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"Standard Bearers" Reviews

4 Bars Rest.com – October 2002

The Salvation Army has an almost unlimited well of talent from which it can draw. Players, singers, composers, and arrangers – you name it and the organisation can put its hands on someone or other who can provide you with high class, committed and very classy output. Andrew R Mackereth is one such person.

Born in 1965 in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, Mackereth is a fourth generation Salvationist who has in his 27 years lived not only in the North East but also Zambia, whilst his formal musical education was forged at the Birmingham School of Music where he studied trombone and composition and which led to him winning the prestigious Bernhard Brown Memorial Composition prize. His talent has been recognised both inside and outside of the Salvation Army but it was not until 1987 that his work first entered the Salvation Army brass band repertoire. Since then his works have gained in prominence and in September 2000 he was named Composer in Residence to the Coventry City Band, whilst in 2001 he was named as Composer in Residence to the famous Melbourne Staff Band for their tour that year of Great Britain – a high honour indeed within the Salvation Army organisation.

The Band themselves are of considerably older vintage – being formed as far back as 1882 and are well known within the Salvation Army as “The Band With A Name”. On five occasions they have been invited to perform at the Bandmaster’s Councils Festivals in the Royal Albert Hall, whilst they have also travelled abroad on many occasions and were the first Salvation Army Band to visit Germany after the conclusion of the Second World War.

This release sees both parties on good form with 13 tracks from the pen of Mackereth that are varied both in temperament and style, yet which all derive their inspiration from songs, words and psalms of the organisation. Both work well in tandem (with the composer himself showing considerable style and talent when performing on the trombone and flugel horn on one of the items). The result is a very satisfying CD release, which covers repertoire that has been written by a very committed man who’s spiritual hinterland shines through with skill and foresight.

The pieces range from the straightforward and uncomplicated to the detailed and complex, but there is always a link with the musical libretto of the words of the faith – and they are words that indicate a loving relationship that is the soul saving power of Jesus Christ.

Most of the tracks are quite short and are suited to small intimate ensembles rather than full blown brass bands, but the major work of the release, “Pilgrimage of Youth” is a satisfying extended piece that brings the best out of the performers.

The band itself is well balanced, although the bass end does sound a tad light and the middle of the band is sometimes lost by the power of the top end in places, but they play with an innate sense of musical style and meet the technical challenges with comfort. Although all the pieces have theirmoments, they are not the hardest of technical works, although this in no way detracts from the music.

All in all a very welcome opportunity to hear the work of a talented composer who has the undoubted ability to produce high quality interesting repertoire in different styles and temperaments. A pleasant and rewarding release.

Play List:

1. Forward, Mackereth, 3.29
2. Walking in the Light, Mackereth, 2.27
3. Fall Afresh, Mackereth, 3.09
4. Pilgrimage of Youth, Mackereth, 15.33
5. Exaltation, Mackereth, 3.13
6. I’ll be a Light, Mackereth, 3.24
7. Keep Me Praising, Mackereth, 3.24
8. Standard Bearers, Mackereth, 8.55
9. Time to Shine, Mackereth, 2.045
10. Deep and Wide, Mackereth, 3.01
11. Celebrate, Mackereth, 2.39
12. Millennium Flourishes, Mackereth, 9.01
13. Cheer Up, Mackereth, 2.48

Total Playing Time: 64.24

4 Bars Rest.com - shopping section

A very thoughtful and well produced release of the output of a very talented Salvationist composer, Andrew R. Mackereth.

Varied and tuneful, all 13 tracks draw inspiration from the Christian teachings, songs and hymns of the Salvation Army and from the youthful exuberance and talented musical ear of the composer. Much of the music is for small ensembles although there are three major items that are of high class and show a great understanding of Salvationist musical lineage. The compositions are reflective of the history of the movement as well as forward thinking and this gives things a nice mix.

Neatly performed by a good quality band, this is a welcome release for a talented composer, and someone we hope to hear more of in the future.

The British Bandsman – 14th September 2002

Standard Bearers

When I received this CD I was very interested to hear what the composer, Andrew Mackereth, had to say, as I am always very keen to encourage new music for our idiom.

The first thing I did was to get myself a cup of piping hot coffee and then sit down to relax and prepare to enjoy a feast of new music. I was not disappointed and Mr Mackereth has many creative musical ideas, which I particularly enjoyed in the more substantial works recorded on this compact disc, in which the composer was able to develop more of his own ideas.

Pilgrimage of Youth, the first major work on the disc is 15:33 minutes in duration and according to the composer is semi-autobiographical. The piece is in four continuous sections, which graphically depict the four verses of the song Rise up, O Youth to the tune Pilgrims. Coventry City band performs this music well and I suspect it would be a worthy challenge to all youth and Lower Section bands.

The next major work featured is the title track, Standard Bearers, which was composed by Mackereth after receiving an invitation to write a work for the International Staff band. The composer was inspired to use the theme, So we’’ lift up the banner on High, and sought to acknowledge the highest standards, both musically and spiritually, set by the Army’s premier band. The result is a very demanding work of which the Band gives a commendable performance, full of spirit but not always 100 per cent in tune. I really enjoyed this though.

Millennium Flourishes is the last serious work on the recording and was commissioned by the Coventry City band during the recent turn of the century celebrations. The main thematic material used is the popular song Who is He? Once again, the Band is on top form throughout this performance, with just the odd slip in intonation marring my enjoyment.

The rest of the CD gives way to lighter music, some with a beat and others in beautiful hymn settings such as I’ll be a Light, which caught my imagination.

Overall it is obvious that the Band has worked extremely hard to bring this recording off and I enjoyed the experience.

I commend the Band and Andrew Mackereth on his fine work and will look out for him in the future.

Brass Band World – July 2002

Standard Bearers
REVIEW by Norman Short

The combination of the Coventry City Band of the Salvation Army and the music of Andrew Mackereth creates an interesting CD and highlights another recent innovation in the appointment of a ‘Composer in Residence’ for the Band. Throughout their long history the Band have been one of the prominent Corps bands and several well-known musicians have come through their ranks. From the days of Bandmaster W B Major, when their personnel numbered 60-plus, the Band has maintained a fine standard and it is appropriate that the title track – Standard Bearers – epitomises the aims of the present day members.

Bandmaster Steve Whitmore follows several well-known musicians including Charles King and a personality well known in the contest field – Albert Chappell as Bandmaster. Prior to his appointment Steve served for 16 years as Deputy Bandmaster.

Andrew Mackereth, himself a former bandsman of the Coventry City Band, is fast becoming a major contributor to Salvation Army music and yet his first work published for band only entered the repertoire in 1996. The disc highlights many different styles of composition.

The major work, Pilgrimage of Youth, is based on the hymn tune Pilgrims and words by Will Brand depicting the challenge facing a young Christian ill-prepared for life in today’s environment and the solution finally culminating in a sense of triumph. The playing is not without intonation problems but in the quiet passages the Band display a more balanced and controlled performance.

The other works of longer duration – the title track, Standard Bearers and Millennium Flourishes – feature tunes well known to SA audiences, which are intricately woven into the texture of the compositions and fully reflect the talent of the composer. The five members of the percussion section excel in Millennium Flourishes and the horn section display a smooth and warm sound in the reflective section of Standard Bearers.

Exaltation, written for the Melbourne Staff Band, is based on Psalm 92, whilst another composition written for the Melbourne Staff Band, Time to Shine, features the composer as he plays the trombone and flugel horn breaks. The title certainly reflects the verve and versatility of the composer. I’ll be a Light and Keep me Praising, the latter a foot tapping number, seem to be enjoyed by the Band as they display well-controlled performances. More subdued numbers, Fall Afresh and Deep and Wide, are uncomplicated arrangements of well-known choruses and display good control with well shaped phrasing and warmth of sound.

Music with a message is certainly to the fore and whilst there are aspects of the playing to be commended, too much bass drum in some items and intonation problems were evident. The CD will appeal to those with a keen interest in Salvation Army band music but perhaps the wider brass band audience will find the content limited.

Salvationist 20 April 2002.

"Coventry Spotlights Mackereth"

Several compilations of music by one Salvation Army composer have been produced in recent years, but until now none has put the spotlight on a composer as young as Andrew Mackereth - whose compositions are featured in a new CD by Coventry City Band, titled Standard Bearers.
A former member of that band, Andrew - born in 1965 - studied brass in Newcastle before gaining a place at Birmingham School of Music in 1984. There he won the Bernhard Brown Memorial Composition prize. He currentl y serves as Bandmaster at Nuneaton.

The declamatory introduction of the march 'Forward', with it's references to Henry Alford's song 'Forward be Our Watchword', gets the CD's programme off to a rousing start.

The idea of movement is taken up in the second piece, the festival arrangement 'Walking in The Light', written for Winton Band when it conducted a campaign in Ukraine.

The longest item is 'Pilgrimage of Youth', a 15 minute 36-second epic around the tune of 'Pilgrims' and the words of 'Rise Up O Youth!' The piece is a 'deeply personal work' in which the composer describes the 'enormity of the challenge facing a young Christian ill-prepared for life in a worldly environment'.

In complete contrast, an atmosphere of quiet worship and prayer is created in 'Fall Afresh', based on the prayer chorus 'Spirit of The Living God'. Sensitive playing of the band lends even more poignancy to this prayer of petition.

Later, a contemplative 'Deep and Wide' presents the listener with a thoughtful version of the chorus of that name.

Another change in mood comes with 'Exaltation', originally written for the Melbourne Staff Band, and the fast and furious arrangement of the gospel song 'Celebrate!'. In the same vein is 'Keep Me Praising', with it's references to the chorus 'Give Me Joy in My Heart' and 'Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven'.

Taking the tempo up yet another notch is what is described on the sleeve notes as 'a Busby Berkeley show-stopper' - 'Time to Shine'. Childlike innocence is nowhere to be seen in this unashamed big-band version of 'Jesus Bids Us Shine', in which the composer demonstrates his instrumental dexterity by playing the flugelhorn and trombone breaks.

From the General Series comes a chorus arrangement of words by Colonel Keith Banks titled 'I'll Be a LIght. Contemplative in mood to start, the piece considers commitment and it's implications before rising to a victorious conclusion.

'Millenium Flourishes', is another composition written for the Melbourne Staff Band, for whom Andrew was composer in residence for it's recent tour of Great Britain.

The first of the composer's works to be published by the Army is featured as the last track on this CD - a Unity Series march titled 'Cheer Up'.The march was written for a visit by Coventry City YP Band to Croyden Citadel and is based on the words of a chorus written by Bramwell Jacobs, a former Bandmaster at Coventry City.

And so to the title track 'Standard Bearers'. Written for the International Staff Band, this piece looks at the importance of maintaining high standards, both musically and spiritually.

A 13-track compilation of the work of one composer could lead a potential listener to anticipate 'much of a muchness'. But have no such fears! Although some characterisic trademarks of Andrew's work are evident, the wide variety of his writing styles gives the listener to this CD no opportunity to experience déjà vu (or should that be déjà entendu?). Some items have been recorded before, so this collection provides a lot of new tracks. And Coventry City Band, under bandmaster Stephen Whitmore, has risen to the occasion with a synergetic performance worthy of a place in any CD collection.

The recording comes with highly informative sleeve notes and the whole package leaves no doubt that Coventry City's musicians are indeed standard bearers.

Reviewed by Rodney Gravett.


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