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CD review: Powerhouse

The International Staff Band of the Salvation Army
Staff Bandmaster: Dr Stephen Cobb
SPS Recordings: SPS 438 CD


Much has changed in the 25 years or so that Dr Stephen Cobb has led the International Staff Band of the Salvation Army – none more so than the repertoire that he continues to interpret with such a literate sense of musicality.

That insight is certainly shown with this recording, in which works of 21st century Salvationist structure and inspiration are moulded with an astute sense of nuanced subtlety – especially the quartet of substantive repertoire contributions.

It is also testament to his ethos that such a high level of consistent execution is on show throughout (the recording took over 18 months to complete due to Covid-19); the warm tonality backed by calibrated dynamics, ensemble security and fine solo contributions.

Ductile thread

Of the four major pieces, Andrew Wainwright’s ‘Rhapsody on St Francis’  is a persuasive linear development of the familiar hymn tune; the ductile thread twisting in different directions yet never losing its strength of identity or innovation.

It offers an intriguing counterbalance to ‘Koinonia’  – Martin Cordner’s segmented seven movement suite that also retains its inventiveness within self-contained boundaries - from the rousing ‘Prelude’  to the Respighi-esque ‘Appian Way’ triumphal walk to the heavenly gates.   

It offers an intriguing counterbalance to ‘Koinonia’  – Martin Cordner’s segmented seven movement suite that also retains its inventiveness within self-contained boundaries - from the rousing ‘Prelude’  to the Respighi-esque ‘Appian Way’ triumphal walk to the heavenly gates.   

Andrew Mackereth’s enjoyable ‘To heights above’  is full of sci-fi film score impulses and ‘Star Wars’ colourings, energised rhythms and widescreen excitement, whilst Kenneth Downie’s use of musical torque has a much more earthly sense of rhapsodic traction (with a little nod to ‘Thunderbirds’ meets ‘St Magnus’ rhythmic drive in places).

Refined blazon

However, the ‘Powerhouse’  message that is proclaimed  from the Brindley Boon song ‘Spirit Divine’ is delivered with such refined blazon; tender flames that spark into a glorious conflagration of muscular acclamation.      

However, the ‘Powerhouse’  message that is proclaimed  from the Brindley Boon song ‘Spirit Divine’ is delivered with such refined blazon; tender flames that spark into a glorious conflagration of muscular acclamation.

Elsewhere, ‘Legacy of Faith’  bounces along on a percussive Euro-pop backbeat and ‘Toccata Fire!’  burns brightly to keep the temperature gauge bubbling – even with their slightly obvious ciphers of appreciation. 

‘Soul-renewing grace!’, ‘The Lord’s my shepherd’  and ‘Thy tenderest blessing’  – each shaped with understanding by the MD and ensemble offers additional neatly observed contrasts in style on an engaging release. 

Iwan Fox


To purchase:

http://www.worldofbrass.com
http://www.Wobplay.com

Play list:

1. Legacy of Faith (Nicholas Samuel)
2. Thy tenderest blessing (Stephen Wood)
3. Rhapsody on St Francis (Andrew Wainwright)
4. Soul-renewing grace! (Paul Sharman)
5. Powerhouse (Kenneth Downie)
6. The Lord's my shepherd (Stuart Townend arr. Paul Sharman)
7. To heights above (Andrew Mackereth)
8. Toccata Fire! (Steven Ponsford)
9. Koinonia (Martin Cordner)

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