Or: How I learned to stop worrying and love the choreography
The Pasadena Tabernacle Songsters tour the United Kingdom and win many converts—the author included.
by Jeff Curnow –
SPINNEY HILL THEATRE, Kettering, England—In a Moment; the songsters, with soloist Barbara Allen, emphasize the urgency of proclaiming the Easter story. Below—He Liveth. Left: Tab Timbrelists join the Songsters and Boscombe Corps music sections for an Easter afternoon open-air meeting on Boscombe pier in Bournemouth, England.
I have to admit—I was a skeptic.
“Why would a songster brigade take a tour, and if it did, who would come to see them?”
“What’s the point of a songster brigade making a CD? Who’s going to buy a songster recording? In fact, who knew that songster brigades even made recordings?”
As you can probably tell from my questions, I’m not from around these parts (Pasadena that is.) I moved to California about two and a half years ago. Following some gentle encouragement from my boss, I decided to check out the Pasadena Tabernacle Corps.
I really knew nothing about the corps, but I remembered seeing a Hollywood Tab band recording when I was a kid—you know—the one with the band on the Hollywood western set. With their snazzy, sky-blue tunics, the band burned an indelible image in my mind. So, I joined the band (I was greatly disappointed—there wasn’t a sky blue tunic in sight…) but, then I heard the songsters.
The first time I really heard them the sound was amazing, but there was something more in their faces and enthusiasm. When Songster Leader Martin Hunt asked if I would like to sing with them, I came to my first rehearsal in July 2004.
Very soon after that, planning for our tour of the United Kingdom began. I had two questions: “Why in the world are we planning for a tour 18 months from now?” and “What do you mean by choreography?”
Fast forward now to April 2006—after months of extra rehearsals, yards and yards of banners, memorization of hundreds of words and—yes—learning choreography, we received our very own tracksuits—the songsters were ready.
Compared to other tours I’ve been on, this was a machine! It must have been frightening for the corps we visited to have 70 strangers descend upon their building with the sole purpose of transforming it rapidly into a concert venue.
The two-week tour of the United Kingdom would begin in Scotland and end on Easter Sunday at Boscombe. The corps there has long held an Easter convention that attracts Salvationists from across Great Britain.
All of my questions soon began to be answered. To my amazement, the songsters performed in sold out venues night after night. People came from as far away as Munich, Germany to see the concerts!
Why? The concert was very well planned, and told the complete Easter story. The truth of Christ’s amazing love—such that he died a cruel and tortuous death for our sake—was made clear through the use of song, video, drama and movement.
When a group of people really gives everything they have in preparation, good performances are expected. Yet there was much more to this tour than well-planned and rehearsed concerts; for when that same group relies on God’s strength, something extraordinary occurs—God uses them to bring his message to others.
No one special
Most of us are average singers. We are not—by any means of measurement—spiritual giants! We are a corps songster brigade. We work hard and spend a lot of extra time when we have the opportunity to tour. We also have hundreds praying for us during the process.
When God started to answer those prayers, all my early questions and skepticism started to seem foolish. We did what the Pasadena Tabernacle Songsters do, and were blessed beyond measure that God was able to use us. We got chills and felt tears well up as we saw the work of God’s spirit reflected in the faces of the audience.
Usually a story about a tour includes a rundown of all the performances and statistics, so here are a few:
• In fourteen days we:
• Sang in front of more than 7,000 people
• Sang in 10 full (2-1/2 hour) concerts.
• Took part in six worship services (including marching to an open air)
• Visited 14 different cities
• Sang in six mini-concerts
• Sold 3,000 CD’s and had to order more.
• Met Mayors, Lord Mayors, Right-
Honorable Lady Mayors, Consorts,
Sheriffs and Members of Parliament
• Consumed approximately 4,000 pounds of roast beef, 1.5 million peas, 7,000 pounds of potatoes and 3 gallons of water (this one only seemed true)
• Got sick
• Renewed old acquaintances
• Became crabby
• Were exhausted
• Were welcomed into hundreds of homes
as overnight billets (guests)
• Felt God’s presence
• Saw God work
• Became a family
• Were blessed
While each of these facts is significant, the last four are totally unquantifiable. The truth is that those results are the most important.
Many tried to put those results into words, but no one was more successful than John, our bus driver. With us for 14 days, John saw us at our worst. The night before our return to Los Angeles, John said to us: “You didn’t give concerts; every night was a passion play set to music. I will never think of the passion of Christ in the same way. There are people who will say that I have a heart made of brick, but you have managed to break through. If you were able to do that for this old Scottish Catholic, imagine what you were able to do for your fellow Salvationists.”
Now, I’m a confirmed skeptic.
I know the Pasadena Tabernacle Songsters could not have accomplished this without God’s help. I have been reminded that if you give your time and talents to God, he will—through his amazing love—use them in ways that are impossible to put into words.
This I believe.