A Tribute to Salvation Army Musicians, Music and Composers
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Being brought up as an Officer’s kid (aka as an OK), in a Salvation Army Officer’s household in the 1950s, I became aware of those deep blue Regal Zonophone 78 record labels from a very early age, and even today I am transported back to our old Quarter’s living room every time I click to re-visit Ian’s RZ WebSite and see again that old familiar label. It is safe to say that almost the whole of my early musical education, apart from practicing the C scale on a battered old YP Band cornet, came from listening to so many of those Army 78 recordings, played via a very primitive “gramophone”, which required the sharp steel “needle” to be changed after every few plays in order to protect the “record”. Apart from a few classical recordings, those RZ 78s were all we had, and I still remember my father’s shock/horror when my older sister came home with a Glenn Miller 78 with which to sully the family gramophone. It has been a joy to re-discover all these old boyhood memories via the RZ WebSite.
Like many radio listening Brits, I have often mentally composed lists of my favourite eight “castaway “ records, which is why it seemed rather natural to list my SA choice for the RZ WebSite. Now that Ian has uploaded upwards of two and a half thousand tracks from which I could choose, it wasn’t quite as easy as I’d supposed, but it did bring back oh so many memories. What has surprised me is the number of devotional works which I have chosen, which I suppose brings home just how much of a message is contained within our Salvation Army treasury of God inspired music.
|1||The Eternal Quest. Trombone Solo. Soloist Ian Hankey. ISB. Col B Adams. Ray Steadman-Allen. SLRZ4015. 1966
"The Eternal Quest" is chosen for many different reasons. Firstly, because it is more meaningful to me than almost any sermon I ever heard delivered from a Sunday meeting platform. Also because Col Steadman-Allen is to me a legend, and in my own opinion, head and shoulders above almost any other Army composer. Plus, as I understand it, while actually commissioned for the outstanding trombone soloist Maisie Ringham, The Eternal Quest was also written at a time of deep introspection by the composer, the final trombone cadenza representing the depth of torment of a troubled soul, leading into the tunes we associate with the words "I believe God answers Prayer" followed by "Jesus is looking for thee", which is echoed in the soloist's triumphant conclusion. There are also a couple of personal reasons for this choice. The only recording on the RZ WebSite is of Ian Hankey being accompanied by the ISB, and I am fortunate enough to remember almost every idiosyncrasy of Ian's performance, having played a very minor accompaniment part to Ian's solo many many times with the Wood Green Band in the 1960's, before Ian emigrated to Australia.. Finally, cast away on my lonely island, it would also comfort me with memories of home, as Col Steadman-Allen performed our marriage ceremony some forty odd years ago.
|2||The Light of the World. Meditation. ISB. Col B Adams. Dean Goffin. MF345. 1950
"The Light of the World" is chosen because to me it is arguably the finest example of a devotional composition for Salvation Army Bands ever written, certainly the greatest of all Dean Goffin's compositions, interpreting in music Holman Hunt's famous painting "The Light of the World" showing Christ standing before the heart's locked door. Written around the tune Aurelia, so long associated with the words of "O Jesus, Thou art standing outside the fast-closed door", and then asking, in the words of Fanny Crosby, "Behold me standing at the door - May I come in, may I come in?" Unfortunately, the Castaway's limitation to eight works precludes me from including one other of Colonel Goffin's classics, his majestic "Prelude & Fugue on Darwalls" - "Arise my soul, arise", which I remember as the show-stopping Band & Chorus finale at one of the historic Royal Albert Hall Songster Leader's Councils Festivals, at the time when Dean Goffin was serving as the UK Secretary for Bands & Songster Brigades.
|3||Songs in Exile. Selection. Tottenham Citadel Band. J Williams. Eric Ball. LRZ4003. 1961
"Songs in Exile" is another classic Sunday evening Selection, played and heard so many times, and again as I understand it, written at a time of great introspection in Eric Ball's life, but always managing to remind us that "I'm a child of the King". So many other of Eric Ball's great works stand out as well, including of course his masterwork "The Kingdom Triumphant" culminating with the magnificent tune of Helmsley , which is associated with the words "Lo, He comes with clouds descending", and which can now also be found in a truly inspirational YouTube video presentation. Plus of course amongst so many others is his thought provoking wartime classic, "The Triumph of Peace", setting to music John Oxenham's words "Peace in our time O Lord", with probably the finest high Soprano entry note ever written introducing the majestic final movement. I remember seeing a visual presentation being given by Croydon Citadel Band at a Hendon Highlights Festival, where the closing slides morphed into the Dove of Peace as the work reached it’s climactic conclusion.
|4||Montreal Citadel. March. Regent Hall Band. H Twitchen. N Audoire. MF253. 1935
"Montreal Citadel" The classic SA Band March of all time! Certainly my most played and best remembered of all the RZ 78 recordings, with the possible exception of Wilfred Heaton's March "Praise". So many different memories not the least of which is remembering my then Corps Band of Leighton Buzzard, taking part in General Eva Burrows March Past for the 1992 International Congress, and as they marched up The Mall and swung around the Albert Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace striking up with Audoire's famous March. Then there was Hendon Band's "Praise" cassette recording almost bringing tears to my eyes as I heard "Montreal Citadel" coming from my car stereo as I crossed the desolate Cheviot Hills one lonely evening after a long period away from Army music. And coming more up to date, being completely blown away by the YouTube video of a Royal Marine's Band countermarching with the Canadian Staff Band playing a modified arrangement including scoring for a Military band. Not to mention another YouTube video of the CSB playing “Montreal Citadel” in . . . . Montreal Citadel.
|5||Portraits from St Paul's Epistles. Suite. NYSB. BM D Smith. Col B Coles. TRLPS36
"Portraits from St Paul's Epistles". Colonel Coles wrote many traditional Salvation Army Marches, including my own personal favourite "The Young Salvationist", but "Portraits" is perhaps a more worthy tribute to his writing skills. Although not heard very often these days, surprisingly enough it does feature on the latest ISB "Heritage" recording (!!), but for me, it just reminds me so vividly of those 1950's RZ 78s, recorded on three sides and played so many times on that old needle-changing gramophone. “Portraits from St Paul’s” also gives rise to particularly poignant family memories, for the work’s soul-stirring final movement, which Col Coles entitled “The Triumphant Man”, is scored around Henry Alford’s paean of triumph, "Ten thousand times ten thousand", which we sang as a valedictory song at my father's funeral. "'Tis finished, all is finished, their fight with death & sin, Fling open wide the golden gates, and let the victors in."
|6||Shepherd Hear My Prayer. Song. General Orsborn & Harlesden Songsters. E Rance. MF338. 1950
"Shepherd, hear my prayer". We are privileged that so much of the writings of General Albert Orsborn, the poet General, survived to become some of the Army's finest songs, in spite of so much of his early work being irrevocably lost in the bombing and destruction of IHQ in the Second World War. I only discovered this archive recording of the General giving an address based around his heartfelt song "Shepherd hear my prayer" from the actual RZ WebSite. I have always found this song to be deeply moving, and although I was too young to ever have heard the General from the platform, to actually hear General Orsborn giving this short address while Harlesden Songsters are singing “Deep is calling unto deep” is a privilege which would not have been mine without Ian’s dedication to preserving this recorded treasury of the Army’s heritage.
|7||I Know Thee Who Thou Art. Song. Jubilee Festival Male Chorus. A Orsborn. Ray Steadman Allen. BAB 3509. 1977
"I know Thee who Thou art" - "The Calvary Track". A further love poem from the soul of General Orsborn, and to me, the most precious song in the Salvation Army Song Book, from my early Corps Cadet days, when every CC Lessons evening ended with us singing "Let nothing draw me back, or turn my heart from Thee", to it being sung by our then Corps Officers as a duet at our Wedding, being sung at our daughter's Dedication, and being sung at my belovèd Mother’s funeral. Another inspirational song from the pen of the General is surely "My life must be Christ's broken bread" to the tune of Spohr, and surprisingly enough, a further discovery which I have made on the RZ WebSite has been Eric Ball's Meditation "Spohr", which I also hadn't previously heard.
|8||Spirit of the Living God. Hymn Tune Arrangement. Brisbane City Temple Band. L Baxter. arr L Baxter YPRX 1048. 1974
"Spirit of the Living God". My final choice, and also a work I'd never heard until I came across it on the BCTB recording. Bandmaster Baxter apparently was an Australian BM of the old school, who didn’t believe percussion added anything to an SA Brass Band, which is a shame, as I missed a timpani roll between the second and third plays of this simple short prayer chorus. But BM Baxter was also a man of God who scored this simple chorus arrangement, which is a pure classic of brass band scoring, especially for his own Band. It has probably not been published outside of Australia, but forms my greatest discovery out of all twenty three hundred tracks which Ian has put up on this wondrous WebSite. The recording is of excellent quality, the Eupho "counterpoint" in the first and third plays is simply sublime, while the final chord with the pedal bass note from the G Trom echoing into silence brings my “castaway’s choice” to a deeply satisfying conclusion. Pure bliss. BUT, so many times did I hear my father use this chorus in his Sunday evening prayer meetings, that it speaks to me not only of a nostalgic past, but also of where I should be today. "Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me, Break me, melt me, mould me, fill me. Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me".