Territorial Music Groups Make an Impact Through Ministry Weekend
By: Brad Rowland and Bernie Dake
Photos by: Rachel Wiley, Tim Burleigh, and Ian Mudge
Southern Staff Band
The Georgia Division hosted the Southern Staff Band (SSB) for a ministry weekend from October 20-24, 2023. The band, featuring members from each of the eight divisions in the USA Southern Territory, gathered in the Atlanta metro area for rehearsal, educational ministry, worship, fellowship, and music-making.
Setting the tone for the weekend, members assembled for a day of rehearsals on Friday, diving into new repertoire and preparing for public ministry. The band then traveled to Camp Grandview in support of the Georgia Division’s Music and Arts (DARTS) rehearsals, instructing and rehearsing alongside the young people. The SSB also gave an afternoon concert, modeling Salvation Army musicianship and ministering through testimony, both musical and spoken.
Following a busy Saturday at Camp Grandview, the band supported Sunday worship at the Gwinnett County Corps, including the morning message from Major Michael Harris, area commander in Greenville, SC, and Southern Staff Band chaplain.
“Sunday morning worship at Gwinnett County was a highlight of the weekend,” said Nick Simmons-Smith, territorial music and creative arts education secretary. “The band led worship through prayer, praise and worship, and a powerful sermon by Major Harris. The band rose at the end to an uplifting rendition of ‘I’ll stand for Christ,’ which inspired all who attended.”
Sunday evening featured rehearsal and preparation alongside the University of Georgia’s British Brass Band and world-renowned euphonium soloist David Childs at Hugh Hodgson Concert Hall in Athens. The two ensembles, along with Childs, came together for a concert on Monday, with the SSB pushing back its usual weekend schedule to accommodate a Monday night performance.
Before returning to UGA’s campus for the Monday evening concert, the band ministered at Greater Atlanta Christian School in Norcross. This continued a dedicated and emerging ministry for the band at local schools, and it was a meaningful time of worship and education.
The finale of the weekend was a dynamic and stirring concert in Athens, with Childs dazzling attendees with virtuosic musicality and both bands leaving a clear impact. The UGA British Brass Band performed “The Present Age” by Leslie Condon, a notable favorite in both Salvation Army and brass band competition circles, and the SSB featured on “Walking With Jesus,” a new work from Simmons-Smith debuted during the Georgia ministry weekend.
“I am so proud of the Staff Band members,” Simmons-Smith said. “Whether they be leading worship, teaching kids at camp, performing at a high level at a concert program, or connecting with kids at a local school, they do so with humility and a true spirit of Christian ministry through brass band music.”
Southern Staff Songsters
The same weekend, the Southern Staff Songsters, under the leadership of Robert Snelson, territorial music education director, arrived in Tennessee from all corners of the territory, ready to embark on a journey that promised to uplift and inspire in the Kentucky-Tennessee Division.
Thursday and Friday were days of preparation and anticipation at the Johnson City Corps, the Songsters rehearsing for the events they would participate in over the weekend. Their dedication extended beyond singing, also focusing on preparing their hearts and minds for the individuals they would encounter. As they sang in the chapel, bathed in the warm sunlight streaming through stained glass windows, they couldn’t help but notice transient individuals in and around the corps building seeking a meal and a place to rest. Little did these people know their souls were being prayed for and would be blessed with the power of music if they chose to enter the room. The prayer of every Salvation Army music group is that their gifts and talents will bring people closer to God.
Friday evening, the Staff Songsters joined forces with the Milligan University Concert Choir, led by Dr. Noah DeLong. With board members, staff, and residents from the surrounding area in attendance, both groups showcased a diverse range of pieces, from a cappella to Appalachian tunes, praise and worship, and more. An 8-piece a cappella group from Milligan called “Heritage” stole the show, receiving thunderous applause and calls for an encore. The celebration continued outside with the dedication of the new Café of Hope. Jeff Keller, Advisory Board chair, expressed the heartfelt mission behind the café: aiming to provide essential items and a safe space for those facing daily challenges within the community.
On Saturday, the Songsters headed to Knoxville, TN, where Majors Cam and Paula Henderson hosted a concert attended by members from the Knoxville, Maryville, and Sevierville Corps. The Songsters opened with Snelson’s stirring scripture setting on “Psalm 24,” the entire program thoughtfully crafted to narrate the Christian journey from who we are as Christians, to how one can become a Christian, and what lies ahead.
Sunday morning brought the group back to Johnson City, where they led worship alongside the corps officers, Captains Benny and Crystal Carringer. The gathering was filled with beautiful fellowship, including a local Junior Soldier reading scripture. Major Rick Mikles delivered an inspirational message titled “The Music of Heaven,” using verses and choruses from popular hymns to engage the congregation, encouraging them to imagine the celestial sounds of Heaven and turning their thoughts toward the boundless love of God.
While we may not fully comprehend the immediate impact of weekends like this, we trust that the Lord will use our musical offerings for His glory. This journey is one of inspiration, unity, and spreading faith and love through the power of music.