In the summer of 2006, I was playing soprano cornet with Eccles Borough Band, when the band secretary, Val Davies, informed me it was her husband’s birthday coming up. Jim Davies, who played 3rd cornet, has a fond love of the hymn from Finlandia, “Be Still My Soul”, by Jean Sibelius. As a special birthday treat, Val commissioned me to arrange the piece for the band and dedicate it to Jim. It was a pleasure to mark his birthday in such a way.
The arrangement is characteristically dark and lush, with subtle splashes in the harmony, but all the while maintaining a beautiful warm sound. A careful balance of homophony is juxtaposed with subtle polyphony. In moments of polyphony, the music should not become cluttered, and in the homophonic sections, the music should exude character and texture of tone, almost choral in nature.
The last section of the piece is a simple balance of homophonic chorale writing with question-and-answer counterpoint. The cornets sounding completely electric, the horns and baritones adding warmth, the euphoniums adding character, the basses adding depth and width, and of course, the majestic trombones add a stamp of British authority.
This passage of music grows and grows in intensity before reaching its closing half a dozen bars or so; the percussion and bass trombone supply the grandest of symphonic grit as the band power through to the final chord of D major.
Farnworth and Walkden Band performed the arrangement as part of their summer 2013 concert programme. I am told it went down a storm, and I am also told that a tam-tam roll found its way into the score on the final chord. We shan’t say anymore on that.
At the beginning of 2014, I contacted Stephen Cobb about the arrangement, and he was very generous to open the piece up to the International Staff Band of the Salvation Army. The band were very kind to make a sight-reading rehearsal recording for me. Extremely impressive stuff I must say, and I have had amazing feedback about the piece, not least the surge in sales for this piece — internationally.
You can listen to the ISB performance below (please remember, it is a breathtakingly beautiful performance in my view, so be warned, I won’t be responsible for tears). If you would like to purchase the band set for your band, you can do so now by clicking here.