Yorkminster Visits Montclair, NJ

The spacious Montclair NJ Citadel auditorium rang with music of praise and uplift during the Fall Festival of Music presented by the Yorkminster Band and Songsters from Toronto, Ontario. Bandmaster Greg Colley and Songster Leader Donna Colley challenged the listeners with music that stirred the heart and mind. With the shimmering chords and scurrying rhythms of the brilliant “Let Everything Praise” (Martin Cordner), the band set the pace for the weekend of November 7 and 8.

It was good to hear an old favorite of mine, Morley Calvert’s “Canadian Folksong Suite” that I premiered with the New York Staff Band in 1968 at the Royal Albert Hall concerts. The bouncy first movement, with its 6/8 rhythms, conveyed the joyous feeling of elation, and totally eclipsed the realization that it was originally written and published for brass quintet. The second movement, based on the tune, “She’s Like the Swallow,” with its soaring melodies in the euphonium and cornet–– played beautifully––brought an atmosphere of melancholy and a rich warm feeling. For me, the last movement began too fast. Although played rhythmically and cleanly, this precluded the possibility of a gradual accelerando throughout as the composer suggested. Still, it was exciting!

The songsters exhibited a fine balance and blend throughout, with dynamics enhancing texts and tunes. Their several groups of songs began with, “Praise Him” (Christopher Priest), “Thou didst leave Thy throne” (Craig Courtney) and “There will be God” (Joy Webb), featuring a solo by Mark Fremeau, who shared sensitively with his rich, baritone voice. Arrangements of two spirituals, “Steal Away” (Howard Helvey) with flautist Elizabeth Colley and “Go Down Moses” (arr. Len Ballantine) rounded out the second set.

Fanfares and strong melodies help set the character and effectiveness of the band’s presentation of Paul Sharman’s arrangement of “The Power of the Cross.” The crisp rhythmic ostinato of the snare drum gave energy and forward motion, projecting a feeling of triumph and confidence.

The songsters framed the Scripture and meditation by Major Len Ballantine with devotional music. Perhaps the most effective of the evening was Ivor Bosanko’s “In this quiet moment,” setting our hearts in a receptive mood for the Scriptures. The two songs following, “Healing waters” (arranged and conducted by Len Ballantine) and “God of my praise” (Camp Kirkland) underscored the message.

Edward Gregson’s masterpiece, “Variations on Laudate Dominum” was the final item before the benediction by Major Kevin Stoop, Montclair commanding officer. The tune, by Charles Parry, seems to reach to the heavens as its opening phrase gives additional meaning to Henry Baker’s transporting text:

O praise ye the Lord! Praise Him in the height;
Rejoice in His Word, ye angels of light;
Ye heavens, adore Him by Whom you were made,
And worship before Him in brightness arrayed.

The band was at home with the music. It shone. The delicacy where needed balanced the power and rich tone exhibited in the final verse of the song: A fitting climax to an evening of praise. The postlude again brought back memories as we enjoyed the effervescent march, Norman Audoire’s “Montreal Citadel.”

Sunday morning worship emphasized God’s love, His tender care and energizing power. A number of readings such as “Don’t be so hard on yourself” along with some of the Army’s finest music reinforced Major Len Ballantine’s incisive message. He challenged all Christians to be salt and light and channels of the Spirit.

During the children’s time, Major Heather Ballantine invited children ten and under to the platform. This line of lively youngsters was a miniature United Nations in appearance, and eagerly answered her questions and voiced their thoughts.

Both Yorkminster Citadel Band and Songsters presented preliminary music and were featured throughout the meeting. The most moving item by the songsters occurred when the Montclair Citadel Songsters joined the visitors to present Fanny Crosby’s hymn, “I am praying” in Len Ballantine’s masterful setting, conducted by the composer.

Bill Way served as accompanist par excellence for the Yorkminster Songsters, was principal trombonist and enriched the program in a number of ways His playing of the offertory, “It is no secret what God can do,” reminded us of God’s grace and power. The songsters also sang, “Rest” (arr. Kevin Norbury), “Sabbath Psalm,” and the spiritual, “Somebody’s praying” featuring the beautiful contralto voice of Kate Tansley.

The band performed two arrangements of Morley Calvert in a most effective manner. The hymn tune arrangement, “My all is on the altar” glowed in its simplicity and directness. “For our transgressions” contains some of the Army’s finest songs in a setting that compels us to consider God’s saving power in our lives.

This friendly Canadian invasion was welcomed and hosted by the Montclair Citadel, NJ Band (B/M Charles Baker) and Songsters (S/L Thomas Scheibner). Their visit gave music forces of both corps occasion to enjoy the fellowship that magnifies the accomplishments and appreciation of one another.

– Vernon Post

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