Let there be praise!
General John Larsson (Ret.), Bandmaster William Himes are special guests for weekend of worship through music.
by Jeff Curnow –
There was praise—resounding praise. As part of a weekend of music, drama and dance, a band made up of musicians from all four divisions in California met under the direction of Bandmaster William Himes, USA Central territorial music secretary.
Organized by Southern California Divisional Music Directors Kevin and Jacqui Larsson, the band rehearsed at the Torrance Corps for a total of six hours before performing with General John Larsson (Ret.) and the Territorial Songsters in “Let there be Praise,” at the Tustin Ranch Corps.
While adding to the festive atmosphere of the concert, the band also provided an opportunity for musicians from around the state—some of whom may not have a band in which to serve—to renew old acquaintances, make new friends and praise God through music.
During rehearsals, Himes stressed that Army music was more than a performance; it was an offering to God and a ministry. During a brief devotional, Himes recalled how much of his attitude towards Army music was formed after a conversation with composer Eric Ball.
“Eric Ball told me that because I composed music and was also always on stage as an Army musician, people might tend to make a big deal over the way that I serve the Lord. His advice was ‘remember that you are not a big deal. Sure, you are in the public eye more than other Salvationists are, but what you do is no more important. You may play a perfect solo, but you could never have done that if it weren’t for the soldier who—just as faithfully—arrived early to open the doors and turn on the lights.’”
Near the end of the band’s brief time together, Himes remarked, “Isn’t it wonderful that in The Salvation Army we can come together, and with just a few hours rehearsal, put together a band like this? Our common goal of dedicating our music to praising God makes this possible….We truly have a musical heritage to be thankful for in The Salvation Army.”
Larsson and the musicals
Besides providing the concert prelude, the band joined the Territorial Songsters in accompaniment to Larsson as he talked about the musicals that he and General John Gowans (Ret.) produced together during the past 40 years.
Their musical collaboration began when a territorial youth secretary (TYS) in the United Kingdom wanted something special for an event. The TYS drafted Gowans and Larsson, and the result was their first musical, Take Over Bid. Since then the two have produced more than 10 musicals and 250 songs. Many of these songs are now included in The Songbook of The Salvation Army.
As Larsson told the story of writing the musicals, he remarked, “Although the powers-that-be in the Army loved the musicals, they also saw fit to assign the composers to commands that were as geographically distant from one another as possible!” Many of the musicals, Larson continued, “were written by postal correspondence or over the telephone.”
Larsson presented several songs from what has become their most performed musical, Spirit. He then recognized the cast of Espíritu, the Latino version of the musical, who were present in the audience in force. As he led the congregation in several songs, he explained that Espíritu had been totally rewritten in a Latin style by his son, Kevin. Larsson expressed his “hope that the cast of the new version will recognize the songs in their original form!”
We are all the beneficiaries of the sacrifices that Gowans and Larsson made in allowing themselves to be vessels that the Lord has used to bless thousands of people over the years. Near the end of the concert, Himes commented, “Gowans and Larsson crystallized and captured the spirit of the Army in song and drama. These songs are a musical record of the theology of The Salvation Army.”