Bravo Brass!

This is the second of three articles on the National Capital Band’s “Bravo Brass!” ministry weekend in the Washington, DC metro area, 10 – 11 April 2010.

As a part of their Bravo Brass weekend, the National Capital Band of the Salvation Army (Bandmaster James B. Anderson) joined with The Dominion Brass (Conductors Steve Kellner and Ben Roundtree) for a concert at McLean Presbyterian Church, on 10 April 2010.

The Dominion Brass, founded in 2002, is a large brass and percussion ensemble made up of professional musicians and music educators from the Washington, DC area. Its mission is to glorify God through music and to support other ministries and charitable organizations through concert performances. Since its founding, the ensemble has played several concerts annually and raised over $30,000 for various local, national and international ministries and charities.

The concert began with The Dominion Brass on the stage, where they started with Joyful, Joyful (arr. Steve Kellner) as a congregational song. This was followed by a arrangement by Ben Roundtree of The Power of the Cross. The next item was the premiere of an extended work composed by Steve Kellner, Variations on “O Worship the King”. This well-known hymn was presented in five movements, representing a variety of musical styles: Fanfare, Little Fugue, Song without Words, Celtic Dance and the closing Theme and Finale.

One of the great composers for choir in the twentieth century was Randall Thompson. His classic choral work Alleluia has been skillfully transcribed for brass choir by Steve Kellner, and this was the next work presented by The Dominion Brass. Contrasting with this symphonic chorale was the next item, There Is Power in the Blood, featuring the six-member trombone section of The Dominion Brass. Arranged by Ben Roundtree in a classic jazz format, this piece was greeted with long and loud applause.

The final item was the Finale from Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Organ Symphony”, arranged by Phil Snedecor. The McLean Presbyterian Church has recently installed a new organ, and it was an excellent benefit to the concert to have the church’s organist, David Bading, participate in this presentation.

During the intermission, the platform was reset for the National Capital Band. Unfortunately, Bandmaster James Anderson was unable to attend the events this weekend for medical reasons, but Deputy Bandmaster Matt Sims and principal euphonium Steve Kellner filled in admirably in the Bandmaster’s absence. Two Dominion Brass members, Phil Franke (euphonium) and Dana Landis (trombone) helped out by filling in for Kellner and Sims respectively.

The National Capital Band began its portion of the program with two pieces composed by Leslie Condon, Celebration and Song of Exuberance. The latter, one of the more difficult trombone solos in the Salvation Army repertoire, was given an excellent rendition by Kevin Downing, the NCB’s principal trombone. The third item was William Himes’ joyous Cause for Celebration.

The concert then turned from the contemporary rhythms and harmonies of William Himes to a item by a composer who may be considered the origin of all sacred brass music, Giovanni Gabrieli. An innovator often credited with the first significant use of dynamics, massed instrumentation and antiphonal effects, Gabrieli’s music is still appreciated and admired despite being composed some 400 years ago. Steve Kellner provided the arrangement of Canzon Septimi Toni No. 2, with the National Capital Band as “choir one” on the stage and The Dominion Brass split on either side of the audience to provide the antiphonal effect.

Returning to more contemporary music, the next item was Peter Graham’s Renaissance. For this item, The Dominion Brass filled the choir loft behind the National Capital Band, joining in the majestic final section as the piece concludes with the emphatic statement “May Jesus Christ Be Praised!”.

For the finale of the concert, everyone in the hall was included, with both bands, the church organ, and the audience combining for Crown Him with Many Crowns (arr. Charles Skinner), providing a fitting conclusion to the concert.