“New Beginnings” was the theme for the annual Family Camp for the National Capital & Virginia Division this year, and the same spirit carried through the following weekend (10 – 11 September 2010), when the National Capital Band gathered at Camp Happyland for their annual Band Retreat. With a new bandmaster, Dr. Steve Kellner at the helm and seven new players joining the band this season, the band is indeed experiencing “new beginnings”.
The Band Retreat has been the first official engagement of each season for the NCB for many years. It is intended as a time to perform organizational tasks, read through the upcoming repertoire, and set the band up both musically and spiritually for their mission. This year, Bandmaster Kellner instituted significant changes in the schedule of the retreat, with more emphasis on the spiritual and social aspects of the group.
Rehearsal sessions were reduced from 90 minutes to 60, but were increased in number from three to five. After each rehearsal session, the band broke into four groups, with each member (and family members who were in attendance for the retreat) participating through each group in a round-robin fashion. The groups, using materials provided by the Band Chaplain, Captain Rob Reardon, were so effective that the rehearsal sessions on Saturday were further shortened to allow more time for them. These devotional group sessions set the band on firm spiritual footing for the upcoming season. After the final rehearsal session on Saturday, Major James Allison, the band’s Executive Officer, led a short service of consecration which ended with most of those present kneeling in prayer at the recently-dedicated altars in the Happyland chapel.
Musically, the band was introduced to the new repertoire. Bandmaster Kellner has chosen a number of challenging items this year, and with only two items retained from the previous season, intense rehearsal is to be anticipated. Highlights of the repertoire include the prelude and fugue Arise, My Soul, Arise (Dean Goffin), Bruce Broughton’s The Good Old Way, the sublime and powerful meditation Serenity (Eric Ball), Variations on “O Worship the King” composed by Bandmaster Kellner, and Martin Cordner’s energetic Let Everything Praise!.
The National Capital Band is fortunate to have some outstanding young players, including principal cornet David Delaney, 27, and principal trombone Kevin Downing, 18. This season’s repertoire includes major solo items for both of them, with Bandmaster Kellner choosing two complementary works, based on spirituals, by Ray Steadman-Allen. These are the cornet solo Rhapsody on Negro Spirituals and Fantasy for Trombone on Spirituals.
As with most years, a few members of the band were unable to attend the retreat because of work or other commitments. Three former members of the band returned to help fill in these gaps: Sam and Stephanie Funkhouser, on euphonium and horn respectively, and Rick Potter on E♭ bass. Their participation in both the rehearsals and the group sessions enhanced the quality of the weekend.