Brilliant autumn sunshine greeted Salvationists and friends as they traveled from across South Wales and gathered in Tenby on 22 October 2016 to celebrate 130 years of the work of the Salvation Army in that town. Morriston Citadel Songsters (Songster Leader Chris Lear) and South and Mid Wales Fellowship Band (Bandmaster Adrian Browning) provided musical support for the day.
The good weather enabled an open air meeting on the grounds of St. Mary’s Church, led by Band Sergeant Mark Symonds. A number of people passing along the main street were attracted by the music of the band and songsters and stopped to listen, many joining in singing well-known hymns. Both groups presented individual items. The songsters sang Ev’ry Time I Feel the Spirit and The Christian Mission, the latter including timbrels. The band included the march Mighty to Save and also featured male voices in God’s World, using the tune “Myfanwy”.
Following the open air meeting, an anniversary tea attended by local civic leaders was provided by members of the church.
Excitement and anticipation was evident in the waiting audience inside the church for the evening Anniversary Celebration festival. To the accompaniment of the band, the Morriston Songsters marched to their places. With dignity, the flags of Tenby Corps, Morriston Songsters, and the South and Mid Wales Division processed down the nave and were received by the Divisional Commander, Lt.-Colonel J. P. Ramos. After words of welcome from Canon Andrew Grace, the congregation joined in singing “Who Is on the Lord’s Side?” and prayer was offered by Lt.-Colonel Karin Ramos.
Praise was the theme of the first two items from the songsters. The energetic God of My Praise was followed by the more relaxed style of Total Praise. Tenby Songster Leader Peter Greenway continued the theme by reading Psalm 95. The band featured Ein Feste Burg (Andrew Mackereth), its grandiose fanfare leading into an exciting arrangement of the great hymn “A mighty fortress is our God”.
Lauren Mia Jones, granddaughter of the corps officers at Tenby, was the soloist for the evening. This 13-year-old has come a long way since she first started singing in the Morriston Singing Company five years previously. Her featured items in the first set were Footprints in the Sand and How Long Will I Love You. Representing the local corps, Andi Drabble testified about her Christian life journey that eventually brought her to the Salvation Army at Tenby.
The acoustics of the hall suited the items in the second set from Morriston Songsters. More Than Wonderful (arr. Leonard Ballantine) brings together all the different names in the Bible used for Jesus. This was followed by In the Strength of the King, a full and bright setting of a classic Salvation Army song.
Eric Ball is generally recognized as one of the greatest composers of Salvation Army music, and his selection Constant Trust is a moving work. Presented by the band, this item features the songs “Trust and obey”, “The Cross is not greater than His grace”, and “Trusting as the moments fly”. In her second set, Lauren Mia Jones sang The Prayer before the congregation joined together again to sing The Power of the Cross.
As the final lines of the song faded away, Morriston Songsters moved into the body of the church to surround the audience as they sang The Christ of Calvary. This is a firm favorite of the brigade as it was written by their songster leader. Moving back into formation, they then sang Midnight Cry, featuring Songster Leader Lear as the soloist. The final item from the songsters was the toe-tapping From the First Hallelujah to the Last Amen.
Prior to the Bible message and thoughts brought by Lt.-Colonel J. P. Ramos, the band turned to music from a Welshman now residing in the United States. The name of Ralph Pearce is synonymous with music-making in the Salvation Army in Wales. The words “Fairest Lord Jesus, lord of the nations” were the basis for his arrangement of the tune Ascalon.
With the evening almost over, the congregation was given one last opportunity to join together in song. As they sang “I’ll go in the strength of the Lord”, the flags were returned to their bearers and marched back down the church. The night concluded with the band playing Norman Bearcroft’s march Coleg Y Fro, better known by its English name, Land of Song.
Morriston Citadel Songsters web site, photos from Morriston Citadel Songsters Facebook group