Almost 30 years after the last Salvation Army song book was published, a new user-friendly edition is being released—in the Army’s 150th year. The Song Book of The Salvation Army, which launches on July 2 (Founders’ Day) at the Boundless international congress, is intended to meet the needs of contemporary Salvation Army worship around the world.
“Music has always played an enormous role in the worship of God’s people,” General André Cox says. “It touches the soul in a unique way and can lift and inspire. God has gifted The Salvation Army with great poets who have a unique ability to express in words some of our deepest emotions, desires, devotion and love for God, which many of us would struggle to do without their special talents. As well, The Song Book of The Salvation Army is a repository containing much of our doctrinal teaching, making it an essential tool for the development of our faith.”
The General appreciates being able to leaf through the pages of his song book when he wants to put aside the pressures of the outside world. “I can assure you that I am not prone to singing aloud on my own during personal devotions, and neither can I claim to systematically use the song book every day in this respect,” he says. “But when I am reading Scripture, the words of a song will often come to mind, and I do like to look them up and reflect on those words.”
Recognizing that the Army song book is no longer so widely used in some places, the General says: “There is nothing wrong with using modern and new songs, but equally there is no reason to neglect the richness of what we have. It is sad when we no longer know or use some of our great songs that are taken up by other denominations. I think in a world of shifting values, our song book is more than relevant in reaffirming our beliefs and nurturing our faith.”
Salvation Army song books have tended to be updated around every 25 years. The vision for the latest edition came from General Shaw Clifton, who convened a Song Book Council in 2009, a year before his retirement as the Army’s international leader. “Our song book has come to mean a great deal to me through the years as a spiritual help and source of inspiration,” says General Clifton (Rtd). “I spoke with my predecessor, General John Larsson, before taking office and he agreed a new book was needed. I also discussed it at length with my closest and most senior advisers, and then sought feedback from throughout the Army world.”
Although the use of large screens to display congregational songs has changed the way the English language Song Book of The Salvation Army is used, the feedback received by International Headquarters was that this technology should not deprive The Salvation Army of a printed song book.
Having decided to move ahead with the project, suggestions were then sought about which new songs to include. Not all the “new” songs were written recently; some are 50 or 60 years old. At the same time, the Song Book Council needed to decide which songs from the 1986 song book to omit. “Previous Generals had not hesitated to drop about one third of the content of a song book when planning for a new edition. Therefore, the Song Book Council felt able to be bold in a similar fashion,” General Clifton says. Work on the new edition, particularly song selection, was well under way when he handed oversight of this task to his successor.
A key goal for the Song Book Council was to make the new edition as user-friendly as possible. This has seen the addition of new features, such as key Bible references above every song. An index to those references is included to further assist leaders in worship planning. In addition to piano and brass music for all songs, guitar chords are included for the first time, along with suggested introductions for every tune. Parts are provided in concert pitch and in the key of F, and some tunes have been brought down in pitch so they are easier to sing.
The previous song book contained 962 songs and 251 choruses. The new edition has 1,041 songs but a separate chorus section is no longer included, as many modern compositions are not easily classified as “songs” or “choruses.” Songs in the previous edition were grouped into 12 major sections. The new song book has three main sections: “The Eternal God,” “Our Response to God” and “Benedictions,” with songs organized into categories and sub-categories of these sections.
Four years ago, Lt-Colonel Trevor Davis was asked to accept the role of tune book co-ordinator on the Song Book Council. He has worked closely with Andrew Blyth, assistant territorial music director of the United Kingdom Territory with the Republic of Ireland, the music ministries unit of that territory and other musical arrangers. Their aim was to provide easier and more accessible accompaniments that assist congregations to worship God, and to ensure the musical settings did not detract from song lyrics.
As well as his own musical background—which includes serving as territorial music secretary in New Zealand and as national bandmaster, head of music editorial and territorial music secretary in the United Kingdom—Lt-Colonel Davis has a deep personal appreciation of the song book. “I love hymnody of all kinds,” he says, “but I also believe the songs in our Salvation Army song book have provided me with an enhanced scriptural and doctrinal perception.” Although much of the progress technology has brought to corporate worship is helpful, he does mourn that the newer style of singing, with songs often appearing on screen line by line, means singers miss the richness of seeing the sequence of lyrical expression in adjoining verses.
“I think the new song book represents who we are in The Salvation Army very well,” Lt-Colonel Davis says. “Naturally I, like everybody else, will have my own joys and disappointments about what is included. However, from the tune book side of things, the song book has been prepared by a group of competent people who have done this with integrity and skill, not to mention extreme dedication.”
Andrew Blyth’s contribution reflects his long association with Salvation Army music-making. He learned to play brass in a Salvation Army young people’s band and to sing in the singing company. Andrew joined the music editorial department in the United Kingdom at 18, becoming a member of the International Staff Band the same year. “It was there that I learned harmony and started to compose music for The Salvation Army,” he says. Since then, Blyth has been the leader of the International Staff Songsters and Enfield Citadel Band. Currently, he serves as bandmaster at Peterborough Citadel in the United Kingdom Territory with the Republic of Ireland.
“The Salvation Army is an integral part of my faith journey,” Blyth says. “The Army has supported me during the challenging times of my life, corrected me when I needed it and encouraged me in my everyday activities. Of course, its music appeals to me, but I have also seen the Army at work in areas of social need and during times of disaster.” All of this has given Blyth a respect for what The Salvation Army stands for—and an enthusiasm for seeing this reflected in the Army’s music.
He says that although a number of 1986 arrangements are used in the 2015 tune book, 200 new arrangements were still required, taking around two years to complete. The editing and proofing of the music was a mammoth task, with more than 20,000 separate parts to read. “There are some beautiful new melodies that will be appreciated by musicians,” he says. And although brass arrangements are provided for all songs, he cautions that some songs are not ideally suited to brass band accompaniment.
For those counting the cost of upgrading to the new song book, General Cox recommends it as a worthwhile investment. “Many people spend the equivalent cost of a song book for a decent meal out, or for other forms of entertainment,” he says. “My parents purchased a copy of the 1986 song book when I was a young officer serving in Zimbabwe. That copy has been with me for almost 30 years now and the pages are well turned, so I guess that was good value for money! And it certainly has been with me through some personally difficult times.
“Our song book contains songs that point us to the life of faith, inviting us to lift up our eyes and to embrace and rejoice fully in the realization that God is with us no matter what our circumstances or whatever challenges we face.”
Song Book Frequently Asked Questions
This information applies to the Canada and Bermuda Territory. Some details concerning the song book may differ in other territories.
1. Is this song book significantly different from the previous version?
Yes. There is a significant increase in the number of songs included in the new song book.
2. Is there a list or index of the new songs?
Click to download the official list of songs.
3. When will I be able to receive my new song books?
The new song book will not be available for purchase until after the 2015 Boundless international congress. We are therefore expecting delivery to the Supplies and Purchasing Department in mid- to late-August 2015 and will begin our distribution immediately following. There was a delay in the production of the North American version.
4. Why has the new song book been delayed?
There were a number of issues that delayed this project. Securing copyright permissions was one of the greatest sources of delay for this project and is, in part, why we have not been able to provide an official list of the songs that will be in the new song book.
5. Why are you asking for an order so early if it is not being released in July and so few details are currently known?
Preliminary orders for the tune books were placed in November, and preliminary orders for the words editions were submitted in January. Early ordering and pricing are now finished. The Supplies and Purchasing Department will continue to take orders for the mid-fall delivery at full price.
6. Will an electronic version be available?
We are able to confirm that International Headquarters (IHQ) has said that there will be an electronic version of the song book. At this point, we do not know in what form, how it will be distributed or the related costs. The electronic version will not be available at the same time as the hard copies and may take several months to be completed.
7. Will the new song book be available in PowerPoint?
We have been told that it will be, but we have no further details on this and do not know when or at what cost. As soon as we have further details, we will let everyone know.
8. Is there going to be a North American version of the song book?
Yes, and this is the version that we will be carrying. There will not be an American supplement or chorus section as these will now be included throughout the entire song book. Pricing for the song book has been updated.
9. Why are there two piano tune books?
There has been a significant increase in the number of songs included and this is reflected in the number of pages required for the tune book.
10. New parts have been added to the musical accompaniment. Why?
This will allow for the inclusion of other instruments in the worship experience as required.
11. What is the deadline for placing my initial order?
The initial deadlines were as follows: November 29, 2014, for tune books, and January 2, 2015, for songs books. The Supplies and Purchasing Department will continue to take orders for the second round of delivery in fall 2015.
12. What is the currency on the form?
The original form came from the United Kingdom, and the forms have been updated to remove all references to the British pound. The price is listed in Canadian dollars. If you are looking to make a bulk purchase, please contact the Supplies and Purchasing Department for a bulk order form.
13. What will be books look like?
Front cover images have been included in this article. Please note that the final product may be different from these images.
14. Will there be a large-print version available?
Yes. Pricing and order information have been included in an updated order form.
15. Can I charge my new song book to my corps or ministry unit?
No. Local ministry units are responsible for the cost of the song books they order for their use. Songs books for personal use are a personal cost.
16. Will there be a Bible/song book combination?
Yes, there will be hard-cover and soft-cover editions. We are currently waiting for information regarding what the North American version of the Bible/song book will be. Orders for a Bible/song book combination will be held and shipped once stock has been received from the United States. Please note that this product is currently delayed and no estimated shipping date is known.
17. Do I have to order supplies for my ministry unit?
A recent directive from the Chief Secretary’s office has been received, stating, “Every ministry unit will be required to have one copy of the tune book and two copies of the song book for reference purposes.”
18. Who is responsible for the cost of the new song book?
It is the local responsibility of each ministry unit to budget for the minimum cost of the new song book and tune book.
19. Do divisional headquarters and territorial headquarters departments have to buy a song book?
A recent directive from the Chief Secretary’s office has been received, stating, “Every divisional headquarters and territorial headquarters department will be required to have one copy of the tune book and two copies of the song book for reference purposes.”