Southern Territorial Band joins in musical celebration in Toronto
By: Brad Rowland
More than 150 Salvationist musicians came together Feb. 27-March 3 for a memorable weekend of ministry in Toronto. Though such an occasion would be notable in any respect, the gathering centered on the 50th anniversary celebration of the Canadian Staff Band, with the Southern Territorial Band, led by Nicholas Simmons-Smith, territorial music secretary, participating alongside the New York Staff Band, Chicago Staff Band and the Western Territorial Staff Band.
Given the brutal nature of a Canadian winter, travel issues caused delays – ranging from slight to significant – for some but, eventually, the five bands gathered for the first time on Friday morning at Roy Thomson Hall in downtown Toronto. From the moment the massed ensemble came together, it was clear there was an element of musical magic, leading to the weekend’s centerpiece – a concert festival in the same venue on Saturday evening.
Prior to that, however, the five bands performed concerts in separate locations on Friday evening, with the Southern Territorial Band traveling to Meadowlands Corps. The band presented several moving selections and, in keeping with the band’s mission to be much more than a musical ensemble, Manny Munoz, Texas divisional music specialist, shared a poignant testimony, and principal cornet David Delaney stirred those gathered with a moving and emotional solo.
“I was extremely proud of the band,” said Simmons-Smith. “One officer said, ‘My mind has completely changed on brass bands. The group was so warm, friendly, and really understood the mission of their ministry.’ The band played extremely well, but more than that, they engaged with the audience and enjoyed the fellowship of the other bands. It is much more than the music – it’s the personal connection with the people we meet.”
The massed ensemble then reconvened on Saturday for an all-day affair, with rehearsals in the morning leading to the celebratory atmosphere that accompanied the evening concert. In between, however, all five ensembles performed individual concerts for patrons, with the Southern Territorial Band bringing a five-selection set that exclusively featured music written by composers from within the band.
From there, the ensembles came together as one for a full concert of massed repertoire, and they were greeted by an engaged and active audience. Trumpet virtuoso Jens Lindemann featured as a guest soloist, with tributes to Canadian Staff Band alumni and inspiring words from General Brian Peddle and Commissioner Susan McMillan, territorial commander for Canada and Bermuda.
Though the Saturday evening festivities served as a linchpin of the weekend, members of the Southern Territorial Band are always quick to shine a spotlight on Sunday morning as the pinnacle of any ministry weekend. That was the case in this instance, with the band traveling to Scarborough Citadel Corps to aid in leading worship.
A praise band made up of members from the brass ensemble led the congregation in singing and, later, the band shared a rendition of “Just As I Am,” by Wilfred Heaton, that was a perfect gateway to worship. Commissioner Willis Howell, territorial commander, brought the morning’s message and he began by simply responding to the tone set by the music.
“It’s the only way we can come,” said Commissioner Howell. “We can try to pretty it up. We can try to make it fancy, but all we can do is simply come as we are.”
All five groups assembled for a final time on Sunday afternoon, joining with the Canadian Staff Songsters for a time of reflection and worship. General Peddle, by his own admission, “stepped out of his comfort zone” in his effusive praise, saying that the weekend’s ministry was “awesome” in nature.
“I don’t think I could serve as General of The Salvation Army if I was in service of a mediocre God,” General Peddle said. “I could not withstand, in my humanity as a leader, if God were not who he is. Nor could you.”
“Thank you, as musicians, for being an important part of what we call The Salvation Army. Let God bless you in every way possible.”