As the last leg of a punishing tour schedule, Melbourne Staff Band visited Hadleigh Temple the day before joining seven other Staff Bands to celebrate ISB120 in London. In the previous nine days they had visited Sheffield, Warrington, Kettering, Sunderland, Clydebank, Blackpool, Coventry, and Bristol, performing a festival in each location. Yet despite the tiredness, our Aussie friends put on an energetic programme of stirring Salvation Army music, both old and new.
Introducing the festival, Major Geoff Ashdown welcomed the visitors and gave them a potted introduction to the local area, making special mention of Leigh-on-Sea’s fame for seafood. He punctuated this with a very tongue-in-cheek presentation of a jar of jellied eels to the band’s executive officer, Lieut. Colonel Ian Hamilton.
Major Geoff also welcomed the capacity congregation especially those who had travelled far. Not only had people travelled from all over the United Kingdom, but visitors from Germany, Holland, Norway, Canada and Switzerland were acknowledged. Among those were veteran Salvation Army composer Eiliv Herikstad, who was visiting with his daughter Maria from Norway, and new Salvation Army composer Roger Trigg.
Australian-born Roger is a former member of both the Melbourne and New York Staff Bands. He had travelled from his current home in Northern Ireland to hear his former colleagues present a festival which included his composition, Atonement. The work is traditional and powerful. It is described as “musically easy to digest”. It features famous hymns such as To God Be The Glory and When I Survey The Wondrous Cross. An unusual touch is the way the music begins: with the iconical Waltzing Matilda featuring the equally iconical aboriginal Australian instrument, the didgeridoo. Far from being aboriginal, its player, Staff Bandsman Nigel Mapes, hails from Norfolk, UK.
The brass music in the concert was contrasted by the wonderful soprano voice of Rebecca Raymond. Although a regular with MSB she lives 450 miles from Melbourne in Adelaide. She is a member of a gospel singing group and also sings with her family.
Testimony was given by Caroline Holman, who hails from Southend Citadel and has been in Australia for six years. She told how she held on to her Christian faith and love of music despite being ridiculed for them.
During the evening, the visitors and host band exchanged gifts. Lieut. Colonel Hamilton presented Bandmaster Ken Hillson with a photograph of Melbourne Staff Band and in return Bandmaster Hillson presented Hadleigh Temple Band’s crest to Staff Bandmaster Ken Waterworth.
In the interval, the removal of the band’s chairs and stands gave a hint to the unusual nature of the last part of the programme. The bandsmen changed their uniform shirts for orange polo shirts bearing the MSB logo. They presented a 40-minute programme of uninterrupted choreographed music, called “Brass On The Edge” which included another vocal solo from Rebecca. The section concluded with the highly energetic William Tell overture.
The evening finished with the band dispersing throughout the hall to play the benediction. Next stop was the hotel for a relatively short sleep as there was a 6.00am start to be in London in time to prepare for the ISB120 celebration weekend.