World Class Marches of The Salvation Army, Volume II
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]
Bramwell COLES
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]
Herbert RIVE
Spirit of Joy (1957) [2:30]
The Roll Call (1936) [2:27]
Indomitable (1951) [2:54]
The Redcliffe March (1929) [3:25]
Cairo Red Shield (1945) [3:20]
The Wellingtonian (1925) [3:25]
Black Dyke Band/Dr Nicholas Childs
rec. 2010. DDD
DOYEN DOY CD223 [60:42]

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 ample compensation.

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 as well.

Tim Perry

There really is a lot of terrific music here.