The first thing that impressed me about this CD is the current wealth of compositional talent the S. A. is enjoying at the moment. And these are just the British ones! The second is the diversity of the works recorded and thirdly the sleeve note contributions about the pieces.
‘Legacy of Faith’ by Nicholas Samuel is based on the hymn ‘Praise my Soul the king of Heaven’ but with a contemporary approach in textures and rhythms. It gets off to a bright start and the music is both technically challenging and inspiring.
Stephen Wood’s ‘Thy Tenderest Blessing’ shows the tonal and expressive side of the band’s abilities. It is a mix of the traditional hymn tune Eudoxia and the more modern title piece
‘Rhapsody on St Francis’ by Andrew Wainwright is a substantial work. As the title implies it is in Rhapsody form allowing the composer to write variations in a series of different styles. Fragments of the tune are evident throughout although it is only heard in full towards the end of the piece. The colours and character of the music reflect the verses of the hymn and are portrayed as only the I S B can do.
Hymn tune meditations have been a regular part of worship in the S A and Paul Sharman’s ‘’Soul-renewing Grace’ adds a fine rendition to the genre. This together with the composer’s arrangement of Stewart Townend’s ‘The Lord’s my Shepherd’ are all worship music and demonstrate the band’s tonal breadth and musical sensitivity. This combines the tune Crimond with a more contemporary setting.
The title track ‘Powerhouse’ by Kenneth Downie, uses four S A songs and as well as being quite demanding he manages to create music that portrays the need for the Holy Spirit in today’s church.
‘To Heights above’ by Andrew Mackereth seeks to portray a sense of space and timelessness with the message that whatever our circumstances Jesus can lift us up to ‘Heights Above’. Using modern tonality and dissonance to create what might be a dire situation the music then resolves with the words of the Gospel song
‘Toccata Fire’ by Steven Ponsford is a technically demanding piece with the ‘fire’ being depicted with extracts from S A Songs which include the word fire.
The longest piece on the CD, ‘Koinonia’ by Martin Cordner is a suite in seven movements. Koinonia from the Greek and meaning fellowship seeks to portray Christianity from its early days of a few followers up to present day with two billion. All aspects of the works are first class compositions revealing a wide range of technical demands, varying styles, and harmonies.
There is an abundance of information by the composers in the CD sleeve notes and I advise the listeners to read them first. The band rises to every challenge and is well directed by the conductor.
1. Legacy of Faith - Nicholas Samuel [4.19]
2. Thy tenderest blessing - Stephen Wood [3.21]
3. Rhapsody on St Francis - Andrew Wainwright [10.32]
4. Soul-renewing grace! - Paul Sharman [3.54]
5. Powerhouse - Kenneth Downie [9.10]
6. The Lord's my shepherd - Stuasrt Townend arr. Paul Sharman [4.18]
7. To heights above - Andrew Mackereth [8.37]
8. Toccata Fire! - Steven Ponsford [3.01]
Koinonia - Martin Cordner
9. i. Prelude [1.28]
10. ii. The early church [1.49]
11. iii. Newcomers [2.02]
12. iv. Bonds of peace [2.32]
13. v. All nations resound [3.44]
14. vi. Elegy [1.22]
15. vii. The walk to eternity [4.28]