The Chicago Staff Band (CSB), New York Staff Band, Canadian Staff Band and Southern Territorial Band joined in Long Beach, Calif., May 19–22 for the North American Brass Celebration with the Western Territory Staff Band in honor of their 10th anniversary.
It commenced with a Thursday evening banquet where new friends were made and old relationships rekindled. Commissioner James Knaggs, Western territorial commander, welcomed everyone and prayed a blessing on the festivities.
The next morning the CSB gathered for devotions with Colonel Jeffrey Smith, CSB executive officer, before entering into rehearsals that ran from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Many new works were written for the massed bands on this occasion and throughout the day composers shared their inspiration. A highlight was Colonel Robert Redhead’s comments on his new arrangement of his song, “God is there,” a reminder that even in the darkest circumstances God is with us.
Saturday began with several divisional youth bands from the West performing in front of the Long Beach Terrace Theater as people enjoyed lunch. By the sounds of it, the future of banding in the West is bright!
The afternoon featured each staff band with a solo set. The Canadian Staff Band opened with Festival Prelude—Richmond (Rowsell). Its flourishes and big, glorious chords set the tone for a great day of music-making.
The CSB, led by Bandmaster Harold Burgmayer, presented a program featuring Ascalon Remix (arr. Burgmayer), Blacklands (Steadman-Allen/arr. Himes), and A Rose in Winter (Burgmayer), followed by the band singing Grace, an arrangement of “Amazing Grace,” in which various soloists sang phrases, building until the entire band moved to the front of the stage singing together. The emotional connection was so strong with the audience that many people commented it was their favorite piece of the weekend. There was an immediate segue into the CSB’s final number: a premiere of Chicago 1967, Burgmayer’s latest composition written for this occasion and featuring music of the rock band Chicago. With Lynda Cooper (flugelhorn) beautifully playing the melody to “Colour My World,” the band took their seats and played this number featuring many favorite Chicago songs. Before the last chord ended, the audience was on their feet in appreciation.
Next up the New York Staff Band featured an old favorite, My Strength, My Tower (Goffin) played with proficiency during the fast parts and tenderness during the melodic sections. They were followed by the Southern Territorial Band who ended their set with Jim Curnow conducting his tone poem, The Great Salvation War. A well-executed Purcell Variations (Downie), performed by the Western Territory Staff Band, wrapped up the afternoon concerts.
That evening all five bands gathered on stage for the Gala Concert hosted by Bandmaster William Himes, who offered humor and insight into the music. The concert opened with the Western Territory Staff Band playing The Roll Call (Broughton) as the other four bands marched in and prepared for an evening of praising God. The massed bands’ first selection, They shall come from the North, South, East and West (Larsson) introduced each band with one of their signature pieces, and on cue the CSB played the bluesy “Sweet Home Chicago.” Other new works included Jubilant Praise (Curnow), Shenandoah (Gates) and The Pilgrim’s Progress, a massive work by Philip Wilby based on the hymn tune “A Pilgrim’s Song” and book, Pilgrim’s Progress, which included narration by Dr. Robert Docter. The evening also included Crimond (arr. Richards), Evening Hymn (arr. Steadman-Allen), You Are Good (arr. Burgmayer), Salvation’s Song (Gordon), and The Kingdom Triumphant (Ball).
William Himes introduced his vocal number, Jesus, Thou Art Everything to Me, a common denominator of staff bandsmen which was magnified as all five bands joined together in proclaiming this belief.
On Sunday the five bands supported morning worship at area corps. The CSB ministered at Pasadena Tabernacle where they provided much of the music. CSB secretary and trombonist Ron Shoults, who is retiring from the band, shared his testimony, and Commissioner Carol Seiler preached from Psalm 73. The service ended with a combined CSB and Pasadena Tabernacle Band surrounding the congregation while playing God Be with You (Gordon).
That afternoon looking sharp in their red festival tunics, the bands reunited for a march through Disneyland to proclaim the Good News.
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