Songsters wow New Zealand

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TAB SONGSTERS SHARE musical message at Auckland Congress Hall.

The Pasadena Tabernacle Songsters have just successfully completed their sixth major tour in 17 years, the first under the leadership of Songster Leader Martin Hunt.

Carrying on and expanding on the Tab Songster tradition, the group presented a thematic program based on “New Day,” the title of a song presented in the concert program that speaks of a new day dawning eternally for all who believe in and follow Jesus Christ. “New Day” is also the title of the songsters newly released CD that features many of the songs used on the tour.

From Whangarei, the furthest place north on the tour, to Wellington, at the southern end of the North Island, the songsters presented six major programs. These included Auckland Congress Hall, Whangarei, Tauranga, Taupo, Palmerston North and Wellington City Corps. The tour included 20 engagements in 12 days.

The songsters were warmly welcomed in Auckland by the officers, soldiers and friends of the Congress Hall Corps. Although the greeting of the New Zealand Salvationists was nothing but the warmest possible, the songsters arrived during the coldest weather in New Zealand in 35 years.

The first concert at Auckland Congress Hall, the evening of July 5, proved to be a true test of the brigade’s resourcefulness. When the plane landed in Auckland, it was soon learned that the baggage handlers at LAX had failed to load an entire container of songster equipment. Because this included several sections of the choral risers, the stage crew, led by Dan Hood and Steve World, had to build an entire set of risers in about five hours time.
Barbara Larson and Stacie Brown and members of the props committee had the same amount of time to purchase many yards of white satin cloth in order to cut and fashion it into the form of the white cross that is part of the dramatic end of the first half of the program during the singing of “By the Way of the Cross.”

Many other tasks were completed during the day in order to be ready for the 7:30 performance time for what would be the Songsters first presentation of the tour.

Each new day provided special opportunities for ministry. Whether it was singing and ministering to John Banks, the mayor of Auckland, who is a Christian, or singing in “Te Papa” the National Anthem of New Zealand, the songsters seized the day and took advantage of each chance to present the Gospel story to any and all who would listen.

There were also several mall and outdoor shopping street presentations including one that could be called the “Umbrellas of Whangarei” performance, where the Songsters had to raise and lower their umbrellas periodically due to several rain showers passing over the area.

There were many highlights of the tour. One of the most notable, I believe, was the behavior and spiritual maturity demonstrated by the members of the songsters age 25 and under—approximately one third of the touring party, many in their first international tour.

Their interaction with and positive influence on the Salvationist young people of New Zealand was demonstrated, for example, during the Saturday and Sunday morning spent at the Palmerston North Corps. Following the Saturday night concert, the corps’ youth group staged a coffeehouse concert with the young people of the Tab Songsters in attendance. From all reports, it was a great evening of fun and fellowship.

Following the Sunday morning worship service, as the songsters were leaving the Palmerston North Corps on the bus for Wellington City, the songsters learned that two 16-year-old members of the corps’ youth group approached their songster leader, asking if they could become members of the songsters. These two young people will be 20 years younger than the next oldest songster in the group.

A special highlight of the concert program was Amber Peacock’s singing of “By the Way of the Cross.” Following the concert programs many in the audiences made mention of the song and the strong impact it made on them.

Special mention needs to be made of Hunt’s leadership of the songsters. He has grown into a very fine choral conductor, placing his personal stamp on the songster’s style of presentation. His desire for the message to always be foremost in every presentation made by the songsters was always apparent during the tour.

All through the tour, the songsters felt the power of the prayer support group back at the Tab. This group, organized by Lt. Colonels LeRoy and Lou Pedersen, upheld the songsters during the very busy schedule when fatigue and illness were at their highest. This was especially apparent during the final concert presentation in Wellington City when the songsters seemed to gain fresh energy and strength for the program.

The songsters were in awe of the beauty of New Zealand. But the warmth and beauty of the people of New Zealand will be what is long remembered. As seems always the case, the lifelong friendships formed will be what made this tour so special.


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