(500) Days of Summer


Sorry for the lack of posts, I have been quite the busy bee over the course of the last few months. I have just returned from an incredible ministry opportunity: working at the Salvation Army’s Wonderland Camp & Conference Center up in Salem, Wisconsin. This was my third summer up at Camp Wonderland and it was a great one! I cannot say it was a perfect summer, however. There were hangups, there were mishaps, there were frustrations. However, I believe there is no such thing as a perfect summer…those things are supposed to happen. It’s how we react to those situations that matter. We were able to minister to over 1,000 children this summer and if we were able to win at least one of them to Christ, then the drama we encountered was worth it.  God was definitely glorified.

In terms of TroyFred Productions news, you will know that I recently announced the production of a new film for the Salvation Army’s International Congress Film Festival. The filming for this movie took place at Camp Wonderland during the off-days when we didn’t have any campers or responsibilities to attend to. I must say, for most of these staff members who were involved in the movie who have little to no acting experience, they have done a marvelous job and I am indebted to them for their hard work and sacrifice to help me with this project. This is the biggest project that TroyFred Productions has put on to date, and it’s not over yet. Now that filming is done, it’s time to compose the score to the movie and for post-production, which David Minter from the SA Central Territory’s Visual Communications bureau has graciously offered his support. Hopefully this can all be finished by April 30, 2015, which is the deadline for the Film Festival. The film’s title is More than Conquerors, starring Caleb Woodard and Kate Lundy. I am very excited to see the final product.

The one sacrifice that comes with the creation of More than Conquerors is that my regular brass band compositions will have to take a backseat for a while. That being said, that in no way means I don’t have a few new pieces in the works! For example, a special arrangement of “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” is in the works for the Sound of Africa band to perform in October. In addition to that, a new piece along the lines of Whom Shall I Fear is in the planning stages…but more on that later!

In the next few days, I will be making the transition to Asbury University, where I will be completing my Journalism studies. While I’m there, I will be working with Professor Nathan Miller, AU’s new music professor after the retirement of Dr. Ron Holz, and the SASF music groups and will hopefully have some new pieces written/played for/by them. Big things are coming, friends! Until next time!

F. Mbesi


Marching Onward!


Well I promised you all an update and here it is! It’s been a great weekend here in my neck of the woods. On Friday I went to my first post-hardcore rock show of the new year: Mega Fest Detroit! This awesome event was held at the Compuware Arena in Plymouth and featured seven great bands: Northlane, Attila, Wilson, Issues, Of Mice & Men, We Came as Romans (they were my favorite, of course), and Bring Me the Horizon. An entire album of pictures from that event can be found on my FB page. Collin and I had a great time. All seven bands were on a mission that night: one great rock show could change the world…and it did! It was a spectacular night…culminating in going over to help tear down from our annual RadioThon event that DHQ runs at the mall. About $1.2 million was raised in a single day! Awesome!

I was home alone this weekend while the rest of my family ventured out to Kentucky for a meeting of the “Sound of Africa” band retreat with B/M Rick Potter (I first met him in 2012 at the NACF) in charge. They returned around an hour ago and a wonderful weekend was had. I spent the entire Saturday I had to myself by myself with Netflix and my computer writing/composing. It was fun :).

Sunday (today) was a very good day, I felt. We were treated to the Royal Oak Citadel YP Band (B/M Matt Coakley) and their first live performance of Andrew Mackereth’s “Dance Like David,” (T.S. 1180) a piece of music that was very popular back when it was published around 2008. It’s still a fine contribution to any concert/festival, famous for its four-bar drum solo section. The YP Band’s performance featured Noah Roberts on the trapset, and a fine job he did. Bill Roberts and Dick VanderWeele, eat your heart out! I also got to see people I haven’t seen in quite some time, such as my grandparents Max & Ruth Wood (having been snowed in for the past couple of weeks) and Byron Simmons, a great friend/mentor in my life. We were also treated to a great message by Capt. Catherine Mount on Hosea 14, a book I don’t read too often. There’s a lot of good material in there. After some food & fellowship with some good friends, we were back at the Corps for a United Holiness meeting. Now if you thought the attendance at our Corps on a regular Sunday morning was good, you should’ve seen the congregation at this afternoon service. It was literally a full house! The meeting definitely harkened back to the Salvation meetings of the old days and much of the band’s repertoire reflected that (featuring marches such as Collaroy, Amsterdam Congress, Cairo Red Shield, Marching Onward, and Charles Skinner’s “Songs of the Soldier” medley) while also giving praise and glory to God with the repertoire of the Songsters (A Jubilant Song!, Make a Joyful Noise Unto the Lord). The special guests for the meeting were Lt. Col. Dan & Rebecca Sjogren, who are famous in my life for being the very officers who dedicated me in that very chapel around twenty years ago! Lt. Col. Dan brought a powerful message complete with some Elvis-style singing and you could tell that the Holy Spirit was totally working in that place.

In the realm of composing, I have really been cracking down hard on the song setting requested by B/M Jerome Astwood. Since I have school off this week (Hallelujah!), it could very well be finished sometime soon! Two sections down and two to go! After that is finished and edited, I think my next priority would be to write a bit of my own volition and finish the arrangement on “10,000 Reasons” I started not too long ago. I do think this little hiatus I’ve taken from it will give me a fresh mind when I come back and revisit it. While doing that, I’ll also continue to come up with ideas for both my march for the Eastern Michigan Divisional Band (B/M Tom Hanton) and my “six minutes & splashy” piece for Nick Simmons-Smith and the Southern Territorial Band. The song “Mighty to Save” has been in my head recently, so that may be a part of this new piece of music that will probably be along the same lines as “Amazing Grace!” and “Whom Shall I Fear?“. Only time will tell, though. I will say that writing music to praise and give glory to God is a huge passion of mine. I love watching the progression as my pieces begin to get better and better…not saying they’re all great, but how far I’ve come in skill and how much farther I still have to progress. Praise God!

This upcoming weekend marks the very first meeting of the Territorial Youth Band & Chorus of the Central Territory. Following an extensive audition period, the roster for the band/chorus has been finalized and we begin our retreat of rehearsals out at Camp Wonderland this weekend. A lot of great pieces of music are on the repertoire list as we prepare for our premiere performance at this year’s Commissioning Congress. Pray for our leaders (Bill Himes, Peggy Thomas, Joe Caddy, Meghan Pierson), the staff, and the students that we all get something out of this weekend more than just advancing our musical prowess, but the true reason why those pieces of music were written: to give glory to God. It will also be a great time of fellowship as we see our CMI-brethren again.

Thank you for those who still remain interested in these updates! Hopefully another one will come soon!


Space Pilot 2014


In case anyone doesn’t get the reference in either that or the title, it’s a play on the first episode of “Futurama,” which I believe in some ways surpasses “The Simpsons.”

Anyways we’re about to end 2013…and it was a fantastic year! A number of new pieces were written/premiered, such as the following:

Unity Series Overture – Soldiers of Christ
General Series Suite – Chronicles of Faith
Triumph Series Selection – Bieber Fever!
American Band Journal Selection – MMC’s Got Talent 2013
Cornet Trio – By the Dawn’s Early Light
General Series Intrada – Trash Cannes Festival Fanfare
General Series Overture – Whom Shall I Fear

It has definitely been a productive year for TroyFred Productions, including my four-week bando excursion all over the Central Territory, the Royal Oak Citadel Corps’ 90th Anniversary weekend, the launch of the TFP website, and much more!

I’ve alluded to a number of projects that I will seek to be writing throughout the course of the year. Here is the starting list of what I would like to complete:

  • General Series Festival March for the Eastern Michigan Divisional Band of the Salvation Army (Bandmaster Tom Hanton)
  • Unity Series Song Arrangement for the West End Community Church Band of the Salvation Army (Bandmaster Jerome Astwood)
  • American Band Journal-Scored Meditative Arrangement on Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons/Bless the Lord”
  • Thematic Sequel to Previous Work “How Great is our God
  • Euphonium Solo for Brian Rowland of the Royal Oak Citadel Band of the Salvation Army
  • Triumph Series Arrangement of “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High
  • General Series Arrangement of “O Boundless Salvation”


That’s just the start of what I want to accomplish this year. I also will leave way for any spontaneous inspired writing that may occur. One thing I really want to do is introduce more contemporary worship songs into the brass band medium to further unite the two genres. I think that would be a cool thing to do! If you have any requests for arrangements or whatever, you know how to reach me!

…and if you don’t know how to reach me, leave a comment here on this space or just email me at Mbesi_Fred@rocketmail.com

Have a blessed New Year, everyone!

Christmas Time is Here!

So there are two possible explanations for all this white stuff on the ground: either God has a bad case of dandruff (in which case, eww…) or the Christmas season has come at last! …it’s definitely the second reason. This has been an exciting season so far with a lot of traveling for me. During this time, I work with our Divisional Music Directors Tom Hanton and Greg Payton playing around the Metro Detroit area at different events to support the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle efforts. We play at events such as rotary luncheons, Red Wings games, Kettle kickoffs, and the like. Just this morning we played at Leon’s Family Diner in Dearborn with their rotary club and other esteemed guests. It was a great time. I’ve also had the privilege of taking part in a four weekend long Salvation Army brass band excursion, if you will. The past four weekends consisted of concerts with the Eastern Michigan Divisional Band, Canadian Staff Band, OCE Divisional Youth Chorus, Flint Citadel Band, Dearborn Heights Citadel Band & Songsters, Chicago Staff Band, Sara Groves, Mayfair Community Church Band, and the Norridge Citadel Band. I’ve also had the opportunity to play Flugel Horn with the Oakbrook Terrace Band (B/M Shawn Okpebholo) and play Cornet with an ensemble at the Tri-City Corps with Ron & Carol Hedgren and a few others. God has blessed me with all these great experiences and all the wonderful people I’ve been able to be with during that time.

One of the events I attended during this excursion was the Mayfair Community Church’s 25th anniversary concert featuring both their corps band (B/M Peter Kim) and the Norridge Citadel Band (B/M Peggy Thomas), in addition to Paul & Kay Rader (R). In addition to wonderful pieces from the pen of Paul Lovatt-Cooper, Sam Park, Andrew Wainwright, and BMK himself, I was treated with the world premiere performance of my newest piece “Whom Shall I Fear?” I am indebted to Peggy and the band for giving it a spectacular performance and capturing the essence of the piece. It was a great way to end this excursion. A video of the performance can be seen here:

Now that the year of 2013 is drawing to a close, it is time for me to consider what kinds of pieces I will focus on to write during the course of 2014. I’ll put out a list of the pieces that I want to do in early January (probably before the Composers’ Forum) but if you, the audience, have any suggestions or ideas or commissions that you would like me to write, please either leave a comment below or email me at Mbesi_Fred@rocketmail.com.

Merry Christmas from TroyFred Productions!

Dearborn Heights Citadel Thanksgiving Concert


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!

Flint Citadel Band’s 81st Annual Thanksgiving Concert


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.