The world renowned International Staff Band (ISB) from London, England, visited the Central Territory this fall to minister in the Wisconsin and Upper Michigan Division (WUM) and to perform with the territory’s own Chicago Staff Band (CSB). On the whirlwind trip packed with educational and performance opportunities, the ISB met with enthusiastic crowds at every turn.
They started the four-day tour at a top academic institution, Rufus King International Baccalaureate High School in Milwaukee, Wis., where ISB Bandmaster Dr. Stephen Cobb and members of the ISB presented a master class, including an introduction to the different sections of the brass band. The audience of nearly 300 music students especially appreciated the William Tell Overture (Rossini, arr. Goffin), played at breakneck speed, and All Creatures Praise (Steven Ponsford) with its introductory animal utterances. Later that morning, a 10-piece ISB ensemble shared a miniconcert to a surprised, yet pleased, audience in the lobby of the new Saint Kate’s Art Hotel.
Following dinner with the National Advisory Board, the band presented a concert to more than 1,100 attendees at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. The evening featured flugelhorn soloist Richard Woodrow playing the The Seal Lullaby (Eric Whitacre); cornet soloist Carl Nielsen with Compelled (Paul Sharman) and Jonathan Evans performing Euphony (Robert Redhead). The second half of the program found ISB members in red polo shirts and big band formation, playing a number of lighter swing items and finishing in bravura style with Fire in the Blood (Paul Lovett-Cooper).
The next day the ISB traveled to Madison, Wis., where they played an outdoor concert on the grounds of the Wisconsin State Capitol. Later that evening at the beautiful new Sun Prairie Center for the Arts, more than 600 patrons enjoyed a concert by the ISB where Bandmaster Cobb recognized American Salvationist composer James Curnow, and the band presented his festival march Faith is the Victory to the crowd’s delight. Another highlight was a stunning performance of Song of Courage (Eric Ball).
On Saturday the ISB joined with the CSB, led by Bandmaster Dr. Harold Burgmayer, at the Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church in Illinois for a dinner honoring the ministry of Peggy Thomas as assistant territorial music secretary and her ground-breaking legacy as the first woman admitted into a staff band. In response to many tributes, Peggy acknowledged the critical role of the ISB in faithfully setting the musical standard for the Salvation Army world. Peggy will continue to sit on the solo cornet bench of the CSB and serve as deputy bandmaster.
A brass spectacular followed, beginning with each band performing separate solo sets. Incidentally, each band featured a major work by up-and-coming Salvationist composer Andrew Wainwright, the CSB with Fearless and the ISB with Variations on Was Lebet. For the final third of the program, they joined forces to perform some of The Salvation Army’s enduring classics, including Fanfare of Praise (Robert Redhead); Procession to Covenant (William Himes); a magnificent rendering of The Kingdom Triumphant (Eric Ball); and the march Praise (Wilfred Heaton).
Concluding the weekend, the ISB led Sunday morning worship at one of territory’s largest corps, Norridge Citadel, Ill., where they were joined by the Metropolitan Divisional Youth Chorus led by Jonathon Weller and the Norridge Citadel Songsters led by Martyn Thomas. Major Noel Wright, ISB executive officer, led the meeting, sensitively weaving thought-provoking scripture passages with related questions.