Robert Redhead: Quintessence


Robert Redhead composed Quintessence in 1978 for the Melbourne Staff Band’s tour of the UK in the same year. The piece was intended not just for concert performance, but to also be used at the band’s participation in The Salvation Army International Congress in London. The music itself, split into five continuously played sections, specifically expresses the quintessence of Australian Salvationsim. 


The Music
Section I

An original theme expressing the immensity of the Australian continent


Opening with a rumble from the lower band the music soon flourishes into a grand full-band fanfare. The powerful sounds created from the unison playing feeds into the idea of this section expressing how immense Australia is. Redhead’s rich textures in the opening section keeps the intensity high and the excitement fizzing.


Section II 

Australia’s sons, let us rejoice representing the character of the people


A change in style and tempo starts the cornets off in very fast technical passages as the lower band play syncopated interruptions. The peppy style of this section shows us the general character of the Australian people. There is a jubilant feel here too, with the unison sections showing power in numbers, but then also highlighting the technical prowess needed for the other sections. 


Section III

Glory, glory, glory hallelujah from the song ‘The Christian Mission’


Quick tonguing is needed for the march-like stylings of this section. Woodblock and snare drums accompany as the melody is passed around the band. The quaver-semiquaver patterns interweave to create rich textures and defined tonguing. 


Section IV

A meditative setting of ‘At Thy Feet I Bow Adoring’ – written by two Australian Salvationists


Redhead’s sonorous writing shines through in this section, with the rich textures and warm atmosphere taking over. Muted cornets decorate the middle of the band who now have the tune. Tuned percussion adds a sparkle of magic to the music, with the xylophone and bells twinkling above the texture. 


Section V

A development of the previous themes bringing the work to its climactic conclusion


The final section starts with a very quick tempo, with the upper band leading the way. A culmination of all the themes in the piece are fed through different areas of the band. Fast finger work leads to an almighty climax section that unites the band in ‘brilliante’ style. The band sound here is big, bold and celebratory. The intensity is also very high here, which adds to the sheer excitement. As the snare begins to march forward with the timpani, the band plays the final fanfare before the last full-band chord. 


Final Thoughts

Robert Redhead’s Quintessence is an exciting work that takes you through an array of different thoughts, feelings and emotions before powerfully uniting in the finale climax. Full of twists and turns, Quintessence is a great test for a band. 


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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