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Mar6WedHistory, Harmony and Humanity offers insight into the life and work of one of the Army's best musicians. March 6, 2013 by Major Ken Smith
Growing up in The Salvation Army, I cannot recall a time when I did not know the name of Ray Steadman-Allen. From my early days of learning to play a brass instrument to the time when I first showed an interest in composing, RSA (as he is affectionately known worldwide) was an influence in my life as a young Army musician.
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- Opinion & Critical Thought
History, Harmony and Humanity: A Suite of Articles about Ray Steadman-Allen (edited by daughter Barbara Steadman-Allen) bears witness to RSA's enduring legacy. As Dr. Ronald Holz writes in the foreword, “No other person, whether composer, musician, editor or administrative clergy, has had a greater impact on the development of Salvation Army music and musical culture of the past 60 years than Ray Steadman-Allen.” Holz describes him as “the most gifted, prolific and forward-looking talent” of this period who has also enriched the entire brass band world with “significant and challenging works.”
The book is a collection of articles divided into three sections. The first is an autobiography that reveals much about the man behind the music. The author describes growing up in the Army, his wartime service in the Royal Navy, his Salvation Army officership, marriage, family life and long period of service at the helm of the Army's international music editorial department, where he was responsible for the creation and publication of brass band and choral music that was disseminated throughout the Army world.
The second section offers personal reflections and observations from RSA's friends and colleagues, including analyses of his music as a composer, an area in which he was constantly pushing the envelope to expand the Army's musical horizons. The book concludes with a glimpse at RSA's humour and humanity in a chapter entitled RSA: The Lighter Side.
One of the most insightful chapters in the book is the transcription of an interview in which RSA gives advice to aspiring composers based on his many years of experience. He also shares his views on Salvation Army music today and where he sees it going in the future.
History, Harmony and Humanity is a unique compilation of articles about an exceptionally gifted man who has contributed so much to our Movement. It is well worth reading, particularly by Salvation Army musicians who have grown up under his influence.
Major Ken Smith is the assistant territorial music secretary.