Canadian Staff Band Annual Fall Festival Review

Those in attendance of the Canadian Staff Band’s annual Fall Festival concert at Scarborough Citadel were in no way, shape, or form disappointed. I know I wasn’t. Our band (the Eastern Michigan Divisional Band) along with the Ontario Central East Youth Chorus were the guests this time around. Boy, was it a great night! John Lam and Cathie Koehnen were no strangers to us, as they both have been guests out at CMI in recent years. With the youth chorus providing preliminary pieces as both bands took their seats, the night was underway. The host band opened up with a premiere work by Deputy Bandmaster Ken Smith, “Coronation Intrada and Fanfare,” which used “Crown Him with Many Crowns” and “All Hail the Power” to provide an exciting opener. By the end of the piece, you could tell that the staff band was on top form tonight. Following a welcome and prayer by Kevin Metcalf, the EMDB decided to show their Michigan roots by performing one of Bill Himes’s earliest published works, the festival march “The Witness.” A lot of good moments in there. Those who either participated/played at the Royal Oak Citadel 90th Anniversary concert will remember the toe-tapping march. One of the more inspiring pieces of the night was, no pun intended, the selection “Inspiration” by young German composer Ruben Schmidt, who I had the pleasure of meeting at the last composers’ forum back at Asbury. The overture used strong melodies such as “Knowing You,” “Count Your Blessings,” and “Anything for Jesus.” It definitely left an impression on the audience. Cornet soloist Emily Ewing had some spots to shine in the middle section of the piece. It was a great performance overall.

The OCE Youth Chorus changed gears a bit and presented two numbers: the more reflective “Be Still” and the up-beat “Make His Praise Glorious.” One thing I noted while listening was the rich and mature sound of the youth choir. I was definitely impressed! Bandmaster Tom Hanton then followed up by leading the EMDB in what has easily become one of my favorite pieces all-together: Captain Martin Cordner’s “Fusion.” Following “Escape Velocity” and preceding “Skydance,” this overture is the second in Cordner’s Eternity trilogy…it’s the Empire Strikes Back, if you will. It seeks to describe the joy of being united with Christ by “fusing” Albert Orsborn’s “Thy name is joined with mine” with Chris Rice’s “Come to Jesus.” This piece has a very special place in my heart and it gives me chills every time I get to hear/play it. The CSB brought an end to the first half of the concert with a world premiere from emerging Canadian composer Marcus Venables with his Christmas tone poem “Christ’s Birth.” This was the highlight of the concert for many, featuring a plethora of Christmas tunes to paint a musical picture of the night Jesus was born. Superb playing from all sections of the band (especially the trombones and horns) and the band gave the number a wonderful first performance. Well written, Marcus!

Following a brief intermission, the CSB decided to bring some more Bill Himes to the night with his “Endless Praise,” combining “I Stand Amazed in the Presence,” “Blessed Assurance,” (featuring great solo playing from principal trombone Craig Lewis) and “Joyful, Joyful.” After that, Andrew Bell, principal Euphonium of the EMDB, brought forth a rousing performance of Stephen Bulla’s “Euphonium Fantasia” (also known as “Rhapsody for Euphonium). A lot of great playing was featured from both soloist and band, despite a little rubber band mishap. Haha. The CSB followed suit with a piece I had never heard of: Len Ballantine’s “Kingsfold,” which uses the tune of the same name. I really liked it, it was very unique and not your typical fast-slow-fast band selection that you hear a lot these days. Followed by the DYC’s presentation of “Behold the Tabernacle of God,” Tom came to the microphone to introduce the EMDB’s major work of the night: Robert Redhead’s “Corpus Christi.” A lot of good moments in there, such as the fragmented rhythms of the cornets, the revered euphonium/tuba feature, Collin Holman on the woodblock, the expressive moments of the trombone quartet of Doug Engle, Rochelle Holman, Matt Coakley, and Doug Holman, and much more. Following that performance, Commissioner Brian Peddle came to bring the devotional for the night. After all, giving praise and glory to God is what all these concerts and such are for. Commissioner Peddle reminded us of the Scripture from Isaiah 41:10:

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Bandmaster Hanton came to the stage to then lead the massed band feature, the highly energized “Pound the Streets” from the pen of Paul Lovatt-Cooper, a name now synonymous with brass band music. The level of energy in both bands’ playing tore the roof off! On a more serious note, please keep Paul Lovatt-Cooper in your prayers as he recovers from a recent stroke. “Pound the Streets” has no scriptural reference, so Bandmaster Lam remarked that it referenced the Salvation Army’s part in the Santa Claus Parade tomorrow afternoon and the bands’ participation in that. Kevin Metcalf then led the congregation in one last song “God, We Will Give You Glory,” accompanied by both bands. It was a great way to end what was a spectacular concert, and a great reminder as to why we in the Salvation Army use this form of ministry: to give God glory. All in all, it was a magnificent night at Scarborough Citadel and it was great hearing from all three of the musical groups.

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