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CD & Download: World of Brass

Enfield Connections
Battle Ready [3:19]
Spirit of Life [3:31]
The Call of The Righteous (1964) [8:11]
Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Ave Verum Corpus (arr. Ralph Pearce) [2:41]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Fugue in D Minor (arr. Ray Farr) [3:29]
Peter GRAHAM (b.1958)
Ad Optimum [6:42]
Chelsea PASCOE
Prayer Gently Lifts Me [3:16]
Knowing My Failings [3:39]
Edward GREGSON (b.1945)
Variations on 'Laudate Dominum' (1976/2007) [15:01]
The Veterans [3:51]
Philip WILBY
Wondrous Cross [3:40]
Anthem (from 'Chess' ) (arr. Andrew Blyth) [3:16]
Turris Fortissima [9:14]
Enfield Citadel Band/Jonathan Corry
rec. All Saints' Church, Woodford Wells, Essex, 11-13 November 2010. DDD
SP&S 284CD [70:51]

Experience Classicsonline

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' as stated.
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 song.
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!
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