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Edman Chapel - Wheaton, IL

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Written by Fred Mbesi

The Chicago Staff Band’s annual “Sounds of the Seasons” concert has been a long-standing post-Thanksgiving tradition for many. Now in its 101st installment, the “Band with a Sacred Message” continues to showcase musical excellence with spiritual vitality as its mission. This annual festival was a landmark event, as it was the first with newly-appointed Chicago Staff Bandmaster Brett Tolcher at the helm. Tolcher skillfully took the CSB through Steven Ponsford’s scintillating opener “Let There be Light.” This piece aptly set the tone for what the audience was in store for and why we gathered together with the phrase: “Here I am to worship!”

Following a rousing welcome from Commissioner Brad Bailey, Andrew Wainwright’s “My Soul, Rejoice” introduced us to the first soloist of the night: Principal Cornet, Beth Malovance. Featuring a delay pedal, the piece did a wonderful job of showcasing Beth’s virtuosity, range, and breath control. The band followed this up with “Christ is All,” the first of two items by Martin Cordner. This was a refreshing setting on the eponymous hymn in a style reminiscent of John Williams, which was received well by the audience. These three opening items showed the band to be in good form.

Emmy-winning artist & “The Voice” winner Jordan Smith was the special guest of the evening and he brought such a high level of musicality to the festival. He chose to open his first set with an original song: “Only Love,” which reflected on the power that love can offer in dark & difficult times. Right from the onset, the audience was captivated by Smith’s vocal aptitude. A precious time of corporate worship followed; the succulent voices of Smith and the congregation singing “Great is Thy Faithfulness” soon filled the halls of Edman Chapel. What a wonderful moment this was! For the close of his first set, Smith wowed the audience with his dexterity in “Great You Are.” As an added bonus, the CSB accompanied him on an emotionally stirring rendition of Rick Vale’s “Artist of My Soul.” It was amazing how naturally Smith’s voice created a beautiful blend with the band and piano, played elegantly by Caroline Wajda.

This collaboration, serving as a preview of coming attractions for the latter half of the evening, was a highlight for many in attendance. Commissioner Bailey, who has been emceeing the program, shared some reflections on God’s faithfulness, which was the perfect tie-in to the CSB’s next offering: Martin Cordner’s “Semper Fidelis.” This extended work was well-handled by the band, complete with cascading triplet figures, carefully crafted phrasing, and great solo work from Beth Malovance and Principal Euphonium, Tom Hanton. The piece featured two contemporary worship songs: “Everlasting God” by Brenton Brown/Ken Riley, and “This I Believe (The Creed)” by Ben Fielding/Matt Crocker, with references to the aforementioned “Great is Thy Faithfulness” sprinkled throughout.

The first half of the program was brought to a rousing conclusion with the arrival of twenty-three young brass players & percussionists from Champaign County, Moline, and Decatur to the stage. They were met with enthusiastic applause as they presented William Himes’ “Classics in Brass,” accompanied by the CSB. Special thanks to NCI Divisional Music Director Peter Kim and his leadership team for their investment in the lives of these young people. Bandmaster Tolcher expressed the growing need for music and arts programs & leaders across the territory as a gre