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Mar5TueCanadian Staff Band celebrates 50 years with a weekend of praise and worship. March 5, 2019 by Geoff MoultonPhotos by Steve Nelson and Joel Johnson
On March 1-3, the Canadian Staff Band (CSB), under the baton of Bandmaster John Lam, celebrated its 50th anniversary with a series of concerts and worship services in and around Toronto. Four visiting bands from the United States―Chicago Staff Band (BM Harold Burgmayer), New York Staff Band (BM Derek Lance), U.S.A. Southern Territorial Band (BM Nick Simmons-Smith) and U.S.A. Western Territory Staff Band (BM Neil Smith)―made this one of the largest banding events in Salvation Army history.
General Brian Peddle and Commissioner Rosalie Peddle, World President of Women’s Ministries, together with five territorial commanders from Canada and Bermuda, and the United States (Commissioner Susan McMillan, Commissioner Brad Bailey, Commissioner William Bamford, Commissioner Ken Hodder and Commissioner Willis Howell), were on hand to provide leadership.
The bands kicked off the weekend on Friday night with a series of concerts in five Ontario corps a short drive from Toronto. The CSB regaled crowds in Barrie with newly commissioned works Legacy of Faith by Captain Nicholas Samuel and There Is a Fountain by Noel Brooks, while the other bands visited Oshawa Temple, Meadowlands Corps in Hamilton, Guelph Citadel and Peterborough Temple.
On Saturday, March 2, the bands converged on Roy Thomson Hall in downtown Toronto for an all-day music event that included afternoon performances by each band and an evening concert with the massed band.
The evening concert got off to a rousing start with In Awesome Wonder, composed by Canada’s own Marcus Venables. After Commissioner Susan McMillan acknowledged the concerts were taking place on traditional Indigenous land, the massed band appropriately played Nisga’a Lullaby by Canadian composer Major Len Ballantine. Selections also included the premiere of former CSB Bandmaster Colonel Robert Redhead’s O Church Arise and Symphony of Thanksgiving by Dean Goffin, which was played at the inaugural CSB concert at Toronto Temple in 1969.
Another newly commissioned work from composer William Pitts, Boundless, made good use of the percussion section and featured the tunes Joy in The Salvation Army and O Boundless Salvation. CSB alumni Deryck Diffey, Andrew Burditt (standing in for his late father and former CSB Bandmaster Brian Burditt), Clarence White (performing for the late Robert Merritt) and percussionists Stan Ewing and Ron Reid performed the Lt-Colonel Norman Bearcroft piece Just Like John. Lt-Colonel Bearcroft, the first bandmaster of the CSB, was present at the concert and featured in a historical video mid-program to the delight of the audience.
Trumpet virtuoso and guest soloist Jens Lindemann made an impressive entrance late in the second half, using a plunger mute to humorous effect in Kevin Larsson’s rendition of When the Saints. He then picked up the flugelhorn for Larsson’s more subdued Going Home, which commemorated former CSB members as their names scrolled on screen. Lindemann credited Deryck Diffey for providing him with musical inspiration through the years.
In her message, Commissioner McMillan, executive officer of the CSB, shared from Hebrews 12, noting the “great cloud of witnesses” in the hall and encouraging them to continually “fix their eyes on Jesus.” She invited the massed band members and other musicians in the audience to stand symbolically around a bass drum—“the portable mercy seat and a place of prayer and covenant”—as General Brian Peddle shared in prayer.
“On an anniversary like this,” noted the General, “it gives us pause to look back and declare God’s faithfulness to us. But we are also pushing forward to share his message so that the world may receive the love of God through music, witness and service.”
The evening concluded with a surprise appearance by William Himes, retired bandmaster of the Chicago Staff Band, who wrote a new piece for the 50th anniversary entitled The Psalmist, which featured five of Major Len Ballantine’s unique works. As an encore, the massed bands performed The Canadian, a march by James Merritt, which had the audience on their feet in tribute.
On Sunday morning, the bands were on the road again to enhance worship at Mississauga Temple Community Church and Toronto’s Yorkwoods Community Church, North York Temple, Yorkminster Citadel and Scarborough Citadel.
Commissioner Rosalie Peddle shared her testimony at Mississauga Temple, remarking how she has been changed by her new role as an international leader and the vibrant Salvationists she has encountered around the world: “My calling, my commitment and my passion are stronger than ever before.”
General Peddle referenced his Call to Mission, noting, “Our purpose is to find God’s place for us in the world. We are to infiltrate and transform the secular spaces. I want a people of prayer, a people that are prepared and a people that are battle ready. Salvationists provide a visible expression of a holy life.” In response, many knelt at the mercy seat to rededicate their lives.
On Sunday afternoon, the bands met for a final reception that included CSB alumni and a performance by the Canadian Staff Songsters. CSB bandsman Cameron Rawlins gave a moving tribute to his musical mentors, particularly his late grandfather, Art Dean.
Of the weekend, Bandmaster John Lam noted, “The camaraderie of the bands and the sacrifice of many musicians giving of their time to glorify God—that’s what has made this event so special.” The CSB is also crisscrossing the Canada and Bermuda Territory in celebration of its 50th year, performing at various locations. Their tour will culminate at the June congress and commissioning events in Vancouver, with the international leaders again in attendance.
Empress of Ireland
Though the CSB’s roots go back to the 1880s, the original band was lost in the tragic sinking of the Empress of Ireland while travelling to London, England, for an international congress. The band reformed in 1969 and has since performed under the batons of Lt-Colonel Norman Bearcroft, Colonel Robert Redhead, Brian Burditt, Kevin Hayward and John Lam.