Special Events

A Musical Offering: The Children’s Song (Robert Schramm)

The National Capital Band will be in sessions for their eleventh recording, entitled A Musical Offering, on 14 – 15 February 2014. The band has been blessed since its inception in 1925 to have had a stream of excellent composers and arrangers as members of the group. All of the items on this recording were written by one of these musicians, ranging from the earliest days of the band to current members.

In the late summer of 1961, Robert C. “Bob” Schramm came to Washington, DC after joining the United States Air Force Band. He also took up the principal euphonium chair in the National Capital Divisional Band (as it was then known) and was appointed as Deputy Bandmaster, a position he held until his retirement from the NCB in 1998. The association between the Schramm family and the National Capital Band continues to the present day, now extending to the third generation, with six members of the family having played in the band for a combined total of over 90 years of service.

Several of Schramm’s compositions have been published, mostly in the 1970s and 1980s. His most well-known work is The Children’s Song, published in the Festival Series in 1975. Although this piece has been recorded several times by bands around the world, including the International Staff Band, this will be the first time that the National Capital Band has recorded it.

Originally intended as a challenge piece for a music camp (although never actually used at that camp), the piece weaves together two melodies associated with the words by Cecil Frances Alexander:

All things bright and beautiful,
all creatures great and small,
all things wise and wonderful:
the Lord God made them all.

The tunes used are “Royal Oak” (Martin Shaw, late 17th century) and “Bright and Beautiful” (William Monk, 1887). The entire piece is in a light, playful style, with the melodies being passed throughout all sections of the band. Although short in duration, less than three minutes long, it is a challenge for the band, with many short solo passages and features handing lines from one instrument to another.

A Musical Offering: Camp Happyland (James Anderson)

The National Capital Band will be in sessions for their eleventh recording, entitled A Musical Offering, on 14 – 15 February 2014. The band has been blessed since its inception in 1925 to have had a stream of excellent composers and arrangers as members of the group. All of the items on this recording were written by one of these musicians, ranging from the earliest days of the band to current members.

Bandmaster James Anderson is widely recognized as a master of the art of the march, perhaps the finest Salvationist march-writer of the past few decades. During his six-year term as Divisional Music Director for the National Capital and Virginia Division, Bandmaster Anderson spent many days at Camp Happyland. Although it has been over three years since his untimely death, his spirit and ministry still resonate throughout the camp, particularly on the divisional music and arts weekends, where hundreds of students and staff fill the camp with music.

It is therefore fitting that the National Capital Band should include one of Bandmaster Anderson’s final compositions on this recording – a march, of course – entitled Camp Happyland. Although he had already been diagnosed with a terminal illness at the time it was composed, this piece embodies the ebullient and bold spirit that he showed throughout his life.

The march is built around the 19th-century song “There Is a Happy Land”, with words by Andrew Young:

There is a happy land, far, far away,
Where saints in glory stand, bright, bright as day.
Oh, how they sweetly sing, worthy is our Savior king,
Loud let His praises ring, praise, praise for aye.

A Musical Offering: The Call (Erik Leidzén)

The National Capital Band will be in sessions for their eleventh recording, entitled A Musical Offering, on 14 – 15 February 2014. The band has been blessed since its inception in 1925 to have had a stream of excellent composers and arrangers as members of the group. All of the items on this recording were written by one of these musicians, ranging from the earliest days of the band to current members.

Over the next two weeks, as the band approaches the recording sessions, an article on one of the items selected for the recording will be posted each day. We begin with the oldest composition, The Call, by Erik Leidzén, who was involved in the formation of the National Capital Band in 1925.

The Call, written in 1923, features the songs “Softly and Tenderly” and “What Will the Answer Be?”. Leidzén, even at a young age, had already begun to develop the advanced harmonics, use of chromatics and tone colors which characterize much of his brass band writing. The Call was considered by the Salvation Army music publishers to be too “modern” for use, and the piece was not published until 1952, nearly thirty years after it was composed.

The piece opens with a somewhat turbulent motif, leading into the first statement of “Softly and Tenderly’, representing Christ’s call to the sinner to “Come home”. This is then joined by the question “What will the answer be?”, as a response is requested. The two tunes are skilfully woven together as the music builds in intensity and then fades away at the ending with the final question represented by the second tune.

Leidzén’s association with the group that became the National Capital Band (then called the Washington Headquarters Band) began at the group’s inception in 1925. When Senior-Captain Ernest Holz, who was the commander of the small National Capital Division (at the time, consisting of only five corps), decided to start a divisional band, he turned to the headquarters in New York for assistance. In response, Leidzén was named the “Band Instructor” for the group, traveling from New York to Washington once a month by coastal steamship. For about five years, this was a regular pattern, as Leidzén assisted Bandmaster Walter D. Needham in starting up a tradition of musical excellence in the Washington area.

In the photograph below, taken in 1926 (the earliest known photograph of the band), Leidzén is on the right of the front row, with Bandmaster Needham on the left and Sr.-Captain Holz in the center.

The earliest known photograph of the National Capital Band, taken in 1926.

National Capital Area Soldiers Rally

The National Capital Band (Bandmaster Dr. Steve Kellner) supported a Soldiers Rally sponsored by the National Capital Area Command and held at Alexandria Citadel Corps on Sunday, 6 October 2013.

The rally was preceded by a mini-concert from the band. In keeping with the theme of the event, this consisted of marches and other upbeat items, including: Camp Happyland (James Anderson), Greenock Citadel (Kenneth Downie), Keep Singing (P. C. Rivers), Goldcrest (James Anderson) and Praise Him! (Stephen Bulla).

Following words of welcome from the National Capital Area commander, Major Lewis Reckline, a Scripture presentation featuring young people from the Landmark (Korean) Corps was given. The praise band from the Montgomery Country Corps added energy to the evening with three songs, How Great Thou Art, Hosanna and Forever Reign.

The meeting continued with a prayer by Major Janice Fitzgerald (Fairfax Corps) and the taking of an offering by Lieutenant Trey Jones (Alexandria Citadel). The divisional goal for World Services giving for this year is $959,000. The divisional commander has challenged to division to raise the addition $41,000 to make the total an even $1 million, and the offering from this meeting was put toward that challenge. The band played Are You Joyful? as an offertory.

Major Jacqulyn Reckline led the congregation through a testimony time, in between verses of the old war song “Gird on the Armor”. This was followed by a Scripture presentation featuring youth from the Fairfax Corps.

The message for the evening was brought by Lieutenant Michael Good, corps officer of the Solomon G. Brown Corps in southeast Washington. His message was challenging and thought-provoking for everyone at the rally, showing a maturity of spirit beyond his experience of only four months as a commissioned Salvation Army officer.

The evening concluded in rousing fashion with O Boundless Salvation, with the band playing William Himes’ arrangement, Major Curt Sayre (Montgomery County Corps) leading the congregation and Major Alan Gonzalez (Arlington Hispanic Corps) handling the traditional waving of the Army flag. After a benediction by Lieutenant Shalanda Jackson, as the congregation moved into the corps fellowship hall for a reception following the meeting, the band “played them out” with Wilfred Heaton’s classic festival march Praise.

2013 - 2014 Season Gets Under Way

The National Capital Band (Bandmaster Dr. Steve Kellner) officially began its 2013 – 2014 season in its traditional fashion with a retreat at Camp Happyland. The members of the band gathered on the evening of Friday, 6 September 2013 for a time of musical and spiritual preparation for the upcoming season.

This year’s retreat was exceptionally well-attended, with only three members of the group unable to attend. The format was the same as that used in previous years, with five rehearsal sessions (one on Friday night and four on Saturday) interspersed with meals and with three breakout devotional sections, ending with a consecration service on Saturday afternoon. This format was introduced by Bandmaster Kellner at the first retreat held under his leadership (2010) and has proved to be very effective at preparing the band for their season of ministry.

During the breakout sessions, members of the band were divided into four groups for a time of sharing and prayer. Devotional materials for the sessions, prepared by Major Rob Reardon (Band Chaplain), centered around the Bramwell Coles song Here at the Cross. James Curnow’s meditation on this song is one of the band’s primary devotional selections for this season. Each session looked at a verse of the song and the consecration service wrapped up the theme with an emphasis on the last line of the chorus, “Lord, for Thy service, fit me I plead”.

The rehearsal sessions, each one hour in length, were intense as usual. They serve to introduce new repertoire and to allow the band to begin coming together as a unit, particularly for members who have changed seats or are joining the band.

Curnow Visits Rehearsal

On Monday evening, 4 February 2013, the National Capital Band (Bandmaster Dr. Steve Kellner) was privileged to have well-known composer and conductor James Curnow as guest conductor for its rehearsal.

Curnow is one of the most well-known active Salvation Army composers, and has also published many works for concert and wind bands. In the Washington, DC area to supervise the recording of a demonstration CD for the American Instrumental Ensemble Series, he graciously agreed to come to the city early in order to conduct the rehearsal. The band is featuring two of his works in its concert repertoire this season, the devotional selection Guardian of Our Way and the extended work The Great Salvation War.

The guest conductor handled the entire rehearsal, beginning with taking the band through some of his Tone Studies for Band. The next item was the song arrangement O How I Love Jesus. Insights given by the composer as the band rehearsed this simple yet profound piece enhanced the meaning for the members of the band.

He also took the band through the to items from their concert repertoire mentioned above, spending nearly half the rehearsal time on The Great Salvation War. As with any piece of descriptive music, the understanding of the meaning of the work by the players is crucial to an effective performance, and Curnow’s descriptions of the various motifs and themes used throughout this extended work gave this understanding to the band.

At the end of the rehearsal, the band had a brief lesson in sight-reading as the guest took us through his composition Emblems, which many of the members of the band had never seen before this rehearsal.

In addition to the guest conductor, the band also welcomed back former member Bernie Dake, who is now a member of the music department staff at Territorial Headquarters in Atlanta. Bernie was also in town for the recording sessions to be held later in the week.

Gaithersburg Presbyterian Winter Hymn Sing

For the fifth consecutive year, the National Capital Band (Bandmaster Dr. Steve Kellner) visited Gaithersburg Presbyterian Church for the church’s Winter Hymn Sing.

This year, the band began with a “mini-concert”, playing five items before the event began. These included three hymn tunes arranged by Eric Ball, Angelus, Laudes Domini and Lobe den Herren. Also featured in this section were Jesus Loves Me (James B. Anderson) and St. Francis (William Himes).

The bulk of the event, as is evident from the name, consisted of the assembled congregation singing a variety of song – a total of fifteen. Ably led by the church’s director of music, Ann Y. Schmidt, and assisted by organist Mark Hanak, the event moved smoothly from item to item.

During the program, in addition to accompanying thirteen of the fifteen songs, the band presented the third movement of William Himes’ suite To the Chief Musician. The singing drew to a rousing finish with the band, organ and congregation joining in Crown Him with Many Crowns (arr. Charles Skinner).

As in previous years, the Hymn Sing was followed by a chili dinner in the church fellowship hall. Members of the church provided a dazzling variety of chili, with everything from traditional beef to venison to chicken to vegetarian. One rather unusual choice this year was a Moroccan chili, with exotic spices served over a bed of couscous.

The Winter Hymn Sing has become a favorite on the National Capital Band’s annual schedule, and this year was no exception as the band enjoyed good music and good fellowship with the members of Gaithersburg Presbyterian Church.

Sextet at Marine Corps Marathon

On 30 October 2011, a sextet from the National Capital Band braved cold temperatures and an early-morning call time to provide music for the annual Marine Corps Marathon in the Washington, DC area. The marathon is one of the largest in the United States, with more than 21,000 participants. The sextet was positioned at the four-mile mark of the course, which winds through the monuments and historic locations in Washington and the close-in Virginia suburbs.

Sextet at Marine Corps Marathon

Sextet at Marine Corps Marathon

The sextet consisted of David Delaney (cornet), Ian Chaava (cornet), Chris Dennard (horn), Kevin Downing (trombone), Steve Kellner (euphonium) and John Reeves (tuba). They played a mixture of patriotic and Salvation Army tunes, and reported that many of the runners expressed their appreciation as they came by. The sextet was on duty for the entire race, not leaving their formation until the “straggler buses” came by at the rear of the field.

Sextet at Marine Corps Marathon

Sextet at Marine Corps Marathon

NOVARC Salvation Meeting

On Sunday, 23 October 2011, the National Capital Band (Bandmaster Dr. Steve Kellner) visited the Northern Virginia Adult Rehabilitation Center (NOVARC) for the center’s Sunday evening Salvation Meeting. The band played a short concert before the meeting, and then led the worship service.

Members of the band arrived at NOVARC at 4:00 pm, doing setup and a short sound check in the center’s multi-purpose area, as the chapel does not have a stage large enough for a full-size brass band. The dining room is adjacent to this space, and, with a movable wall open, provided a large room for the event. After setting up, the NCB ate a light dinner in the dining room with many of the residents. The pre-meeting concert began at 5:40 pm.

The band began the 20-minute concert time with an ebullient march by Noel Jones, This Is the Day. This was followed by a contrasting item, Jesus Loves Me (James Anderson). Principal cornet David Delaney and long-time soprano cornet Noel Morris joined to present an exciting duet, Quicksilver (Peter Graham). Another change of style was used to demonstrate the versatility of the band, with the swing-style Shall We Gather (Leonard Ballantine). The mini-concert concluded with another march, Peter Graham’s The Ambassadors.

The Salvation Meeting itself began at 6:00 pm, starting off with the congregational song, “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder”. This was followed by the first of the band’s feature items, the trombone solo Joshua, played skilfully by principal trombone Kevin Downing.

One of the highlights of a meeting at one of the Adult Rehabilitation Centers is often the testimonies of the residents. For this meeting, David Delaney energetically led the congregational song, “Stand Up for Jesus”, with several testimonies offered between each verse. The heartfelt statements of men who are in the process of recovery from addiction were, as always, moving and thought-provoking.

The band’s second feature item has a direct connection to the venue. Originally written by Stephen Bulla for the dedication of this center, the march NOVARC was a fitting choice on this occasion.

Many members of the band also have powerful testimonies, none more so than Band Sergeant Dave Downing. His story is a shining example of God’s healing power, as he was the recipient of a heart transplant nine years ago, and has recently undergone successful surgery for a malignant tumor in a salivary gland. Despite the fact that he can not play a brass instrument at this time, because of the effects of the surgery, he has remained a member of the band, and will be providing multimedia support during some of the band’s performances. The residents of the center showed appreciation as he shared his story during the meeting.

In preparation for the evening’s message, Jason and Joel Collier presented the vocal duet He Looked Beyond. Their powerful vocals (so powerful that the sound system in the room was somewhat overloaded) gave a good introduction to the remarks from the NCB’s Executive Officer, Major James Allison. The major’s simple message was effective, with several men coming forward to the makeshift mercy seat in front of the band.

The meeting concluded with a triumphant congregational song, “Victory in Jesus”. The band sent the men back to their residence hall with the march Goldcrest (James Anderson).

The work of the ARC Command is a vital part of the Salvation Army’s mission, and it was a genuine pleasure for the National Capital Band to join with the residents and staff for this special occasion.

Annual Retreat 2011

The National Capital Band of the Salvation Army, based in Washington, DC, began its 2011 – 2012 season with the Annual Band Retreat held at Camp Happyland in central Virginia. This was the second weekend in a row at camp for the band, who the weekend before supported the divisional Family Camp. The theme chosen by Bandmaster Dr. Steve Kellner for this year’s Band Retreat was “Unity”.

Continuing with the style established last season, the retreat alternated between rehearsal sessions and small group “breakout” sessions, which emphasized the spiritual and relational aspects of the band, focusing on the theme for the weekend. The culmination of the retreat was a service of consecration held on Saturday afternoon.

Attendance at the retreat this year was outstanding, with only two members of the band unable to participate because of other important commitments. The band read through much of the repertoire for the upcoming season in the five rehearsal sessions. As usual, the retreat was a time to allow new members and those with changed roles to become familiar with their positions.

For the breakout sessions, the band was divided into four groups, which met separately. Because of the number of new members, each group included at least one. The groups were also structured so that a range of experience was included in each. The sessions served both as means for the members to become more familiar with each other and also as a spiritual point of focus. The concept of the breakout groups, which was introduced in last year’s retreat, is regarded by many in the band as the most significant part of the rehearsal weekend.

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