Southern Territorial music and arts ensembles visit Carolinas
Written By: Brad Rowland
Photos By: Abbie Aguilar, Toby Gilliam, Major Frank Duracher
From February 22-26, the USA Southern Territory music and arts ensembles set forth on a jampacked weekend of ministry, teaching, worship, and fellowship in the North and South Carolina Division. The USA Southern Staff Band, Southern Staff Songsters, and Territorial Arts Ministries (TAM) assembled in a joint venture, with diverse ministries across multiple locations.
“It was wonderful to be together with the band, songsters, and TAM,” said Nick Simmons- Smith, territorial music and creative arts education secretary. “The fellowship was rich and the ministry partnership powerful.”
Due to the nature of each ensemble and only a small handful of gatherings annually, the first day was spent in intensive rehearsal. Camp Walter Johnson hosted the groups for the weekend, with a 12-hour schedule aimed at preparing the groups for what was in store.
On Friday, the songsters and band visited Weaver Academy, a magnet high school near Greensboro focused on performing and visual arts, as well as advanced technology. In addition to musical performances from both ensembles, the presentation was interactive, with broad instruction on instrumentation and poignant words from Captains Chris and Carla Raymer, corps officers in Greensboro.
“According to the choir director at Weaver Academy, the concert was a ‘huge success!’ on Friday morning,” said Aaron Jackson, divisional music and arts director for the North and South Carolina Division. “Her students loved the concert and were engaged from the first note to the end of the Q&A session. Near the end of the concert, one student turned to Captain Carla Raymer, and asked ‘Can you pray for me and with me at the end? I’m struggling and need help.’ According to Captain Raymer, something clicked in that moment as the student teared up during prayer.”
“The school concert at Weaver Academy was a lot of fun,” said Simmons-Smith. “These high school teenagers were engaged and enthusiastic. They asked really good questions about The Salvation Army—‘How can I volunteer? What is your theology?’—The school is located close to the Greensboro Corps, so we are also hopeful that the link will be fruitful in the days to come.”
After returning to camp for joint rehearsals, Friday evening was the kickoff of Divisional School of the Arts (DSA) rehearsals at Camp Walter Johnson. Divisional youth ensembles assembled for rehearsal and, throughout the two-day event, members of the territorial groups interspersed to offer insight and leadership, in addition to fellowship.
“The Divisional Music and Arts rehearsal weekend in the Carolinas became a mini-Music Councils with workshops, rehearsals, devotions, a mini-concert, and reading band,” Simmons-Smith said. “Members of TAM, the songsters, and the band served as instructors, presenters, and encouragers.”
Friday night’s festivities began with a welcome concert featuring the territorial ensembles before an evening rehearsal session and a collaborative reading band. After a night of rest, Saturday morning began with united devotions before the remainder of DSA’s busy rehearsal schedule and a slate of breakout sessions keyed by territorial arts leaders.
“We feel very blessed to have had members of the SSS, SSB, and TAM lead rehearsals and workshops at our music councils,” Jackson said. “We feel confident in saying that the results of this past weekend will have a direct impact moving forward on not only our divisional programs, but in our corps programs. It was exciting to see members of the territorial ensembles also sitting next to and participating alongside our DSA delegates encouraging them in their progress.”
Saturday evening featured a showcase event at Brendle Recital Hall on the campus of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem. The songsters, band, and TAM performed and ministered in promotion of the gospel message and the work of The Salvation Army. This included the groups performing individually and in collaborative, massed fashion.
“On Saturday night, the three groups gathered at Wake Forest University to tell the story of The Salvation Army,” Simmons-Smith said. “The history and mission of the Army was presented in a variety of ways, supported by local area commanders, Majors Andrew and Hazel Wiley.”
Following a well-received concert and a return to Camp Walter Johnson, the territorial music and arts ensembles supported worship on Sunday in four different corps. The Southern Staff Songsters worshiped in High Point, TAM worshiped in both Burlington and Durham, and the Southern Staff Band worshiped in Greensboro. The worship and fellowship was impactful at each corps, always maintaining the focus on the Lord and centering the energy of music, drama, or dance on the support of the mission.
“Sunday morning is always the pinnacle moment of these weekends—leading worship in local corps,” Simmons-Smith said. “By splitting up into four groups, the impact continued in the Carolinas division—particularly at the four corps served. As always, everyone was exhausted after such a full weekend, but also inspired and encouraged to worship the Lord through the arts ministry of The Salvation Army.”