The Household Troops Band of the Salvation Army


The Household Troops Band, The Salvation Army
Hadleigh Temple
Monday 30th August 2004

Under their leader, Major John Mott, The Household Troops Band concluded their 2004 tour at Hadleigh Temple, where well over three hundred were present to share their particular brand of musical evangelism.

The programme was chaired - if that is the right word for such a lively contribution! - by their executive officer, Lt Colonel David Phillips, very much at home since he is a member of the Hadleigh Temple Corps himself.  Although there were various references to the bandsmen (and, for the first time, bandswoman!) being tired from their gruelling ten days on the road, it was not apparent in their playing as, in "big band" formation, they launched with gusto into their opening number, Barrie Gott's "Lightwalk".   They were
clearly very much at home with the swing style, which was even more apparent when they continued with a very laid-back rendition of Neil Hefti's "Lil Darlin'", the basses and rhythm section holding things back admirably.

Next it was over to music popularised by Glen Miller, giving the fine trombone section a chance to shine in "Pennsylvania 65000", complete with the band - and audience - chiming in with the number.  There was a bit of showmanship as the cornets and trombones each donned one of the white gloves they wear on the march when it came to the hand-muted sections, the gloved hands being waved in between the notes.  One of the difficulties with performing Miller numbers is that the solos tended to "written in stone" - he apparently insisted that they had to be the same each time - and on this occasion they did not quite come off, particularly the euphonium entrusted with the saxophone role; it just did not sound comfortable, and may have been more effective on the lighter baritone rather than euphonium.

Adam Sewell-Jones, another "local lad" whose family were present at the concert, is a member of The Salvation Army's International Staff Songsters as well as being a fine baritone player, and he came forward to sing Richard Rodgers' "You'll never walk alone" - no reference, fortunately, to Liverpool's defeat the previous day.  Despite a little distortion over the microphone his voice carried well, and the item was well received.

William Himes wrote "So glad" as a solo for flugel and band, but it adapts well as a vehicle for other solo instruments, and Andrew Piper's rendition on clarinet was most successful.  The scoring was such that even when playing in the quieter lower register the soloist came through, and Andrew took advantage of the additional range at his disposal to soar above the band at times.

William Broughton's arrangement of "Deep River" owes a lot to the influence of bands such as Duke Ellington and Count Basie, and as with "Lil Darlin'", depends on a steady pulse being set from the start.  The basses, sat at the front to the left of the conductor, were very much as one, although the occasional pedal note seemed a little out of keeping.  The trombones played very well as a section in particular, with uniform use of slide vibrato where appropriate, and the band made full use of their dynamic range.

The bass trombone of Luke Williams was heard to good effect in the opening of Peter Graham's "Ask", a song from one of the Salvation Army musicals given a Latin American treatment, with the percussion section being suitably augmented.  Another Miller number followed, "Little Brown Jug", with a first class solo from Andrew Mercer on trombone, who was taking part in his final tour with the band, before they turned to Barrie Gott once more, his "Swingtime Religion".  This had the audience clapping and singing away, as
the band (conductorless this time) brought the first half to a rousing conclusion.

Having re-arranged the platform during the interval, it was the trombone section that led the band back for the second half, playing Ian Robinson's arrangement of Andre Crouch's "Soon and very soon".  This was followed in complete contrast by George Marshall's classic march "Soldiers of Christ", taken at a good steady pace, allowing the semiquavers to be clearly articulated, with the bass solo being particularly effective, and a good balance in the cornet fanfare sections.

On his "swan-song" with the band, Andrew Mercer was featured in "Over the rainbow", which he played as he walked round the hall, shaking hands with audience members when the band took over for the tutti section - although I don't think he had expected to have greeted one lady who replied by saying that she had known his grandfather many years previously!  The second solo was Ralph Brill's "Post horn galop", although he wasn't able to play going up and down an escalator as he had done earlier in the week!  Thirdly, Ian Loxley played Chris Mallett's "Travelling Along", calling for great dexterity and control in the upper register.  Based on the song "Travel along in the sunshine" it incorporates references to "Raindrops keep falling on my head" - highlighted by two trombonists popping to their feet at the appropriate point - and "California here I come", together with another Salvation Army song "Sunshine".

Peter Graham wrote his setting of Crimond in memory of Peter Wilson, including snippets of various works by Eric Ball, most notably "Resurgam" in the closing bars.  This formed part of the devotional section of the evening and was greeted in silent appreciation and contemplation.

The final programmed item was "Metamorphosis" by Richard Phillips, currently Bandmaster of the Kettering Corps.  Written specifically for the band, it uses the song "In his time - he makes everything beautiful in his time" to illustrate the transforming influence and power of the Holy Spirit.  This was accompanied by a Power Point presentation associating words and images with the music, including scenes of conflict in the Middle East and the devastation of the Twin Towers.  The opening featured muted cornets and trombones against a unison phrase from the basses, followed by the horns, baritones and euphoniums.  After the conflict, when the melody "In his time" took over, there was a real sense of calm and serenity, as cadenzas were presented in turn by cornet, horn, euphonium and bass, over a side drum roll.  The screen depicted images of reconciliation, and words written by Major Mott to an original melody entitled "Forgiven", before a final hymn of triumph celebrated Christ's victory over a worldwide battlefield.  With the back row cornets turning outwards to project the tune whilst the solo cornets were engaged in busy scalic passages, the music rose in a glorious crescendo, topped off with a thunderous roll on the tam-tam.

It was clear that the audience were hoping for at least one encore, and it came in the form of Ray Ogg's march "Rousseau", taken at a cracking pace.  As one might expect from a band that engages in much open air witness, they are clearly used to playing marches, and make the most of the marks in order to bring them to life.  The trio section was particularly notable for the smoothness of the playing, whilst keeping the impetus going nicely.  The proceedings finally came to an end with a benediction, played by the band and spoken by Colonel Phillips.

The band's tour had commence the previous weekend in Blackpool, and each day had included both indoor and outdoor concerts, including playing to about 400 people on the sea front in Lowestoft.  They obviously enjoy their music making, and there is clearly a lively camaraderie between them, but they set a good example in their playing and witnessing, showing that, despite the "prophets of doom", people will still come to listen to good band music, well played and presented.  At Hadleigh, in addition to the Monday concert
reviewed above, they had also led the Sunday services, music played having included "Olympic Fanfare", "Power Divine", Ray Bowes' "Rhapsody for Cornet and Band" (Ralph Brill), "Sparks" (Andrew Shires), "Ad Optimum", "In this quiet moment" and "Treasures from Tchaikovsky".  They also held a march and open air in Old Leigh on Monday afternoon, although the weather almost put paid to that!

Throughout, they maintained a good, balanced sound, although some found the band a little loud, and the occasional somewhat aggressive attack from the bottom of the band especially would not be to everyone's taste. Next year marks the twentieth anniversary of the band's reformation and, on this showing, they will be active for many years to come.

Peter Bale