Palm Sunday Weekend in Stockton

With the last throes of a long winter depositing a significant amount of snow over the Midlands and the Pennines, and at least one other well-known band cancelling a cross-country trip to a concert, the International Staff Band (Bandmaster Dr. Stephen Cobb) might have been forgiven for expecting that their weekend visit to Stockton would be beset with difficulty from the outset. However, the band made their way “up north”, with the coach leaving Territorial Headquarters on time (more or less) and everyone managing to get to their appointed pick-up point. The mood brightened further when it was discovered that the snow had stopped 20 minutes south of Stockton.

WHile there was no snow in Stockton, it was very cold. However, a hot meal set the Staff Band up nicely for the evening program in the impressive Stockton Baptist Tabernacle, where an almost capacity crowd heard the ISB in fine form. The concert included the band’s first performance of Paul Sharman’s Quest, written for the 2012 Territorial Youth Band course. The second half of the program was lighter, ending with Fire in the Blood (Paul Lovatt-Cooper), which continues to excite audiences across the UK Territory.

For Sunday morning worship, the Staff Band’s executive officer, Major Noel Wright, continued his theme of “Commending Christ” – particularly appropriate on Palm Sunday. A further program of music on Sunday afternoon featured a number of items from the 1970s, which the band had recorded just a couple of weeks previously for the fifth volume of the Heritage Series.

The band’s memory of the weekend is the warmth of the spirit of the Stockton Corps and its people, displayed not just in the welcome extended to the band, but also in every act of kindness throughout the weekend. During the Sunday afternoon program, it was mentioned that the following week – Easter weekend – the Corps would be holding an open-air in the the town center for “30 minutes or until we are moved on”. Evidently, the local authorities had stated that it did not want their presence on the streets. It seems certain that the warmth and kindness of the Corps would shine through in the face of such obstacles, and if the Staff Band’s music was any encouragement to the Corps, then in that respect alone the visit was worthwhile.

It might be easy to disparage weekend visits such as this one, consigning their relevance to a former age. Far from it – ministry through music can be as effective as it has ever been if it remains relevant to the present day. The ISB’s ministry remains one of encouragement and inspiration, and it is believed that God will honor their music, and the message contained therein, if it is offered as a heartfelt response to His love for us.

International Staff Band, original report by Richard Woodrow