Ministry reinvigorated in Long Beach
Renewal of commitments for Long Beach band and songsters
by Bob Newman –
To celebrate the transformation and resurgence of the musical forces at Long Beach Citadel over the past year, Commissioner Philip Swyers recently presided over a rededication of the corps’ band and songsters.
Swyers commissioned 16 new musicians and challenged all to give their talents back to God through service. “Let your light shine so that people’s hearts will be lifted up to God and so that God will be glorified,” he said.
Swyers presented a certificate of appreciation to former Bandmaster Randall Silvers for his many years of leadership and then commissioned Bob Gregg as bandmaster. Swyers challenged Gregg, who has been serving as the band’s leader for the last year, to “make the outreach and ministry of the Army greater than the four walls of this building.”
Gregg responded, “We as a Salvation Army band have untold opportunities to meet the needs of those we serve. I know the band will not let me down in these upcoming responsibilities, and more importantly, they will not let the Lord down.”
Less than two years ago, the soldiers of Long Beach Citadel suddenly found themselves heirs to an exciting future that will one day include a Kroc Center and a youth music conservatory. The corps’ music programs, however, hardly seemed up for the challenge. The band was a small but dedicated group of about a dozen players; the songsters had been inactive for several years, partially for lack of a pianist. How could the shrinking and aging congregation at Long Beach possibly raise up a new generation of musicians to rebuild these groups? That’s where God comes in.
In answer to many a prayer, the Lord began bringing together a most unlikely collection of musicians most of whom had not picked up a horn in decades. With the help of new recruits, the band has grown in musical proficiency and in size—now there are 22 members.
As God reclaimed these talents for his good purpose, the musicians rediscovered the joy of music making and the good fellowship that comes with banding. They also found grace and understanding as they worked to firm up flabby embouchures and reacquainted themselves with pesky details like playing the right notes in the right time.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to know that I can still play,” said Gaye Almond, who joined the horn section 35 years after last playing in a junior band. “The challenge has been putting key signatures, rhythm, and fingerings all together again.”
Beyond the band’s weekly involvement in the Sunday morning worship service, the group has endeavored to support other ministries of the corps. Last summer, band members gave from their own pockets to fund vacation Bible school scholarships for the corps’s young people, and participated in visitations to nursing homes, the VA Hospital, and shut-ins, including 98-year-old fellow bandsman Fred Borkgren and his wife, Ann. At Christmas, band members increased caroling efforts to help make up a shortfall in kettle receipts, allowing 30 families to experience Christmas with food, clothes, and toys.
The newly commissioned Long Beach Citadel Band is now looking forward to a weekend mission trip to a corps in California’s Central Valley and to concerts at the Army’s Bell Shelter and a local Foursquare church.