FEBRUARY 12-13, 2022 – The New York Staff Band had a wonderful and very satisfying visit to Southern New England, beginning with 6 Staff bandsmen spending a few hours on Saturday morning amongst the young people of the division. Matt Hodgson shared a meaningful personal story of his experience with the expectations that parents have with children playing basketball and the seemingly unrealistic demands that are put in place on the court and after the games.  In reality, kids just want to have fun, be with their friends and do something together.  What they really need to hear is “I love watching you play”. Matt made reference to Zephaniah 3:17 in that God is with you and takes great delight in you. He loves watching you “play”.

Mark Baker gave a lesson to a first- time baritone player and helped her to the point where she played a melody with a beautiful sound.  Mark, you are a genius.  Brindley Venables worked with some cornet players, Simon Morton gave Josh Bang some helpful advice on the Bass Guitar and Daniel Guillaume helped the percussion class with their technique.  Andrew Boynton then rehearsed the Youth Band with poise and sound advice.  Quite an impressive line-up of teachers indeed.  The students left with a sense of excitement and joy, and some even made the journey back for the New York Staff Band Concert in the evening.

After lunch some members of the NYSB met the Southern New England Divisional Band for a rehearsal with Staff Bandmaster Derek Lance. They covered repertoire for the upcoming Divisional Concert of May 7th “Sliding into Summer”.

“Blazing Brass Praise and Worship” was the tag for the New York Staff Band’s concert in the Sanctuary of Manchester Citadel.  And I might say “Blazing, Brilliant and Beautiful”… is more apropos.  The near capacity audience was treated to an evening of music that quite simply was marvelous.  The titles of the first three items can be renamed in a sentence:  Worship the King, The Risen King who is the Conqueror (Philip Harper, Andrew Wainwright, Marcus Venables).  What an amazing start sending the emotions soaring and setting the stage for some contemplation with “Lord, You Know That We Love You” (Kenneth Downie) played gorgeously by the NYSB trombones.  Lt. Colonel Kathleen Steele extended the devotional tone by reminding us how powerful and yet sweet is the name of Jesus (Phil. 2:9-11).   This segued beautifully into the band chorus singing “How Sweet the Name”.  Beautiful and sublime is the arrangement by James Curnow which features the American shaped note melody “Consolation”.

Continuing with James Curnow and the tune “Consolation” his composition “Trittico” ended the first half.  While challenging for any band, with many delicate solos and rhythmic intricacies, the music is quite soulful and very powerful.

Kenneth Downie’s march “Choose Freedom” (one of the most demanding I have ever played) opened the second half.  I then had the privilege to introduce Bandmaster Michael Orfitelli (Manchester Citadel) and express the gratitude of the Southern New England Division and the Eastern Territory for his 55 years of service as Bandmaster.  You cannot sum up that kind of dedication in mere sentences.  His service is done out of the love of music and the desire to present the Gospel message to those who would listen and hear it.  SOLI DEO GLORIA.

Aaron VanderWeele displayed once again why he is known in the Euphonium world as one of the best with his rendition of Robert Redhead’s euphonium solo “Euphony” – it was amazing!

With a swing of emotion, the band invited all to “Be still for the presence of the Lord, the Holy one is here”.  “Still” by Andrew Blyth soothed everyone before the final item “Shine as the Light” by Peter Graham.  This masterpiece was written 25 years ago in the memory of Staff Bandsman Al Honsberger, and premiered at Star Lake Music Camp, concluded the concert.  The New York Staff Band throughout the entire evening displayed power and delicacy, strength and gentleness, finesse and elegance in a way that is an example to Brass Bands worldwide.  What a great crowd we had to share this wonderful music with.  Thank you to all who attended “Blazing Brass Praise and Worship”.

Sunday morning, we gathered at Manchester Citadel.  As always, the Staff Bandsmen prepare their stands for the meeting to follow.  Music is set for the prelude, songs, offertory, selection, and postlude.  The choice of music made for an introspective service and combined with the Manchester tradition of family altar was to be a blessing to all.

With selections such as “Churchbury” (Richard Phillips), “Thy Tenderest Blessing” (Stephen Wood), and “My Comfort and Strength” (Brian Bowen), as a prelude to worship and including congregational songs “All Hail the Power of Jesus Name” (arr. William Himes), and “O Church Arise” (arr. William Himes), there became a strong sense of the majesty and comfort in the Name of Jesus, as well as the strength that comes through corporate worship.  Lt. Colonel Kathleen Steele spoke from her heart of the need for complete surrender to God, to place what we have before God because what we give Him is magnified by Him.  There was a wonderful sense of completion to the weekend as we sang “O Church Arise”.  The poetry reminding everyone to put on the full Armor of God and fight with faith and valor in the light of the Risen Son, reaching out to those in darkness.

By Robert Venables (NYSB Solo Cornet)

SNE Weekend Photos