Group Photo of Canadian Staff Band


Music is an integral part of Salvation Army ministry around the world, and the Canada and Bermuda Territory is no exception. The territory’s vocal ministry received a boost in the fall of 2016 with the formation of the Canadian Staff Songsters, under the leadership of Major Len Ballantine. This group of choristers will lead the territory in worship, evangelism and integrated mission through music. The Salvation Army in Canada had a staff songster brigade in its early days, but such a group has not existed for about 100 years.

For all of us who have been involved in the formation of the new Canadian Staff Songsters it is a tremendous honour and privilege,” says Major Ballantine. “Our people come from all walks of life. Some have had musical training beyond what they learned at the corps or music camp, but the vast majority are just good musicians who can read music and sing. Our rehearsals are amazing times of ‘joy in discovery’ as we learn what we can do together.”

Through its ministry, the Canadian Staff Songsters aims to enrich the faith of Salvationists across the territory and beyond, to solidify the mission of the Army in the hearts and minds of those who hear them sing, and move the Army forward in faith.



Of Music and Mentorship

After a life of music ministry in The Salvation Army and seven years in the Canadian Staff Songsters (CSS), Salvationist Cathie Koehnen has taken over leadership of the CSS following the retirement of Major Len Ballantine. Abbigail Oliver, Salvationist staff writer, spoke with Koehnen about her experience teaching music, the importance of mentorship and her vision for the future of the group. 

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Canadian Staff Songsters Spiritual Retreat Weekend September 30 - October 1

The Canadian Staff Songsters, now entering their eighth season, gathered together for a weekend of singing, spiritual renewal, and getting to know each other better as a “family”.

Under their new leader, Cathie Koehnen, new music was rehearsed as well as music from past years. The energy in the rehearsal room was very much evident throughout the weekend by all present; members, desiring to sing their very best—and all for God’s ultimate glory.

The devotional times on the Saturday were an essential part of the weekend, emphasizing the importance of taking time to be still. Time was set aside for listening to all God desires for each person personally, as well as for the group as a whole—those who give of their time and talent for this vital ministry in this territory.

A fun night was also included as part of the retreat weekend. Yes, the members enjoy singing together, making beautiful music together, ministering in various corps settings together. But also, they simply enjoy one another’s company. In this relaxed setting, the members laughed together and got to know each other better as they interacted on an entirely different level.

The Sunday morning gathering was greatly anticipated. It included more rehearsing of music, which was richly worshipful in so many ways. The lyrics of the songs, married with the tranquil melodies and harmonies, nourished their souls in ways that they would find hard to put into words.

This led into a beautiful and meaningful service, orchestrated by their Executive Officer, Lt-Colonel John Murray. The songs and choruses chosen were so appropriate—some even written by Major Joy Webb, not knowing then of her Promotion to Glory! Very deep, personal testimonies were shared—expressing such vulnerability and trust within the group. These were intimate moments indeed. The message was delivered, eloquently reminding the members of their sung theology as a Staff Songster brigade.

Towards the close of the service, there was the dedication of their new leader, Cathie Koehnen, led by her brother, Major David Ivany. So personal; so meaningful for all. The executive stood with her in full support: Lt-Colonel John Murray, Ken Bailey and Janette Brown. Following a prayer of dedication, all members were invited to kneel at the altar to sign covenant cards as an act of their commitment to the brigade and, utmost, to God Himself.

“As a member of the Canadian Staff Songsters, I bind myself to the Lord in this solemn covenant. Recognizing that my personal relationship and commitment to Him are both essential prerequisites for effective ministry, I commit to deepening my relationship with Triune God. Consistent spiritual practices including prayer, Scripture, and devotional reading—which are all essential norms of the Christian life—are integral to the effectiveness of any musical calling and witness. Done in the strength of my Lord and Saviour, and in the presence of my fellow Songsters.”

This Spiritual Retreat Weekend for the Canadian Staff Songsters was a holy gift for all who attended. And all glory was given to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!

New leader installed for Canadian Staff Songsters
Cathie Koehnen is installed as new leader of Canadian Staff Songsters 

Canadian Staff Songsters Lead Ministry in Oshawa

The Canadian Staff Songsters (CSS) blessed Salvationists and friends with ministry in Oshawa during the first weekend of May, 2023.

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.   

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 SongI 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. 


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