Tony Cummings spoke to bandmaster Yvonne Ferguson of the BELLSHILL SALVATION ARMY BAND

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Tony: 'Immeasurable' is BSAB's first album with you as bandmaster.

Yvonne: It is. I inherited a very good band, but as you can imagine you have your own style and your own standards and so I would say, because people had said, after I had been bandmaster for five years, people said 'we want to do a CD,' and I said, 'no, not yet,' because if I am honest, I didn't feel as though I was ready, and I definitely didn't think the band were ready. I don't mean any disrespect to anyone. I had my own standards, and I wanted the band to play differently. And so I invested a lot of time in those five years developing and working on basic musicianship skills to develop a good sound, good phrasing, good musicality and I felt certainly probably 18 months ago that we were ready for it. The other reason for it is that wherever we would go, we were a busy band, people would ask us if we had a CD, and I really felt I had moved from, 'no, no I can't do this,' and that was about me feeling confident enough to actually take that step. I thought it was far too public, and then God spoke to me clearly and said, 'well, you know this isn't all about you, this is about the band and the band's ministry,' so I started to ask questions about a CD. We recorded in November of 2017. We started to talk about it with one of the sound guys the year before, round about summertime, to see if it was going to be a viable project.

Tony: Were you responsible for the choice of the songs?

Bellshill Salvation Army Band: A brass ensemble from the west of

Yvonne: Yes, everything, every track. We play to a quite wide audience. Quite a lot of our concerts are at churches, so I wanted to have a bit of music that churches would recognise, some of the melodies, but equally so I wanted there to be an element for those who are Salvationists and Army banders, for want of a better phrase and so I wanted to get that balance. I would say to you, Tony, that I have always said repertoire is not my thing but I have been very encouraged, because I have had to learn brass band and Army repertoire. I have been really encouraged by the amount of people who have complimented the repertoire and the list on the CD. I am a teacher by profession. So we invested a lot of time in rehearsing the repertoire before recording.

We deliberately didn't take on an awful lot of events in the six months leading up to the recording, so we could invest a lot of time in fine tuning and lots of time meticulously rehearsing. And so by the time we got to the CD I felt the band were in a position where they were ready. They would be nervous but I reassured them and complimented them and built them up, because there was no reason why they couldn't reproduce what we were doing in the rehearsals on a CD. I wanted them to feel as relaxed as possible in that situation. By the time we got to the recording, we were ready in the broader sense to put the music down. And you can imagine, 'Jubilance', for example, the cornet solo, that's probably as well-known as one of the most difficult brass band accompaniments in the Salvation Army repertoire. And the band did a fabulous job of that. I was so proud of them because it was difficult. I would say that took us the longest. They were absolutely delighted with the standard of playing. 'Blown away' was the phrase the engineer said.

I've got a very wide range of abilities, I've got my euphonium soloists, Chris Shanks and Alan Scott, and the cornet player, Daniel McMillan, is my son-in-law - they're outstanding as you can hear. We've got a real mix; our youngest player is 15, our oldest player is 80, and yet as a group we are so together. My newest band member is 18 and she sits next to a guy who's 75. The two of them just work so well together, they complement each other, they really build each other up. One of the big things for me is that, yes, music is hugely important but I'm very much a Pastor. I was a music teacher by profession, I'm now head of pupil support so it's a very pastoral role in terms of my profession. I do like to think that I really care for the band, I like to look after them and so we've developed a real togetherness and I think that comes through how we play - we play together. They love it! I think we have a very mixed range of abilities but it works really well together and the CD speaks volumes of that.

Tony: What response has the album received?

Yvonne: In three weeks we have sold over £2,000 worth of CDs, which speaks volumes. It's going all over the place. Word of mouth is one of the best forms of publicity. We've had a lot of people who aren't Salvation Army contacting our Facebook saying, "I've heard you've got this great CD, can I have a copy?" most of who give us feedback and are very enthusiastic about it. CR

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