On 29 – 30 March 2014, the West End Corps (West End Community Church) of the Bermuda Division held its annual Gospel Arts Weekend. This was the 21st annual weekend and the theme this year was “Practical Praise”.
On Saturday night, a wonderful spring night for worship to the Lord, a concert was held at the corps. The guest compère for the evening was former West End corps officer Major Wendy Broome, now serving as corps officer of St. George’s Corps. The guest conductor for the weekend was Bandsman Sheldon Fox II of the North Street (Hamilton) Citadel Corps.
After a prelude of a medley of choruses presented by Fox and the West End worship team, the West End band (Bandmaster Jerome Astwood) started the concert with the festival march Maidenhead 125 (Andrew Mackereth). This newly-published work features the songs “I want to sing it” and “In Christ Alone”. Major Cindy Butler, West End corps officer, prayed, after which the Cedar Hill Citadel Christian Sisters sang two numbers, including Lord, You Are Worthy.
11-year-old Jahmir Celestine was up next, impressing the crowd by “signing” to Tamala Mann’s gospel anthem Break Every Chain. The was Celestine’s first solo performance and she did well. The presentation was very powerful and practical. The band then presented the horn solo Christ the Lord Is Risen Today (James Anderson), featuring Tamiko Ramabuke as soloist. The solo was played with much vigor and control. Other contributions from the band included Rescue Me! (Paul Sharman) and Variation II from Hanover Variations (Martin Cordner).
Midway through the concert, Sheldon Fox II led those in attendance into the inner temple was he shared his worshipful piano interpretations. This was followed by a tribute to the late Bandmaster Erik Silfverberg as Dennis Astwood and the band presented the cornet solo People Need the Lord.
West End corps officer Major Curtis Butler and the Cross Zone Team brought forth a drama reminding that praise of God can be practical and effective. After this, the West End Corps Blacklight Mime Ministry presented a powerful and evoking item to the music of the song Who Am I.
The band then played one of Erik Silfverberg’s last published pieces, Precious Lord, Take My Hand. Bandmaster Silfverberg’s will be greatly missed in the Salvation Army Band Journals – what a practical and productive composer and arranger he was. After a closing prayer and benediction, the band concluded the evening of praise with Deep Harmony (arr. Morgan Juel Stavik). What a night it was, an evening of true Practical Praise through expressions of the gospel arts.
The Sunday worship service was a continuation of the Saturday night festival. The band was in fine form and led the service along with other corps gospel arts members. The worship team led a great time of singing and praise. Several members of the band were called upon to pray for Children and Youth, the Gospel Arts and Our Partners in Mission. This was followed by a video presentation of one of the partnering countries, Liberia. It was good to see and allow God to focus attention on those in need and brethren overseas.
During the tithes and offering, Sheldon Fox II led the band in the new arrangement Total Praise (arr. Nick Simmons-Smith). This was enjoyed by both the band and the congregation. Major Curtis Butler presented the Word. After a time of reflection the service concluded with the band playing Fox’s tribute march Fort Frances Centennial, which features the choruses “In the Name of Jesus” and “What a mighty God we serve”. This march was written for the West End band’s trip to Fort Frances, Ontario in April 2013, where they will be guests at that corps’ 100th anniversary celebrations.
Original report submitted by Bandmaster Jerome Astwood