Canterbury SA Songsters Celebrate 100 Years
The Salvation Army turned 150 last year, and one way that we marked it here in Canterbury was with a huge timeline banner on the outside of our building celebrating key points across that long history. As part of the research for that banner, we realised that 2016 marks 100 years since the first recorded mention of a Salvation Army choir (or Songsters!) here in the city. Naturally, we wanted to celebrate this!
For our Saturday evening festival, we joined forces with the Songster brigade from Margate Salvation Army. Following a rehearsal in the afternoon we were able to share a tea together, with sandwiches, sausage rolls and homemade lemonade. As the image at the top of this article shows we marked the big occasion with a big cake, which Songster Leader Chris Neeve and his deputy Chris Ward cut together.
The evening’s concert opened to both choirs singing together ‘I’ve Been Changed’ and ‘Bow the Knee’ – contrasting in style, but setting up the message of the programme ahead: the Songsters’ belief in the life-changing message of God, and the link we have to him through worship and prayer. In this spirit, the evening was committed to God in prayer, and Margate Songsters presented ‘Praise to the Lord’ and ‘We Are an Army’ to a receptive audience.
Our ticket price for the evening, the donations towards interval refreshments, and the sales from our souvenir brochure (pictured below) were donated to local branches of Parkinson’s UK, and we were pleased to have representatives of both the Canterbury and District and the Thanet branches with us on the evening. They shared the work that their organisations do each week to support those with Parkinson’s and their families – singing, exercise and trips out are all included!
The Songsters’ choice of music was partly designed to reflect the heritage and ownership of the music it had sung across its one hundred years. ‘Tell Me the Story of Jesus’, a piece published in 1916, and ‘This Mighty King’ with words penned by Canterbury Songster Dawn Neeve. One particular highlight of the first half of the programme, however, was not musical at all! Sue Collins’ monologue was a ‘reflection’ on the abundance of good-looking men on television!
The second half was launched with ‘He Is My Way’, and there was then the chance for audience participation as they snapped their fingers along to ‘Keep on Believing’.
A moving testimony from Songster Rachel Richardson brought about a more reflective time in the programme; she spoke of the way that God was so keen to draw her close to him when she herself was moving away. ‘He Sought Me’ and ‘Before the Cross of Jesus’ were heard after her contribution, before a piano solo from David Miles entitled ‘Clair de Lune’ featuring the tune of ‘Jesus Loves Me’.
Chris Ward presented a thought to the congregation, pondering the contribution of the Songsters in the life of Canterbury Salvation Army, drawing on the story of Moses leading the Israelites and the doubts he experienced over his ability to do the job. Chris reminded us of Exodus 33 where Moses asks God to make sure his spirit is with the people, and how similarly the Songsters ask God to be within the music and the words that are sung.
The piece ‘Shine on Us’ was sung before a presentation was made to the two branches of Parkinson’s UK represented on the night; over £180 given to each branch, with more money contributed over the next few days.
‘God and God Alone’ closed the Saturday evening, a fitting finale as we dedicated all of our efforts to him. We would like to thank all of the Songsters (from both Margate and Canterbury corps) for their hard work, and everybody in the audience who made the evening such a fantastic event and helped us to raise such a great amount of money for a great cause.