International Happiness and Harmony in Aldershot

On Friday, 8 November 2013, the Solent Fellowship Band (Bandmaster John Bird) visited Aldershot, home of the British Army and home to a vibrant expression of the Salvation Army.

The vocal duet of sisters Miriam and Beauty Banana, originally from Zimbabwe, was a delightful inclusion in the band’s program. With the authentic timbre of the African voice, classical rhythms of central African percussion on tambourines, and in the vibrancy and sheer happiness of singing, they reminded everyone that there is a vibrant Salvation Army extending far beyond the shores of the United Kingdom. They also represented the many Salvationists in a multi-ethnic society who contribute in different and exciting ways. Perhaps uniquely in the UK, the Aldershot Corps has a 29-strong choir of African Salvationists.

On the small platform, the squeezed-in band could well be called “tight-knit”. However, this only served to emphasize the cohesiveness of the performance and the homogeneity of the band’s sound.

The program included two marches, South Coast (Martyn Thomas) and Bognor Regis (Leslie Condon). The band also played two devotional selections, Constant Trust (Eric Ball) and In Quiet Pastures (Ray Steadman-Allen).

As usual, the concert featured several soloists from the band. Dan Redhead (euphonium) played My Love Is Like a Red, Red Rose (Kenneth Downie) and Callam Carter (tenor horn) offered the Rondo from Mozart’s fourth horn concerto. Assistant Conductor David Samuels (piano) accompanied Adrian Griffiths as he sang He Took My Place. Samuels also conducted the band in Quem Pastores (arr. Geoffrey Nobes) and Greensleeves (arr. Gordon Langford).

Evelyn Glennie’s A Little Prayer provided a gentle contrast to the opening march. The band played, as a benediction, the second movement of The Pilgrim Way (Eric Ball), associated with the words, “God be in my head, and in my understanding”.

Lighter items included Praise Party (Steven Ponsford) and Philip Catelinet’s charming variations A Sunbeam, depicting the life of a child from gentle awakenings to a tumultuous bedtime. One Aldershot lady in the audience recalled that she sang this song, as a three-year-old, in the corps hall a rather long time ago.

The trombone section was featured in From that Sacred Hill (Dick Krommenhoek) and showed their vocal talents with When Jesus Looked o’er Galilee (Catherine Baird/Ernest Fewster). The evening was rounded off with the Finale from Rossini’s William Tell Overture, drawing prolonged applause and cheers from an appreciative audience.

As always, great congregational singing was featured in the program, with “O Happy Day” and “How Great Thou Art”. The audience also joined the band in the chorus used in Bognor Regis, “Life is a song when you walk with Jesus”, which was repeated by popular demand.

The opening prayer was offered by Band Sergeant Derek Smith and a Scripture reading and homily given by Trevor Dawson. Furthering its policy of ensuring that the message of the songs used in the music is accessible, the band provided a written program setting out the poetry of the words.

As was evident in their response, the audience enjoyed the evening, which was ably compèred by Bandmaster Bird. The band, as always, enjoyed the collective privilege and experience of traditional Salvation Army music-making, with the evening enhanced by the wonderful contributions from Miriam and Beauty.

Solent Fellowship Band web site