I found this disc musically satisfying and spiritually uplifting. Such works deserve quality performances, and the NYSB certainly met the challenge. The band's playing throughout is very fine, cultured, and never overstated. "Symphony of Thanksgiving" is played with much excitement but also in a very stately manner, just as I would imagine Dean Goffin would have wanted. His fine scoring makes this a work to be studied as well as enjoyed.
Brian Bowen's "Hope Variations," written in 1977, expresses the composer's unique developmental style, very 'orchestral' in its approach, with beautiful craftsmanship in its orchestration.
Dorothy Gates, principal trombone and NYSB chorus leader, has chosen a mighty theme, one which encompasses the desire of a whole world finding itself in turmoil, and yet yearning for a peace that is not just absence of conflict, but experiencing a deep inner and lasting assurance that our hope is in God. There are many dissonant sounds, but take time to imbibe the shape and interpretation of the music. You will find it worthwhile.
I wrote "A Pastoral Symphony" for the Canadian Staff Band in 1987, not in a truly "symphonic"form, but using the elements of four movements to reflect upon my life's calling as a SA officer and the themes that run concurrently throughout one's life–experience. For me, "pastor–ship" is as much to do with "being" as with "doing," and it has been said that "the greatest need of any congregation is the pastor's personal holiness." The choice of songs expresses this overall theme, and much of the 'developmental' material is based on some of these themes.
As the sleeve notes say, Dr. Kenneth Downie "ranks as a current master of symphonic variations within the realms of British–style Brass Bands." Here he takes a relatively unknown tune, "Whitechapel," and gives it masterly treatment. It is truly an exciting and very well–balanced work. The concluding track, "Turris Fortissima," provides a further example of the constant fresh and musically relevant development that continues to be found in SA compositions. As Ronald W. Holz expresses in the notes: "(the music) embraces the Church's longstanding doctrine of ultimate triumph as expressed throughout the ages, from St. Paul to Martin Luther, right down to our inspired song writers of the present age."
I highly recommend this fine production. There may be those who might be daunted at listening to only 'large works' on one disc, but I would suggest that the contrast of styles and message will bring much blessing and satisfaction to whoever takes the time to listen.