The Canadian Staff Songsters (CSS) and Canadian Staff Band (CSB) blessed Salvationists and friends with ministry opportunities in Oshawa and Guelph, Ont., respectively, during the first weekend of May.

Under the leadership of Major Len Ballantine and supported by Oshawa Temple Songsters, the songsters’ ministry began with an afternoon visit by the CSS to Glen Hill Terrace in Whitby, Ont., where they had the pleasure of using their creative gifts to honour God and engage in fellowship with the more than 40 seniors in attendance. 

On Saturday evening, an audience of 230 were blessed by toe-tapping music of thankfulness and praise such as Let There Be Praise and Joyful, Joyful (supported by Oshawa Temple Songsters), and inspired by popular gospel music such as Take Me Back, featuring CSS Steve Cooper and Ol’ Time Jericho, featuring CSS Ian Cooper. Other musical offerings, Green Hill and They Could Not, allowed listeners to reflect on the continuous message of Easter—the resurrection of Jesus and the hope it brings to our lives. Following a short intermission, the CSS worship team invited the congregation to share in praising God’s name.   

A group of singers performing
The Canadian Staff Songsters at Oshawa Temple

Other musical offerings included To Be Continued, with words and music by Major Ballantine, which brings a message of hope eternal, and For the Beauty of the Earth, the classic Rutter anthem that compliments the positive message of the well-known thanksgiving hymn. 

During his devotional, Major Ballantine reminded the congregation that out of chaos and pain, great things come from the hand of God. Following his thoughts, the CSS (supported by Oshawa Temple Songsters) presented All Things New in which text combined with Scripture provides a message of hope. 

The evening concluded with More Than Wonderful by the CSS—a powerful ballad emphasizing that the Lord is greater than anything we will ever know on earth. 

Sunday worship with the CSS was supported by Oshawa Temple Songsters and Oshawa Temple Band. Preceding the service, the CSS prepared the congregation for worship through The Easter Song, I Will Rejoice and Hallowed Be Your Name. Other offerings during the service included Every Nation Under Heaven (supported by Oshawa Temple Songsters) and Behold the Tabernacle (based on Revelation 21:3-5).

Prayer for Oshawa Temple was offered up by Major Beverly Ivany, followed by a time of reflection by Major Ballantine where he challenged the congregation, in person and online, to call on God to reveal what he has in store and apply his vision to our daily lives. 

The service concluded with CSS members surrounding the congregation singing I Love You Lord, featuring CSS Karen Gross. 

Under the leadership of Bandmaster John Lam, the CSB held its anniversary concert, Festival 54, at the Army’s Guelph Citadel on May 6. 

Festival 54 offered something for everyone as the concert featured substantial repertoire and a wonderful special guest, Elizabeth Shepherd, a Canadian singer, songwriter, pianist and producer. Shepherd grew up in The Salvation Army and attends Montreal Citadel, and so was a natural fit with the band. Shepherd would feature on two solo sets and two items with the CSB.  

A brass band performing with a soloist
Sarah Robertson solos during the CSB's performance of Jonathan Roswell’s I Surrender

The concert kicked off with the music of William Gordon and his fanfare, Laudes Domini, setting the tone for an exciting night of music. Following some opening remarks from Lt-Colonel Les Marshall, executive officer for the CSB, and a congregational song, Shepherd took to the stage to deliver a captivating set. After her solo set, the band joined in on Guests.

Following the contemporary stylings of Shepherd, the CSB offered a new piece from young composer Harrison Venables, How He Loves. The major piece of the evening, which ended the first half of the concert, was Colonel Robert Redhead’s iconic work, Isaiah 40. Written more than 25 years ago, this test piece for brass brand is still a challenge for any band today. The CSB’s performance included exceptional solo work from Marcus Venables (cornet) and Daniel Ho (horn). 

Opening the second half of the concert was Impulse, an exciting new piece from one of the band’s composers, Philip Rayment. It was followed by Jubilo, Jubilo, from the pen of Martin Cordner, and another exquisite set from Shepherd, who then joined the CSB on Candle of the Lord.

Lt-Colonel Norman Bearcroft, who led the CSB from 1969-1976, is an iconic name in Salvation Army music and is revered in Canada like no other. In his honour, the CSB has created a scholarship that provides for a young person to attend the annual Territorial Music School. This year’s scholarship recipient is Sarah Robertson, who delivered a wonderful performance on Jonathan Roswell’s I Surrender at Festival 54. 

Closing out the concert was another new piece, this time from the pen of Philip Harper. King of the Seven Heavens was originally written for the New York Staff Band and has been a favourite for the last few years. The CSB played with great conviction on the piece and handled the various styles that the piece requires with ease—a spectacular close to the concert. 

Watch the CSB concert:

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