This is the eighth recording by the Salvation Army's north London-based
Enfield Citadel Band. The previous one, 'Classically Enfield',
was warmly reviewed here
- the bandmaster there, as here, was Jonathan Corry, not 'Cary'
Their programme in this high-quality recording includes three
arrangements. Ray Farr's big band re-jigging of the BWV 565
Fugue in D minor would probably have Bach turning in his grave,
whether or not he really wrote the original; mercifully, the
Toccata has been omitted. Elgar's Ave Verum Corpus thankfully
keeps to the spirit of the original, and Anthem, from
Swedish pop duo Ulvaeus and Andersson's 1980s musical 'Chess',
sounds aptly hymn-like and less nauseating than the original
There are five short original pieces, all lasting between three
and four minutes. Battle Ready and Prayer Gently Lifts
Me are arrangements by Salvation Army members of pre-existing
hymn tunes, the first military, the latter more introspective
and pretty. Spirit of Life and Knowing My Failings
are also by 'Salvationists', but this time arrangements of their
own originals. Both sentimental, lightly contemplative and melodic,
the latter including a trombone solo and ending up in dubious
easy listening territory. The Veterans, by veteran brass
band composer Ray Steadman-Allen, is light in a different way,
more in the American marching-band tradition. Steadman-Allen
was born in a Salvation Army hospital, and joined the organisation
in 1949, before becoming this group's bandmaster in 1955. His
experience as a composer shows through even in this brief work,
which from a musical point of view is easily the best of all
the short pieces.
There are four original works with musical substance on this
recording, one, Ad Optimum, by another leading composer
for brass bands, Peter Graham. Ad Optimum is a nostalgic,
fast-slow-fast fantasy on three different hymn tunes, including
one of his own originals. The Call of the Righteous is,
in spite of the title - or perhaps because of it! - a resourcefully
spirited work, written in 1964 for the Band's tour of North
America. Steven Ponsford's Turris Fortissima ('Mighty
Tower') was also written for a North American tour, this time
in 2007. Compared with most of the other works in the programme
this is dramatic, fast and virtuosic - for the percussionists
too - even if it sometimes veers briefly in the direction of
bland TV music or sentimentality.
There is no doubt as to the finest work on the disc, and by
a long stretch: Edward Gregson's Variations on 'Laudate Dominum'.
Last year Doyen released the self-explanatory 'Gregson Collection:
Celebrating a Life of Brass Band Composition', to mark the composer's
65th birthday - see review.
That release included a recording by the Black Dyke Band of
the Variations, a work written in 1976 and then extended by
two variations for the Black Dyke in 2007. Laudate Dominum
is Hubert Parry's stirring hymn tune better know to many as
either 'O Worship the King' or 'O Praise ye the Lord', and which
Gregson finally reveals in its or, perhaps, God's glory only
in the last couple of minutes.
The Enfield Citadel Band has been around a long time, formed
in 1892, less than a decade after the Brighouse & Rastrick.
Though not as accomplished as that particular band - few are
- ECB are, as their performance of Turris Fortissima
in particular testifies, still a fine group of musicians, especially
since Jonathan Corry took over as bandmaster in 2009, and all
the more so when allowance is made for the fact that musicians
are necessarily drawn from a far smaller sub-section of the
population than most.
An informative booklet to boot, even if its design had its heyday
in the Nineties!
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk