Canadian Staff Band Marks 50 Years with a Brass Spectacular

In March, The Salvation Army Canadian Staff Band (CSB), led by Bandmaster John Lam, marked 50 years of music ministry with a series of concerts and worship services in Toronto. Four bands from the United States participated—Chicago Staff Band, New York Staff Band, Southern Territorial Band and Western Territory Staff Band—making this one of the largest banding events in Salvation Army history.

General Brian Peddle and Commissioner Rosalie Peddle (World President of Women’s Ministries), together with the territorial commanders from Canada and Bermuda, and the four U.S. territories, provided leadership.

The weekend brass spectacular began March 1 with a series of concerts in Ontario. The following day, the bands converged on Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto for an all-day musical event that included afternoon performances by each band and an evening concert with the massed bands.

Evening selections included a performance of former CSB bandmaster Colonel Robert Redhead’s “O Church Arise” and “Symphony of Thanksgiving” by Commissioner Sir Dean Goffin, which was played at the inaugural CSB concert at Toronto Temple in 1969. Another newly commissioned work from composer William Pitts, “Boundless,” featured the tunes “Joy in The Salvation Army” and “O Boundless Salvation!” CSB alumni then performed “Just Like John” by Lt. Colonel Norman Bearcroft, the first bandmaster of the CSB, who was present at the concert.

Trumpet virtuoso and guest soloist Jens Lindemann made an impressive entry in the second half, using a plunger mute to humorous effect in Kevin Larsson’s rendition of “When the Saints.” He then picked up the flugelhorn for Larsson’s more subdued “Going Home,” which commemorated former CSB members as their names scrolled on-screen.

In her message, Territorial Commander and CSB Executive Officer Commissioner Susan McMillan referenced Hebrews 12, noting the “great cloud of witnesses” in the hall and encouraging them to continually “fix their eyes on Jesus.” She invited the band members and other musicians in the audience to stand symbolically around a bass drum—“the portable mercy seat and a place of prayer and covenant”—as the General prayed.

Commissioner Susan McMillan with the bass section of the CSB

“On an anniversary like this, it gives us pause to look back and declare God’s faithfulness to us,” Peddle said. “But we are also pushing forward to share his message so that the world may receive the love of God through music, witness and service.”

The evening concluded with a surprise appearance by William Himes, retired bandmaster of the Chicago Staff Band, who wrote a new piece for the 50th anniversary entitled “The Psalmist,” which featured five of Canadian composer Major Len Ballantine’s unique works. As an encore, the massed bands performed “The Canadian,” a march by James Merritt.

On Sunday morning, the five bands provided worship at five Toronto corps. Commissioner Rosalie Peddle shared her testimony at Mississauga Temple Community Church, remarking how she has been changed by her new role as an international leader and the vibrant Salvationists she has encountered around the world.

“My calling, my commitment and my passion are stronger than ever before,” she said.

The General referred to his Call to Mission: “Our purpose is to find God’s place for us in the world. We are to infiltrate and transform the secular spaces. I want a people of prayer, a people that are prepared and a people that are battle-ready. Salvationists provide a visible expression of a holy life.” Many people responded, kneeling at the mercy seat.

During Sunday afternoon, the bands met for a final reception that included CSB alumni and a performance by the Canadian Staff Songsters.

Originally published on Salvation Army IHQ

Geoff Moulton

Editor-in-Chief, Canada and Bermuda Territory

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