Gloucester Christmas Celebration Weekend

The Salvation Army Gloucester Corps had a busy weekend of Christmas celebrations 2 – 4 December 2005, with concerts for charities and a performance at the Westonbirt Arboretum.

Friday, 2 December, Cloud 9 Reunion Carol Service

The corps presented its annual Carol Service on 2 December 2005. This year, the service was billed as the Cloud 9 Reunion Carol Service. Cloud 9 is a local charity whose purpose is to give critically ill and disabled children from Gloucestershire a memorable holiday. The children helped by the organization are sent to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

As usual for the annual carol service, the hall was filled. Compére duties for the evening were performed by the Gloucester activ8 Puppet Crew. Musical support was supplied by the Gloucester Salvation Army Band and Songsters. The evening began with “The Night Before Christmas” read by Jon Bishop. Bishop also led live version of the Nativity scene, with children in costume and with the audience providing sound effects at various points in the story. The children also helped out the band by playing various percussion instruments.

Following the Cloud 9 service, a brass ensemble provided accompaniment for carol singing at the local Rotary Club dinner.

Saturday, 3 December, Westonbirt Arboretum

The Gloucester Salvation Army Band (Bandmaster Clifford Matthews), Adonai worship group and activ8 Puppet Crew performed at the Westonbirt Arboretum on Saturday, 3 December 2005. The audience was comprised of visitors who had come to see the arboretum’s “Twelve Days of Christmas” light display.

The band opened the festivities with Erik Leidzén’s march Christmas Joy. Other items from the band included Calypso Carol, Silent Night and Hark, the Herald Angels Sing. Adonai contributed with singing and Christian witness among the spectators. The Puppet Crew presented the message “People Need the Lord”, as an expression of the true meaning of the Christmas season. The performance ended with Away in a Manger, with listeners invited to join the band on the stage.

Sunday, 4 December, Rotary Club Charity Concert

On Sunday, 4 December 2005, the Gloucester Salvation Army Band joined with special guests Kate and David Bennett at the Salvation Army Hall in Eastgate Street for the Annual Rotary Club Christmas Concert. This year’s concert was in support of the Acorn Children’s Hospice, designated by Rotary President Howard Johnson as the charity of the year for the club. For the eighth year running, the concert benefited the Rotarian’s chosen charity, this year raising £700. The capacity crowd included the Mayor and Mayoress of Gloucester, the Sheriff, and the Deputy Mayor.

Bandmaster Clifford Matthews chose to begin the festival with an arrangement of the anthem “For Unto Us a Child Is Born” from Handel’s Messiah. The audience got a chance to contribute, singing the Advent carol “Hills of the North, Rejoice”. The Bennetts then took the stage, beginning with O Happy We from Leonard Bernstein’s Candide, followed by Kate singing Puccini’s O Mio Babbino Caro and David offering an aria from The Merry Widow. All of these items were ably accompanied by Bandmaster Matthews. The first half of the concert ended with the Gloucester Songsters (Songster Leader Philip Webb, who sang two songs. An appeal for the Hospice was given by Lucy Howells.

The band returned from the intermission with an item featuring Jewish and Eastern European influences, Chassidic Dance (Howard Evans). Major Paul Doust then offered a Christmas message which linked the old adage “From little acorns large oak trees grow” with the work of the Hospice. His remarks were followed by two more items from the Gloucester Songsters, Shine On us and an exuberant rendition of The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy.

Rotary Club President Howard Johnson celebrated his sixtieth birthday the week before the event, and he was somewhat surprised when the audience sang Hapy Birthday. A noted baritone singer, the president joined with the Barretts to sing Never Go to the Law from the opera Die Flëderma¨s. The guest soloists each sang another individual item, and then concluded their portion of the concert with an outstanding performance of O Holy Night, again accompanied by Bandmaster Matthews. The band sent the audience home with the final number, The Carollers (Richard E. Holz).

Gloucester Corps web site