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!