home” from the trombones, and a well-judged impression of an accelerating train, the music moved triumphantly into the final setting of “Bound for Canaan’s Land”.

The tune “Sally Gardens” was memorably arranged in a rather austere setting by Benjamin Britten and sung by his friend Peter Pears.  Kenneth Downie’s new arrangement takes a very different approach, with lush harmonies and a warm sound.  The soloist starts off in a comfortable register before successive key changes allow for more elaborate decoration of the melody, with a beautifully clean octave leap up to the final Bb from the soloist.  The composer was present to acknowledge the warm applause from the appreciative audience.

Dean Jones is one of the new generation of Salvationist composers whose music has been making an impact in recent days.  “El es el senor” sets the contemporary chorus “He is the Lord”, with the atmosphere of the bullfight and Spanish trumpets to the fore.  It provided an effective contrasting interlude between Steven’s solos.

Mead“Harlequin”, written by Philip Sparke for David Childs, is in two sections.  It opens with the euphonium line supported by a gentle accompaniment, rather in the manner of a quasi-improvised recitative.  The playing of the band was sensitive and subtle, with some fine work from the horns towards the end of the slow section.  

There were a few slightly uncomfortable moments as the music picked up tempo, with the accompaniment seeming a little forced, but things very quickly settled down, as the soloist seemingly effortlessly negotiated the flurries of semiquavers and lively arpeggios, never losing sight of the overall musical line.

The concert marked a particular milestone for Peter Moore, who was stepping down from the band after 59 years as a bandsman.  

A bouquet was present to his wife in recognition of her support over the years, and he received a certificate of recognition, a signed photo of the current band, and a book containing tributes and reminiscences from many who had served with him over the years, including the Salvation Army’s current international leader, General Shaw Clifton, who spent several years at Enfield as Commanding Officer.  The General’s message commended Peter for his “consistency, loyalty and high standards” throughout his time with the band.

The first half of the concert closed with Eric Ball’s tone poem “Song of Courage”, and Brian turner recalled how, as a young bandsman, "...the Bandmaster announced ‘Song of Courage’ and I lost all mine”!  There was some excellent work from all sections of the band, with the flugel and horns balancing up nicely with the melody “Prayer for Courage” and some delicate piano chords from the trombones, whilst the solo work from cornet, flugel, trombone, euphonium and baritone was first class.  

The melody “Stand like the Brave” was played with due commitment and assurance, and in the reprise of the opening music the band tempered their enthusiasm and vigour with precision and control. A particular highlight was Andrew Justice’s rendition of the high trombone solo, with the muting of the accompanying horns and baritones adding to the atmosphere.  The music then pressed on inexorably to its triumphant close, the final chord being topped off with some fine soprano playing.

For Stephen Roberts’ transcription of “Pastime with Good Company” there was a commendable avoidance of any undue vibrato, making the opening on drum and trombones all the more effective.  The flugel and horns carried on in the same vein, as did the remaining sections as the music grew in strength and complexity, with the runs across the band flowing almost seamlessly.

Wilfred Heaton was not a prolific composer, setting himself very high standards and often leaving works unfinished.  Since his death, Paul Hindmarsh has prepared a performing edition of a number of these, including his “Fantasy – The Golden Pen”.  

Taking as his starting point the melody of an old chorus – “I’ve touched my finger on the golden pen to write my name up there” – the composer has fashioned an attractive work, and Paul’s realisation seems to have caught much of Heaton’s quirkiness, with his idiosyncratic harmonies and unexpected twists, as phrases of the melody emerged around the band.  Paul seemed pleased with the band’s efforts, and is to be congratulated for his achievements in making this music available.

Steven Mead planned his slot in the second half of the programme as a tribute to the renowned operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti, who had died only a week or so before the concert.  This consisted of two Puccini songs from Pavarotti’s repertoire, “Recordito Armonia” (arranged by Maurice Bale) and “Nessun Dorma” (arranged by Keith Wilkinson), framing an unaccompanied version of Bellstedt’s “Napoli Variations”.  Admirable as the playing was in the two operatic arias, it was the unaccompanied item that really brought the house down.  

Having briefed the audience for their own contribution, filling in the answering phrases – which the audience then did with some enthusiasm - Steven proceeded to run through many of his party pieces, with chords, pedal notes and lightning fast runs, with some ferocious leaps between the extremes of the instrument’s range.  He ended with a chromatic run from the pedal register up to top C, followed by a final F, at which point the band joined in with a final chord.

To quieten things down before the scripture reading, the band featured its trombone section in Dirk Krommenhoek’s thoughtful setting of “From that Sacred Hill”.  Following a first verse played in unison over a gently pulsing accompaniment, the trombones each presented a short solo, as if in personal reaction to the preceding phrase of the melody, before a final verse in harmony.  

After the scripture, and some thoughts from Lt Col Parkhouse, the band played the “Chorale Prayer” from Stephen Bulla’s “Images for Brass”, written to commemorate the invasion of Iwo Jima by American forces in the Second World War.  “Chorale Prayer” is the third movement of the work, and uses the sailor’s hymn “Melita” to reflect on the conflict, which led to 25%casualties amongst those taking part. 

The finale was the first performance of a new work by Stephen Ponsford, another of the up-and-coming young composers currently writing for The Salvation Army.  Entitled “Turris Fortissima” – literally “a very strong tower” – it effectively combined three contrasting songs, “Blessed be the name of the Lord”, “Shout to the Lord (My Jesus, my saviour)”, and “Ein Feste Burg”, with none of the awkwardness that can sometimes be apparent when adapting contemporary hymns for brass band.  

From the very busy opening, in which Stuart Horton’s bass trombone sound cut cleanly through the texture, through the calm and serenity of the central section, and on to the introduction of “Ein Feste Burg”, played in shot notes by the trombone section, it was clear that the composer has a good grasp of what works on brass, and of the various sonorities available.  

The xylophone made a powerful contribution as the music rose in intensity, and the trombones and cornets turned smartly outwards for the majestic closing bars.  Once again, the composer was present in the hall, and was left in no doubt as to the positive impression his work had made on the audience.

The evening closed in traditional fashion, with Enfield’s trademark rendition of “Red Shield”, the various sections standing at appropriate points, and finishing with the whole band on their feet.  On this showing, Enfield Citadel Band is in good hands, and should win themselves more friends during their latest overseas trip.

Peter Bale