Salvation Army composers certainly know - or, in any case,
knew - how to write a march. Invariably stirring, brilliantly
scored and usually quoting from a hymn tune or chorus in their
trio section, many Salvation Army marches have found a life
beyond the Army in the repertoire of competing brass bands,
whether in concert, in contest or on the march.
The prospect of listening to an hour of marches may at first
seem daunting. However, the Salvation Army’s band-room cupboard
is so well stocked that the producers of this album have been
able to assemble an intelligent and enjoyable programme that
juxtaposes marches by different composers from different parts
of the world and different eras. There is a wonderful range
of music caught here, from the traditional marches of the 1920s
and 1930s by some of the Army’s best known composers to more
recent compositions from the 1980s. The marches are arranged
in a rough but not a slavish chronology, so as not to compromise
the variety of style which makes this entire album a pleasure
to hear in one sitting.
Throughout the disc, Black Dyke under Nicholas Childs play with
polish and élan. The band’s internal balances are finely calibrated
and rhythms are sharply articulated. Occasionally I wanted more
brio in the opening strains, for example in The Redcliffe
March, but the band’s attention to dynamic contrast and
the beauty of the phrasing in the more reflective passages is
While most of the composers whose work is included on this album
are represented by a single march, each of Emil Söderström and
George Marshall is featured twice, and Bramwell Coles features
three times. In each case their offerings distributed among
tracks by other composers rather than being grouped.
The disc opens with a Marshall classic, The Liberator,
with its rousing opening and feature writing for lower brass
in the trio section. His Spirit of Praise, appears as
the penultimate track on the disc. Written ten years after The
Liberator, it starts more gently but builds beautifully.
Both Söderström marches are brilliant. Minneapolis IV’s
syncopations are arresting - though again the opening bars could
have more fizz from Black Dyke - and Army of God is distinguished
by the tang of its chromatic harmony. Of the Coles contributions,
the poignant Victors Acclaimed stands out and is accorded
a sensitive performance.
There really is a lot of terrific music here. Leslie Condon’s
swaggering Exeter Temple demonstrates his distinctive
full band sound, scored with plenty of “middle band” voices,
and Black Dyke Band gives it warm expression. Then there is
Goldcrest, a jazzy 1989 march by James Anderson, a Scottish-born
Salvation Army Officer who sadly passed away on 28 October 2010.
The composer whose name will be most familiar to non-Army listeners
and indeed to those outside the brass band world is Edward Gregson.
He penned Dalarö as a teenager, but it is nonetheless
already covered in his musical fingerprints, opening with an
unusual but catchy hook, and offering glimpses of the composer
of Connotations and The Plantagenets as it progresses.
There are many, many fine Salvation Army marches yet to feature
in this World Class series. As good as Exeter Temple
is, Leslie Condon wrote an even finer march in Celebration.
And we are yet to see contributions from William Himes and Dudley
Bright, to name but two active Army composers yet to feature
in this series.
According to World of Brass, the web's major distributor of
brass band recordings, the first volume in this series was one
of its best sellers of 2009. This second volume should do just
The Liberator (1923) [3:17]
Spirit of Praise (1933) [3:45]
Minneapolis IV (1949) [3:24]
Army of God (1930) [3:31]
Dalarö (1970) [3:24]
The Flag of Freedom (1924) [3:04]
Victors Acclaimed (1945) [4:13]
Heroes of the Combat (1947) [3:15]
To Regions Fair (1958) [2:38]
Exeter Temple (1982) [4:25]
Goldcrest (1989) [2:58]
Motondo (1959) [3:15]
Spirit of Joy (1957) [2:30]
The Roll Call (1936) [2:27]
Indomitable (1951) [2:54]
The Redcliffe March (1929) [3:25]
Arthur S RAIKES
Cairo Red Shield (1945) [3:20]
The Wellingtonian (1925) [3:25]