Most Popular Ending Survey: Results

The idea to survey the most popular ending in SA Brass Band music was suggested by the Editor of SA Bandsman magazine and I must thank him for the opportunity to conduct this survey, and also the respondents for their valuable contributions. For me this assignment been proven to be not just a wonderful insight into the SA’s brass catalogue, but an exercise full of surprises. More on that below!

Finally, whilst the scale of responses means that the results cannot be definitive, I do believe they are representative enough to highlight generally the pieces within SA repertoire whose endings have captured imaginations and stirred hearts over the years.

Data was collected via an online poll over a two month period from 30 July to 30 September 2014. It was publicised via Social Media and email. 

285 respondents participated, each nominating three works numbering them 1 to 3. Respondents were from Australia (18), Canada (25), Denmark (1), France (1), Germany (1), Kenya (1), The Netherlands (12), Norway (1), New Zealand (3), Sweden (5), United Arab Emirates (1), United Kingdom (170), USA (44) and Zimbabwe (2).

A total of 193 works were nominated. To determine the clear favourites, responses have been weighted to award three points to 1st choice answers, two points to 2nd place and one point to 3rd choice answers.  

19 of nominated pieces were either non-SA publications or unpublished works so cannot be included. The top three in this category were: 
1. FIRE IN THE BLOOD (Paul Lovatt-Cooper), published by PLC Music [31 pts]
2. VITAE AETERNUM (Paul Lovatt-Cooper), PLC Music [9 pts]
3. PURSUING HORIZONS (Dudley Bright), unpublished [4 pts]

Fire in the Blood was a relatively popular nomination. However, even if it or any of the works in this category were included in the results, none would have made the top ten. This left 174 works to analyse.

10. THE LAST AMEN (Peter Graham, FS 583 publ. 2003)
High Power ending 
28 nominations [39 pts]

The rousing four-fold ‘Amen’ from Richard Smallwood’s song ‘Total Praise’ provides the finale to this well-crafted medley. The Last Amen, written for the ISB in 2002 was a popular choice with respondents and is the newest work here. It weaves together contemporary religious tunes: Father, We Love You; Great is the Lord; How Majestic is Your Name in All the Earth; Make Me a Channel of Thy Peace; Gloria and Total Praise

9. Transcription – ELSA’S PROCESSION TO THE CATHEDRAL (William Himes, FS 453 publ. 1986)
High Power ending 
20 nominations [41 pts] 

This much-loved transcription of Wagner’s music (from Act 2 of his romantic opera Lohengrin) was also a very popular choice, and it’s not hard to see why. The richness of score, fluidity of sound and incremental build-up leading to the final climactic chord combine to provide an inexorable and breath-taking finale.

8. Tone Poem – THE PRESENT AGE (Leslie Condon, FS 342 publ. 1972)
High Power ending 
22 nominations [45 pts]

During the Leslie Condon memorial concert at Regent Hall corps earlier in 2014, Staff Bandmaster Dr Stephen Cobb explained that when The Present Age was first rehearsed by the ISB, it baffled players so much that it prompted Staff Bandmaster Bernard Adams to invite Leslie Condon to address the band and explain the rationale behind it. 

The work closes with a blazing Allegro section pitching quotes from the song Courage, Brother against earlier hedonistic waltz motifs, and concluding with a strident unison B-flat chord.

Times have changed and The Present Age might not sound so contentious these days. It is technically tame compared to modern day test pieces, and stylistically speaking, is perhaps now beyond its peak. It remains however a forward-thinking composition that still demands a lot from a band. Most importantly though, the impassioned story at its core of youthful faith confronted by the depravity of the world is as relevant today as it was forty years ago.

7. Meditation – THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD (Dean Goffin, GS 1329 publ. 1950)
Quiet ending 
28 nominations [47 pts]

Believe it or not there are two works with the title The Light of the World in SA journals, the lesser known of the two being a Triumph Series selection from 1930. However it is Sir Dean Goffin’s deeply moving 1946 meditation – in which the composer portrays Jesus knocking at the closed door of the human heart – that will have caught the imagination of most, as represented in this survey. 

Interestingly, The Light of the World represents only one of two quiet endings in this top ten. It is the oldest work here too, emerging from a rich decade of composition that followed the end of the Second World War.  The work is not technically difficult, but instead gives weight to the adage ‘less is more.’

The ending that lives vividly in the mind is of the closing phrase of William Walshaw How’s hymn leading into a brief flowering of Goffin’s opening motifs. The piece then settles, finally and peacefully on an F major chord.  

O Lord, with shame and sorrow
We open now the door;
Dear Saviour, enter, enter,
And leave us nevermore.

Bramwell Coles wrote as his introduction to the work, “May many, through this message, open the door to their hearts to the One who is the Light of the World”. These words must express eloquently the desire of thousands of bandsmen who have played this composition over the past 64 years. 

6. Meditation – MY COMFORT AND STRENGTH (Brian Bowen, FS 305, publ 1967)
High Power ending 
22 nominations [51 pts]

Brian Bowen’s celebrated Meditation features the tune University to which the words The God of love my Shepherd is – a paraphrase of Psalm 23 – are associated. The piece focuses on the hymn and reflects the moods and Psalm imagery.

The work sits comfortably in this list of the most popular endings, offering a thrilling finale that culminates in fanfare motifs, two progressive chords with Bass replies and a final, full band A-flat major chord.

5. Tone Poem – THE HOLY WAR (Ray Steadman-Allen, FS 298 publ. 1966)
High Power ending 
25 nominations [51 pts]

Built around Martin Luther's Reformation chorale Ein feste Burg and inspired by John Bunyan’s 17th century allegory of the same name, The Holy War depicts in music the spiritual battle between the powers of good and evil.

Somewhat controversial and bewildering when it was premiered by the ISB at the 1965 International Congress, The Holy War truly pushed the envelope in terms of composition up until that point, not to mention the bounds of acceptability, provoking criticism from within the movement. The work was still faithful to the requirements of SA music, but blazed a trail in terms of its tonal and harmonic style.  

The closing bars which impressed respondents are an exuberant finale where strains of A Mighty Fortress in Basses and Euphoniums jostle for domination with cornet and trombone fanfares, culminating in a pure and bright-sounding C major chord.

Epic in every sense of the word, The Holy War remains one of the most iconic SA works for brass, and serves as a brilliant example of RS-A’s consummate grasp of the brass band score and inventiveness at the highest level.

4. Tone Poem – THE CALL OF THE RIGHTEOUS (Leslie Condon, FS 294 publ. 1966)
High Power ending 
37 nominations [77 pts]

Legend has it that for years the old gospel song When the roll is called up yonder haunted the composer, who occasionally announced his intention to write ‘something’ on it.  That ‘something’ proved at the time to be a piece of brass writing that was almost unique in its style of treatment. The Call of the Righteous quickly took up its place as one of the most exciting items in the repertoire of the time. That impact has ensured it lives long in the memory.

The composition is somewhat more accessible and programmable than other works in this list, which means many will have played The Call of the Righteous, and many will have heard it live and on the numerous recordings it has featured on over the years.

The iconic summons of the ‘trumpet of the Lord’ that commences the piece returns in a closing flourish which features side drum, bass drum and timpani, concluding with a forceful unison Ab chord from the brass. 

3. SHINE AS THE LIGHT (Peter Graham, Triumphonic Collection publ. 1997) 
High Power ending 
43 nominations [83 pts]

With its high energy, unfamiliar time signatures, percussion trickery and ground-breaking aleatory (i.e. random) section, Peter Graham’s modern Tone Poem Shine as the Light broke the mould and has become something of a modern classic since its premiere at Star Lake Music Camp in 1996. It presents the universal allegory of the soul’s journey from darkness into light and uses Joy Webb’s Candle of the Lord and Chick Yuill’s The Light has Come to tell the story.

The work has captured the imagination of conductors, bandsmen, congregations as well as fellow composers around the globe and its dramatic Allargando finale has a deserved place in this list of top 10 endings.

2. RESURGAM (Eric Ball, FS 302 publ. 1967)
Quiet ending 
58 nominations [133 pts]

The climactic, episodic chords and phrases near the end of this work that represent some of Ball’s most passionate and evocative music will be the sounds called to mind by respondents.

The iconic opening ‘faith’ motif – a setting of words from the Apocrypha – is the foundation of this work. Throughout the work the music is charged with high emotion, sometimes unforgiving and dissonant. Finally though the music achieves tranquillity with a very quiet statement of the opening theme.

Resurgam – ‘I shall rise again’ – evokes differing feelings and images in the heart and mind of each individual performer and listener, some personal, some universal.  Ball once said of this piece, “Resurgam is the best of me." I for one would be inclined to agree.

1. Tone Poem – THE KINGDOM TRIUMPHANT (Eric Ball, FS 273 publ. 1963)
High Power ending 
90 nominations [212 pts]

Eric Ball’s Tone Poem which reminds listeners of the Christian doctrine of the Second Advent of Christ was the clear winner, and few will be surprised. Interestingly, alongside Peter Graham’s The Last Amen, this work takes as its conclusion an already-established choral motif; the Dresden Amen which in Ball’s composition is designed to call to mind Revelation 22:20: ‘Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus’ (KJV). 

My own view of The Kingdom Triumphant is that it came from a more passionate, accomplished and freer Eric Ball than the composer he was as a Salvation Army officer and Staff Bandmaster before he parted company with the movement in 1944. 

When he did return to writing for the Army some ten years later, works came to print such as Songs in Exile, Song of Courage, Resurgam, and The Eternal Presence – all of which are large-scale, symphonic works not too dissimilar from what would now be classified as film music. Clearly the composer had broken free from the confines of ‘regular’ marches and selections. 

In that respect then, I feel Eric Ball bridges the gap between the Army’s own 'Classical' and 'Romantic eras'. The haunting, esoteric central movement built around O Come, Immanuel and the glorious counterpointed treatment of the tune Helmsley in the closing section ensure that The Kingdom Triumphant firmly fits into the latter.

This list is representative of the variety within the SA catalogue. There is a satisfying mix of old and new: newer works by Peter Graham sit alongside already-established classics from Steadman-Allen and Condon; Bowen’s modern-sounding and triumphant reflection complements the soothing tones of Goffin’s post-war meditation; and Himes’ transcription brings a touch of class from the world of opera.

The inclusion of Resurgam and Dean Goffin’s The Light of the World endorses the view that it isn't always a bang, crash and wallop that wins out. There is always call for calmer, reflective music and this can implore the heart as much, if not more than louder moments.

However, the results of this survey suggest that though few come close, it is Eric Ball who truly knows how to write an ending – and few will be surprised by that. The composer has the two top spots in this list, and no less than 14 works nominated overall. 

It is not surprising that many name Ball as the most influential Brass Band composer of the 20th century. His substantial SA-published catalogue really is an embarrassment of riches of which, aside from unpublished works, ensemble and solo instrumental works, contains over 100 SA-published works for brass and another 120+ choral works. On top of that, Ball had around 150 brass works published outside of the SA. Here, Resurgam and The Kingdom Triumphant rightfully have their place at the top of the list. 

Top 10 Composers by number of works nominated

It is somewhat startling to see one’s own name mentioned, but not all surprising to see the two of the most influential brass band composers of the 20th Century at the top of the list. It is interesting that, with the exception of Heaton and Leidzén, the list order also corresponds to age and output. This perhaps emphasises that although quality is always key, quantity and frequency of publication is also a contributory factor in that the greater number of years a composer has been established, and the more brass (or vocal) works a composer has published, the more likely it is that their music becomes part of the psyche of SA music culture. 

Number of nominated works by decade

It was a surprise to me that the largest group of pieces nominated were from the 1980s (29 individual works nominated). I fully expected the bountiful years of the 1950s & 1960s – where much of our ‘classics’ tend to sit – to be the most popular era. 

The list below is a fairly accurate reflection of 1980s output which, although still dominated by British composers RS-A and Condon with Peter Graham coming on to the scene, saw a dramatic increase in publications by American composers, particularly the ‘big five’: Bruce Broughton, Bulla, Curnow, Gordon and Himes.  It is no surprise therefore to see 7 of the 29 nominated from the pen of William Himes, with a further 4 from Broughton, Curnow and Gordon.   

Number of nominated works by type of ending

It is not surprising to see so the High-power category as the most popular - most human beings tend to be swept along by thrills and spills and no more so in music!  It is pleasing though to see High-power endings only taking roughly half of the nominations, with Quiet endings being appreciated as much as the Bright and Fast endings. While the Bright and Fast nominations were largely random and therefore did not generate enough points to score highly, there were some trends in the top quiet endings. The top 10 were:

1. Resurgam (Ball)
2. The Light of the World (Goffin)
3. Just as I am (Heaton)
4. For our Transgressions (Calvert)
5. Romans 8: A Brass Celebration (Steadman-Allen)
6. The Eternal Presence (Ball)
7. Divine Communion (Gullidge)
8. Songs in Exile (Ball)
9. I Know Thou Art Mine (Ballantine)
10. In Perfect Peace (Downie)


Endings with more than 1 nomination

[35 pts] Victorian Snapshots – On Ratcliff Highway (Ray Steadman-Allen)

[27 pts] Celebration (Leslie Condon)

[26 pts] Variations on ‘Laudate Dominum’ (Edward Gregson)

[24 pts] Glorifico Aeternum (Dean Jones)

[23 pts] At the Edge of Time (Ray Steadman-Allen)

 Just as I am (Wilfred Heaton)

[22 pts] King of Heaven (Kenneth Downie)

 Reflections in Nature (Robert Redhead)

[21 pts] Song of Courage (Eric Ball)

[18 pts] My Strength, My Tower (Dean Goffin)

[17 pts] Quintessence (Robert Redhead)

 Symphony of Thanksgiving

[16 pts] For our Transgressions

 How Sweet the Name

[15 pts] Procession to Covenant (William Himes)

[14 pts] Renaissance (Peter Graham)

 Romans 8: A Brass Celebration (Ray Steadman-Allen)

[13 pts] Easter Glory (Leslie Condon)

 The Eternal Presence (Eric Ball)

 Turris Fortissima (Steven Ponsford)

[12 pts] Divine Communion (Arthur Gullidge)

 Truth Aflame (Kevin Norbury)

[11 pts] King of Kings (Ray Steadman-Allen)

[10 pts] I Know Thou art Mine (Leonard Ballantine)

 Song of the Eternal (Leslie Condon)

 Songs in Exile (Eric Ball) 

 St Magnus (Kenneth Downie)

[9 pts]  A Pastoral Symphony (Robert Redhead)

Great and Glorious (George Marshall)

In Perfect Peace (Kenneth Downie)

Variations on ‘Maccabeus’ (Kevin Norbury)

[8 pts]  Aspects of Praise (William Himes)

I Know a Fount (Thomas Rive) 

Isaiah 40 (Robert Redhead)

Star Lake (Eric Ball)

The Great Salvation War (James Curnow)

The Red Shield (Henry Goffin)

Toccata – Oh the Blessed Lord (Wilfred Heaton)

[7 pts]  Corpus Christi (Robert Redhead)

[6 pts]  A Psalm of Praise (James Curnow)

Celebration of Contemporary Gospel Song (William Himes)

Festivity (Leslie Condon)

Light-Walk (Barrie Gott)

My Treasure (Wilfred Heaton)

The Triumph of Peace (Eric Ball)

[5 pts]  Canadian Folk Song Suite (Morley Calvert)

Constant Trust (Eric Ball)

Exodus (Eric Ball)

Go Down Moses (Ray Steadman-Allen)

Horbury (George Marshall)

None Other Name (Erik Leidzén)

On the Way Home (Erik Leidzén)

Praise (Wilfred Heaton)

Victory for Me (Wilfred Heaton)

[4 pts]  Fusion (Martin Cordner)

Princethorpe Variations (Kenneth Downie)

Sanctuary (Eric Ball)

The Appian Way from ‘Pines of Rome’ (trs. Peter Graham)

The Old Wells (Eric Ball)

They Shall Come from the East (Kevin Larsson)

To the Chief Musician (William Himes)

[3 pts]  Celestial Morn (Leslie Condon)

            Faith Reborn (Leslie Condon)

            Margaret (Peter Graham)

            Salvation’s Song (William Gordon)

            The Lord is King (Ray Steadman-Allen)


Martin Cordner
November 2014