Sometime in the 1940s, after his return from WW II, Wilfred Heaton wrote a song for male voices and brass sextet, setting an American spiritual Safe in the Promised Land in a ‘Gershwin on Broadway’ style. Heaton became a big fan of the precise, syncopated idiom of American jazz band supremo Stan Kenton. You can hear this in Toccata, O the Blessed Lord and in the finale of his major brass band work Contest Music. Heaton received a knock back when the SA did not accept the work for publication. He had thought of the International Staff Band or the New York Staff Band and in the 1986 he made a new version a tone higher and including a piano part. This version was sent to New York but never performed. Heaton’s scoring is colourful and resourceful enough to enable an adaptation for full brass band.
I have dedicated the adaptation to the memory of Michael Langham, a long-standing Salvationist friend of the Heaton family, who died in December 2021. Safe in the Promised Land was one of his favourite Heaton items.