Category Archives: Concert Review

Dearborn Heights Citadel Thanksgiving Concert

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Sorry for the delay, life caught up to me for a bit. If you thought the bando fun was done with the Flint Citadel concert, you were sadly mistaken! Last night I was privileged to attend the Dearborn Heights Citadel Thanksgiving concert. I think I’ve been to all of them since 2008, so this would be my sixth DHC concert. I enjoy them all! The chapel was packed and then the band came onto the stage followed by their Bandmaster, Divisional Music Director Tom Hanton.

The band opened with “Hallelujah!” This festival prelude, based on the tune “Falcon Street,” was written by James Curnow for the Chicago Staff Band’s centenary, and the DHC band did it justice. They played exceptionally well, capturing the lively and jaunty style of the work. I was immediately drawn to the back-row cornets near the piece’s conclusion, who had some nice flourishes.

Bandmaster Hanton welcomed the audience to the concert and introduced the special guest of the evening: Brett Tolcher, principal trombonist of the Chicago Staff Band. Before we heard from Brett, however, we heard from his brother. The band’s principal cornet, Alan Tolcher, brought to us a solo entitled “When I Remember” from the pen of David Catherwood. For those of you in attendance at the DHC concert last year, you will remember Alan tackling the Cornet solo “Blessings,” also by David Catherwood. Just as last year, Alan demonstrated great skill and masterful technique, the band doing a great job of staying in the background and letting him shine. The band was showcased next, performing “Are You Joyful” by Dudley Bright, principal trombonist of the London Symphony Orchestra. This piece was written as an expression of joy, and the band played it as such. There were some good moments in this piece, I especially liked the John Williams-esque ending. Stuff like that always brings me joy.

We were treated to our first number from Brett: Peter Graham’s trombone solo “Fiesta!” This piece, written in a Latin American style, was perfect for Brett to showcase his highly skilled playing ability and technique. Adding to the Latin-style of the piece were ringers Bill Roberts and Collin Holman, ringers from the Royal Oak Citadel Band, who joined the band on percussion for the concert. After that great performance, Brett accompanied the Songsters (led by Heather Hanton) on trombone along with Colleen Dahl on piano in a beautiful setting of “People Need the Lord,” complete with a slideshow of pictures with the lyrics of the song. There’s so much truth in that song. Thank you, Songsters.

Following that, Brett shared a testimony about how God used his playing of a Beatles’ song (“Here Comes the Sun,” for you Beatles fanatics) to help someone, leading to the truth that God is in control of our lives and we don’t have to worry, since we are in His hands. The only thing fitting after that inspiring testimony was his elegant playing of Phil Laeger’s new arrangement of Stanley Ditmer’s “I’m in His Hands” on piano. It was a special moment for many in the audience, me especially, for that song has been instrumental in my walk with God in recent months. It is such a good reminder.

The days I cannot see have all been planned for me. His way is best, you see, I’m in His hands.

With no introduction came the next number by the band, Robert Redhead’s “Christ Hymn.” The opening bars from the horns,baritones, euphoniums, and basses were spot on, perfectly capturing the tone of sadness that the music was trying to convey. The transition into the joyous section was captured nicely by principal cornet Alan, later joined by the the brothers Dahl and young Alex Havens on Solo Cornet. With excellent rhythmic temple block playing from Bill Roberts, beautiful ensemble work from the trombones, nice Flugel Horn sound from Sarah Beavers (we need more young Flugel Horn players like her), the elegant ethereal quavers from the cornets in the middle section, and the driving bass/percussive patterns, “Christ Hymn” was definitely one of the highlights of the night. It is not an easy piece to tackle, so well done to Tom and the band for an excellent performance.

After a brief intermission, the band proved they still had a lot more to give. Their take on Martin Cordner’s “He is Exalted” was superb. Kit player Collin Holman kept the band going with his driving rock rhythm and there was some nice playing all around. Brett then returned to the solo stage and brought a beautiful trombone solo “Song to Lotta,” this time accompanied by pianist Casey Baker, who accompanied the three New York Staff Band soloists from the previous night. This gave Brett a chance to showcase his beautiful melodic playing and mastery of the trombone. It was a nice addition to the program. For me, the highlight of the second half of the program was Richard Phillips’s arrangement of “Such Love.” It began with Brett at the piano and he was soon joined by subtle entries from the horns, baritones, euphoniums, and trombones. This song has a nice melody that was passed around the band, soon entering in the cornets while Brett added his own sprinkles from the piano. It was a moving arrangement and the band demonstrated nice controlled playing and didn’t give any “personal testimonies” while playing, as it were. Nice job.

Bass trombonist and Corps officer Captain Caleb Senn came to the stage to thank both Brett and Casey for spectacular performances before bringing forth a devotional stemming from the band’s last piece, centering on God’s love. The concert ended with the band performing Bruce Broughton’s “Hillcrest” march. Being written by a composer with experience writing for film soundtracks, there were nice stylistic references to “Silverado.” The band started and finished strongly and with some energetic playing. It was a great concert. Thank you, Bandmaster Hanton and Dearborn Heights Citadel Band/Songsters on great performances!

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Flint Citadel Band’s 81st Annual Thanksgiving Concert

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Well it took me 81 years but I finally was able to attend the Flint Citadel Band’s Thanksgiving Concert. This extravagant event was at the Whiting auditorium, an acoustically beautiful venue in which the band has held their their Thanksgiving festivals for quite some time. The special guests this year were three members from the New York Staff Band’s Eb section: Eb Soprano Cornet soloist Christopher Ward, Eb Alto Horn soloist Timothy Ward, and Eb Bass soloist Simon Morton. A special treat this evening was another pair of guests: Lt. Colonel Norman & Diane Marshall, who previously served as the Divisional Commanders of the Eastern Michigan division. Lt. Col. Norman served as the compère for the evening.  The lights began to dim and the band marched onstage followed by Matt Rowland, bandmaster of the Flint Citadel Band since 2011. He and the band opened up with Kevin Larsson’s march “Temple 125.” This bright and up-tempo Broadway-themed march set the stage for what was going to be an exciting concert with the good technical playing and dynamic contrasts. I felt like I was on Broadway! After a welcome and prayer from Colonel Dennis Strissel, the band changed gears and brought the more devotional “Guardian of My Soul.” This meditative work links composer Darren Shaw’s own song “I worship you” with “O Jesus I have promised” (S.A.S.B #862) to the tune of Aurelia, and it gave the audience a chance to hear the band’s control and sensitive playing. As I have noted before, I can see “Guardian of My Soul” becoming one of the more famous pieces in the Salvation Army repertoire.

Lt. Col. Norman introduced the first soloist of the night, Chris Ward, who demonstrated beautiful and luscious playing in Philip Sparke’s “Flowerdale,” which is one of seven movements from Sparke’s “Hymn of the Highlands” suite. After a great performance, the band gave me a personal treat and performed one of my favorite Christmas-based arrangements: “Comfort and Joy,” from the pen of Martyn Thomas (the UK version, not the US version). This is an attractive workout for band written in the big-band style and the band did a nice job stretching out their jazzy legs, as it were.

The next solo act was Tim Ward on the Eb Alto Horn, presenting to us “Damelza” from the pen of Hugh Nash. Now I did some research and it turns out that Hugh Nash is actually world-renowned brass band composer Goff Richards, who came up with this pseudonym to see if his music was just being published because of who he was. Tim demonstrated very nice playing in this horn solo and was accompanied by pianist Casey Baker, who I neglected to mention in my live-tweets of this event for some reason. The band followed with the march from Tchaikovsky’s famous suite “The Nutcracker.” Band sergeant came up to the stage to remind us of the band’s focus and purpose in the form of a devotional which was followed by the band chorus singing “Make Me a Blessing.” The Flint Citadel Band closed the first half of the concert with “March Militaire Francois” and we were brought to an intermission.

The cool thing about this concert is that it introduced me to a plethora of great music I had never heard before. Norman Bearcroft’s majestic setting of “Joy to the World,” which the band used to start the second half of the program, was of no exception. Following this rousing intrada was an arrangement from William Himes (who half the band is related to in some way, shape, or form) that was featured in the Chicago Staff Band’s portion of ISB120; “Soli Deo Gloria.” (Glory to God alone). The band once again proves that they are no strangers to sensitive and controlled playing in this arrangement, which marries J.S. Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” with the worship song “Jesus, Name Above All Names.” The band definitely has a knack for balance and it is shown here. Honorable mentions go to cornet soloist Ted Tolcher and the horn section (who sounded like they were on top form while two of their members were feeling under the weather tonight).

Chris and Tim Ward returned onstage to treat us with a Soprano/Alto Horn duet “Pie Jesu,” and what a treat it was. Both Ward brothers showed how their playing both complimented each other and demonstrated some really masterful skill. We were then introduced to the final soloist of the evening, Eb Bass player Simon Morton. This was a special night for Simon, being a former member of the Flint Citadel Band for ten years. He and the band presented a fun swing arrangement of “Frosty the Snowman,” and Simon probably convinced more than half of the audience to drop their instruments and switch to Tuba with all the fun he was having onstage, even demonstrating a skill I’m not too familiar with: singing and playing at the same time. Impressive, most impressive. Another impressive fact about Simon is that he is an emerging composer. In fact, he will be joining me at the North American Composers’ Forum this upcoming January. He demonstrated his gift in composing by arranging Vittorio Monti’s “Czardas” for the three Eb soloists to perform. Great playing from the three members of the New York Staff Band and great arrangement, Simon! Looking forward to hearing more from you in the future.

After following a number of thank you’s and while three more chairs were added so that the three Eb soloists could join the band, B/M Rowland came up to the podium to conduct the band in its final number of the night: Dean Jones’s “Supremacy.” This major workout for band is along the same lines as his earlier “Glorifico Aeternum,” using the tune “Moscow” (Come, thou almighty King), “Above all,” and “Pembroke” (My Lord who reigns supreme). This piece definitely kept the band on their toes but they pulled off an outstanding performance and received a standing ovation. The band ended the night in the form of tradition, and under the direction of Dave Bell, the band chorus presented a choral benediction: “The Lord Bless You.”  It was definitely a wonderful night at the Whiting. Congratulations to B/M Matt Rowland and the band for an awesome concert.

Stay tuned on this space for a review of both the Dearborn Heights Citadel and the Chicago Staff Band Thanksgiving Festivals in the upcoming week.

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.

Anniversary Concert Review

What a privilege it was to be a part of the Royal Oak Citadel Band & Songsters Anniversary Concert, let alone the entire weekend! With a thunderous applause, the audience welcome the members of the Band and Songsters before welcoming Bandmaster Greg Payton (2005-present) and Songster Leader Doug Holman (2008-present), two individuals who have put such great work into setting up the logistics of this concert. As they took their seats in the Soprano and Bass Trombone chairs respectively, one more round of applause was given for James Curnow, one of four sets of special guests for the weekend. He stepped up to the podium and with an impressive attack from timpanist Craig Beachum, Jim led the band in scintillating style with his festival march “Faith is the Victory.” This march was actually written for the opening of the current Royal Oak Citadel building on Main Street, but was not finished in time due to Jim’s prior commitments to his schoolwork. During rehearsal on Friday night, Jim mentioned writing the middle section during his “boring” Statistics class…I know I sure can relate to writing music in boring classes!

This was followed by a warm welcome from our current Corps officer (also leading the back-row on 1st Cornet) Captain Peter Mount and Bandmaster Greg went on to introduce our guests to the audience: Jim & Marge Curnow, Captain Sally Broughton, Commissioners Barry & Sue Swanson, and Bill & Linda Himes. It has been wonderful to have them and we look forward to worshiping with them tomorrow morning. After the introductions, Greg stepped up to the podium to lead the band in Bill Broughton’s “Gowans and Larsson Overture,” a delightful potpourri of melodies from the famous Salvation Army musicals from Generals John Gowans and John Larsson. This was a fitting addition to the program because the Royal Oak Corps has performed a number of these musicals in the past…pictures from those performances were even showcased during the performance! Memorable moments included the precise double-tonguing on the opening semiquavers from the Cornets accompanied by edgy rhythms from the basses, beautiful solos from Denise Beachum (Cornet), Ruthie Mbesi (tenor horn) and Doug Engle (trombone), and a nice driving rock rhythm from Bill Roberts (percussion) during “What Does the Spirit Say to the Churches” (from the only Gowans/Larsson musical I’ve ever seen/been part of “Spirit,” so I could be a bit biased.) This piece showed the band to be in good form.

Following this, the Gowans/Larsson fun wasn’t over yet! Captain Sally Broughton woo’ed the crowd with her vibrant piano playing and we had a little variety show with some other melodies with the help of Ian McNeil and Major Heather Holman. This was a hard act to follow, but Doug Holman and the Songster Brigade were up to the task, opening their first portion with “Make a Joyful Noise unto the Lord,” an exuberant piece of music featuring tenor soloist Captain Terry Smith, and a powerful anthem from Tom Fetke entitled “Exaltation.” This number also happens to be the title track of the CD the Royal Oak Citadel Songsters have just released at the concert for $10.

As the Songsters exited the stage, Jim returned to the stage and with the help of Commissioner Barry Swanson, presented an award for excellent service to an individual who has taught countless musicians over the years (including Jim and Bill themselves) and has left behind quite a legacy at the Royal Oak Corps, and that person is none other than my namesake, F. Maxwell Wood. (The ‘f’ stands for “Frederick,” ya know). Totally humbled and blessed by the thank you everyone in the auditorium gave him in the form of a standing ovation, Max came up to the stage to join his former student and accept his award. Another surprise came from both Bill and Jim: the two had co-written a piece in honor of Max to be played at this very concert, appropriately entitled “Legacy.” The world premiere performance was conducted by both composers, Bandmaster Himes leading the first half and trading off, in a synchronized fashion, with Professor Curnow for the second half. The piece was a setting of four of Max’s favorite songs: “O Happy Day,” “Enter, Enter,” “In Thee, O Lord, Do I Put My Trust,” (taken from Jim’s earlier piece ‘The Great Salvation War’), and “Do Lord,” culminating into an impressive climax. It was definitely a special moment for Max and everyone who has been affected by him and his ministry in some way, shape, or form.

Captain Sally Broughton returned to the piano and this time, with reinforcements! With partner pianist Bandmaster Himes, the two performed a piano duet arrangement of Ray Ogg’s classic march “Rousseau,” featuring a tune with words Bill dedicated to his alma-mater Dondero High School, the venue the concert was being held in. There were also some most appreciated references to “Hail to the Victors,” the University of Michigan fight song.

This was followed by the second set from the Songsters and they too brought reinforcements in the form of Major Heather Holman, who was the featured soloist in the laid-back and jazzy selection “Goin’ to the Holy City,” accompanied by a musical ensemble featuring brass, bass guitar, piano, and drum kit. This was followed by Captain Sally Broughton leading the Songsters in “He Arose,” one of my new favorite choral pieces. It begins in an ominous, minor key (somewhat akin to Halloween) with the numerous verses, each in a different “evil” key and then changes into a bright, up-beat presentation of the chorus. It was definitely a crowd-favorite and Captain Sally’s animated expressions and conducting helped the Songsters relay the good news that “[Christ] arose a victor from the dark domain!”

Under the direction of Bandmaster Himes, the band closed the first half of the concert with his three-movement suite “To the Chief Musician.” This special piece was written for the retirement of Commissioner Richard Holz and is quite unique, going beyond the normal brass band scope and by including vocal chants from Psalm 100 and singing. The highlight of the suite was at the end of the second movement after the final trombone chord as it was answered by the band humming a note on the chord very softly before fading into nothing. Just a beautiful type of color we normally don’t see in a brass band piece. Vocal soloists provided by Matt Coakley (trombone), Mark Gallop (bass), and Doug Holman (bass trombone).  This was a triumphant way to end the first half.

The second half was kicked off with Bill at the podium, conducting the band in “Milestone,” the march he wrote for the Chicago Staff Band’s 75th anniversary. It features his own hymn tune “Dearborn Street” to which the words “Lord of the Years” are associated. This march is different from a lot of music I’ve played before, but that’s one thing you could say about Bill’s writing: it’s very innovative, featuring a cut-time rhythm throughout the piece, runs from different sections of the band (especially the Solo Cornets), and more. It was definitely an appropriate march for the occasion.

At the start of the second half, you will have noticed the tons of empty chairs surrounding the band and the people standing in the back where the Songsters stood. This half was dedicated to the massed alumni band/Songsters, each taking a different conductor. It was great to finally play with so many familiar faces I’ve gotten to know over the years such as Bill & Darlus Kumpula, Commissioner Barry Swanson with the basses, Bill Himes & Ed Rowland in the Euphonium section, Steve & Jacque Hull, Sandy Rowland, and countless others. The alumni Songsters were up to bat first and with Doug leading them, they conquered Gavin Whitehouse’s up-beat “Adoration, Thanksgiving, and Praise.” When Bill took the stage, the Songsters shifted gears to bring what has become my favorite Songster piece: “Isaiah 40.” This a Capella work was a blessing to both the performer and the audience, expertly conducted by the composer himself. The Alumni Songsters finished their portion under the direction of former Songster Leader Ian McNeil, who had a hand in teaching every member on stage either directly or indirectly through his teaching of Doug. With such emotion, he led the Songsters in another anthem from Tom Fetke, “The Majesty and Glory of Your Name.” Some could say this was the highlight of the entire Songster portion of the evening. Another personal joy for Ian was rehearsing this with his grandchildren Ian & Lyndsey Kumpula singing under him for the very first time. McNeil daughters Kelly and Jamee were very proud of the legacy left by their father.

The alumni band then took the stage and prepared to play Jim Anderson’s groundbreaking march “Goldcrest.” What an amazing surprise it was when Greg announced that Max Wood would be leading the band in this performance. Personally speaking, it was my very first time playing under Grandpa’s direction and it was amazing to see the pure joy on his face as he was able to use the term “Bandmaster” once more. This was followed by Jim’s meditative “Guardian of Our Way,” molding four well-loved songs which refer to the care and direction of Christ the Good Shepherd. In contrast, Bill brought to us his march “The Witness,” a march written in his earlier days as a young boy. After some great closing remarks from Captain Peter, Bill led us in the benediction featuring massed band, massed Songsters, and the voices of our congregation in the Salvation Army’s national anthem: “O Boundless Salvation,” which culminated in a wall of sound that was nevertheless controlled. What a thrilling and fitting conclusion to a wonderful festival of praise, music, and worship.

Thank you to all of those who came and we hope you enjoyed a wonderful night! To God be the glory!