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Sep13ThuTimbrel leader Serena Doars keeps tradition alive at London Citadel. September 13, 2018 by Kristin Ostensen
For Serena Doars, the highlight of the Boundless 150 Congress, held in London, England, in 2015, wasn’t performing timbrel drills in front of a crowd of 15,000 Salvationists at the O2 Arena. It wasn’t marching down the Mall as thousands of people lined London’s most famous street. And it wasn’t the standing ovation her timbrel group from London, Ont., received after performing with the Angola National Band on Founders’ Day.
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“You would think that being in the massive O2 Arena would be the highlight but really, for me, it was what happened backstage,” she says. “That’s where we got to connect with the bands we did the concerts with, we got to chat with General André and Commissioner Silvia Cox, we even got to know the stagehands at the Boundless Theatre, a smaller venue at the O2. Getting to know people in a more intimate setting—that’s what was meaningful for me.”
Doars has been leading the London Citadel Timbrels (LCT) for more than a decade, but her musical roots in The Salvation Army go back much further—generations back.
“Both of my grandfathers were bandmasters in Bermuda,” she explains—Bernard Doars Sr. led the band at Hamilton Citadel (now North Street Citadel), and Bradford Simmons, her maternal grandfather, led the Cedar Hill Corps Band. “Both families attended the Army and that’s how my parents met.”
Her father, Bernard Doars Jr., became acquainted with The Salvation Army in Canada in the 1960s after attending music camps at Camp Selkirk and Jackson’s Point in Ontario. “As he made connections, he originally thought he would end up in Hamilton, Ont., or Toronto, but when he heard the London Citadel Band at a festival in Toronto in 1966, he thought, ‘No, that’s where I want to go,’ ” she notes.
Doars was born in London after her parents immigrated in the late ’60s and has attended London Citadel ever since. Her musical education started when her father, a euphonium soloist and conductor, taught her to play cornet at the age of seven. Not long after, she started playing in the junior band, and joined the singing company and timbrels.
Doars attended her first music camp, at Camp Glenhuron in Ontario, when she was 12. “That was where I made my first conscious commitment to the Lord,” she recalls. “Growing up in Sunday school, you learn the lessons of the Bible and know that Jesus loves you, but music camp was where I went forward and asked Jesus to come into my heart.”
As a teen, Doars played in youth bands at London Citadel and the divisional youth band, but as she entered her 20s, she found herself at a crossroad.
“I was still playing in the youth band and enjoying it, but I was at a point in my life where I hadn’t been enrolled as a senior soldier yet, and I felt like I needed to make a decision,” she remembers. “I went to National Musical Camp that year, kind of reluctantly, but as the week went on, I decided to rededicate my life to God and become a senior soldier. I then joined the London Citadel Band, knowing it would not be just a short-term commitment, but something I’d do with my life.” That was 1997 and Doars is still a member to this day.
In 2005, Doars was invited to join the Canadian Staff Band (CSB) by then Bandmaster Kevin Hayward. “John Lam, my bandmaster in London, encouraged me to give it a try and I’m glad he did,” says Doars. “It was an awesome experience!”
During her seven years as a member of the CSB, Doars travelled to many places around the territory and abroad—trips that included running a music camp at a children’s home in Mexico City and playing at the Royal Albert Hall in London, England, in celebration of the International Staff Band’s 120th anniversary (ISB120).
Even on CSB trips, Doars rarely left her timbrel at home. “In the lead-up to ISB120, the CSB did a tour of the Netherlands and Germany, and I was able to put together a timbrel routine for that,” she says. “It was fun—we only had a few women in the band, so we added some of the guys to play with us as well!”
Along with banding, timbrelling has been an important part of Doars’ life and music ministry with The Salvation Army since she was a child. “I’ve always loved it, from the beginning,” Doars says. “It was rhythmic and fun, and we had a great leader, Ruth Rutherford. At the time, I don’t think we realized just how talented she was. We’ve always had a strong history of timbrelling at London Citadel.”
That history continues today with Doars at the helm of the LCT.
“Timbrelling is special because it is unique,” she says. “It’s a visually exciting display—it catches your eye, it catches your ears—and it’s so different that you can’t help but enjoy it.”
The London brigade has always kept a busy schedule, but their profile has grown substantially in recent years. After performing at Canada and Bermuda’s territorial congress in 2014, which welcomed General André Cox, who has recently retired, the LCT were invited to perform at Boundless 150, an international congress honouring the 150th anniversary of The Salvation Army’s founding. London Citadel sent 27 timbrellists to the congress, during which the brigade performed at concerts with the New York Staff Band and Angola National Band, and joined a 200-member strong massed timbrel brigade during a session highlighting the Army’s diversity, among other performances.
Since then, the LCT have performed at the Ontario Great Lakes divisional congress in 2016, and the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, in 2017, along with many performances in London and the surrounding areas.
“Over the last few years our group has been able to take advantage of the experiences that many bands have had for a long time—rehearsing and having devotions together, travelling to different places, listening to great speakers, meeting other Salvationists,” Doars says. “Many of our members don’t play an instrument, and so typically they haven’t had these experiences.
“Timbrelling has given many young women at London Citadel their own unique ministry,” she continues. “It gives them a voice in the church.”
The brigade’s most recent trip was a special one for Doars—returning to her family’s home in Bermuda for the division’s annual Spring Festival in June.
“I’ve always wanted to take my timbrel group there,” she says. “When I go to visit my family in Bermuda, participating in the Sunday morning service is always a highlight for me, even if I’m just in the congregation. The singing, the worship, the message—it’s wonderful.”
Though timbrels have been a part of The Salvation Army since the 1880s, that tradition remains vital today thanks to groups such as London Citadel’s. One innovation Doars and the LCT have embraced is mixing timbrels with singing.
“In Be Glorified, which was written for us for Boundless 150 by Craig Woodland, there is a slower movement in the middle of the piece where we rest our timbrels and sing In My Life, Lord, Be Glorified,” she notes. “That’s one of our favourite drills.”
And as with so many other things, the Internet has revolutionized the timbrelling world.
“When we went to Bermuda, I wanted to do a drill to Motivation, a march by Bill Himes, who was the guest conductor at the Spring Festival,” Doars shares. “I found a drill for that online by a group from England, so I messaged them on Facebook and asked if I could teach it to my group. They said, ‘Sure, go for it!’
“That’s not something I ever would’ve done before,” Doars continues with a smile. “Bands share music all the time, and thanks to technology, now timbrels can share moves and learn from each other, too.”
As much as Doars enjoys teaching and performing drills, she says the best part of leading the LCT is seeing her timbrellists build relationships with God and each other.
“Watching them grow spiritually and connect with each other is what makes this meaningful for me,” she says. “We have younger and older members having fellowship together, praying for each other, studying the Bible together. At the end of the day, timbrelling is an avenue for people to give glory to God, and be in fellowship with other Christians.”