North American Composer’s Forum held at Asbury College

Asbury College hosts annual music writing event.

by Neil Smith – 

Recently, 26 delegates and 14 faculty members met in the wonderful setting of Asbury College, Wilmore, Kentucky for the annual North American Composers Forum.

The weekend’s intense schedule explored topics relevant to the craft of music and lyric writing in a number of genres.

It was an incredible experience to be able to spend time with prominent Salvationist musicians such as Major Len Ballantine, Lt. Colonel Norman Bearcroft, William Himes, Stephen Bulla, Dorothy Gates, Phil Laeger and James Curnow.

Each delegate selected the composer with whom they had their individual consultation—someone who writes in the same area as they do and could give constructive help as they discussed their own compositions.

The recital evening was one of the highlights of the forum—a chance for delegates’ work to be performed for all to hear. The SASF (Salvation Army Student Fellowship) Songsters (Dr. Beatrice Holz, leader) provided excellent support for the vocal section, as did the Asbury Collegium. We also had a chance to hear instrumental and vocal solos. Then the SASF Band (Dr. Ron Holz, leader) played some band music written by forum delegates.

Brass and vocal reading sessions were also held, which gave the various territories time to showcase their music publications as well as the opportunity to share with the delegates exactly what kind of material the territories are looking for.

Faculty members presented informative lectures, like “Salvation Army composers past and present—Their mission, calling and working environment” by Dr. Ron Holz. Others included one given by Phil Laeger, “Old wells, new water: Re-digging refreshment from red book reservoirs,” which focused on re-working material already in the songbook and giving it an update.

Major Len Ballantine spoke on “Working with words: Choral arranging for the emerging composer” and William Himes discussed “The creative process and generation of ideas for effective Salvation Army music.”

Time was set aside for the delegates to pray and read God’s word together. We were privileged to share a “Musical Love Feast” on Saturday evening that highlighted music written by faculty members. “Credo” by Major John Martin (U.K. Territory) was also featured in this setting.

Our final service of Worship and Consecration was a very sacred time where we were able to share freely with each other. Led very sensitively by Major Len Ballantine, it was a fitting end to our time together.

All in all, a great deal was learned—words, music, technique. But the most important thing to be reinforced was that our words, our music making, our creative process—all of that needs to be used for the glory of God. Our musical expression should be used as a vehicle to bring people into a closer relationship with him.

USA Western Territory representatives:
Carl Darby – THQ
Hannah Violette – Golden State
Marlon (Andy) Jones – Southwest
Duncan Sutton – Crestmont/Southern California

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