It’ sometimes said that big things come in small packages, and that can be said of the the band of the Salvation Army’s West End Community Church in Bermuda. After a busy 2013 – 2014 season, which saw the band travel to Fort Frances, Ontario, Canada as guests for their Centennial Celebrations, the present season has been busy as well. The band is under the direction of Bandmaster Jerome Astwood.
October 2014 – New Instruments
In October 2014, the band received a grant from the Music and Gospel Arts Department at the Canada and Bermuda Territorial Headquarters to help support the vision and ministry of the band. This grant allowed the band to purchase a much needed BB♭ tuba and a flügelhorn. The band was most grateful for the support and commitment shown by Majors Curtis and Cindy Butler (West End corps officers) and Major Kevin Metcalf (Territorial Music and Gospel Arts Secretary). The instruments were dedicated and displayed to the congregation during a Sunday worship service in October. The whole corps gave thanks to God for this truly wonderful gift.
Throughout the whole Christmas period, the band shared in ministry both at the corps and within the community. They played at Christmas programs, shopping malls, hotels, senior homes – all with the same message, that Jesus IS the reason for the season. The West End musicians were also privileged to share in community caroling with the the Cedar Hill Citadel Band (Bandmaster Warren Jones). It was heart-warming to have folk sing along, smiling at the sound of the band and the music played. Christmas is always a highlight of the season and was a fitting closure to 2014.
Gospel Arts Weekend – Saturday, 28 March 2015
During the weekend of 28 – 29 March 2015, the West End Community Church held its annual Gospel Arts Weekend. On Saturday night was the Gospel Arts Concert – Lord of All – at the corps hall on Cambridge Road. The weather, as well as the atmosphere, was good. The event was also live-streamed and had over 40 viewers. As the crowd entered, they were met with a multimedia presentation showing pictures of past Gospel Arts events at the corps, a very contemplative moment.
This year, the guest band was the Cedar Hill Citadel Band (Bandmaster Warren Jone) and the guest conductor was Bandmaster (retired) Calvin Ming, Jr. of North Street Citadel. Compères for the evening were Bermuda Divisional Commanders Majors Frank and Rita Pittman. The joint bands kicked off the night with Lord of All (Martin Cordner), setting the tone and spirit of the evening. After introductions and an opening prayer by Major Cindy Butler, one of the corps teenagers, Lyric Fubler, shared some wonderful words in a spiritual poem, uplifting and praising God.
Under the direction of Bandmaster Ming, the band played a song setting by young composer Fred Mbesi, Peacemaker. This was the piece’s inaugural performance and it was well-received by all. The work features the Greg Ferguson song “Peacemaker” with hints of Eric Ball’s timeless tune “Peace in our time, O Lord”. Next up was the North Street Citadel Singing Company, under the direction of Carol McDowall. They sang two items and dazzled the crowd with their solos and bold appearance. It was inspiring to see children sing their hearts out to God.
The band then shared a time of reflection and tribute to former band member and corps officer Major Mark Cummings. Major Cummings was recently promoted to Glory. During his ministry in Bermuda in the 1990s, he rejuvenated the banding ministry at the West End Corps. During this section, the band played the classic song arrangement Jesus Himself Drew Near (George Marshall).
One of the featured items of the night was not a dance, nor a brass band piece, nor a song. A gifted soloist named David Bean performed on a unique instrument. Bean plays the leaf – a “cherry leaf”, to be exact. As he played As the Deer, the crowd was left in awe by his performance and his testimony of living out “Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord!”
At the midway point, Bandsman Sheldon Fox II of North Street Citadel sat at the piano and led the congregation in the recent gospel anthem Hear My Cry, O Lord with full rhythm and brass accompaniment. After another moving poem by Lyric Fubler, Major Curtis Butler, Sheldon Fox and Monique Christopher shared a devotional drama based around “Letting Go!” Even with its humour and drama, the message of trusting and having faith in God came through clearly.
Next was the band’s second world premiere of the night, Dr. Dorothy Gates’ arrangement Whatever It May Cost. Written at the request of Bandmaster Astwood in 2014, the words of the song underlying the piece are quite tragic in nature, speaking of darkness, fear and failure. This arrangement transforms the original melody into a darker, more contemplative setting. Everyone faces crosses in their lives – it is not a question of if they come, it a question of when they come. But facing theses crosses with our Lord we have the strength to say, “I’ll not turn back, whatever it may cost”. During the offering of this piece a multimedia presentation was shown to help the audience visualize the music.
After a time of thanks and presentations, the band accompanied Bandmaster Jones as he played the lyrical euphonium solo Abide with Me (Martin Cordner). The soloist and the band did a fine job, shown by a large round of applause. To close out the concert, Bandmaster Ming led the band through Lord, I Lift Your Name on High (arr. Paul Curnow). With its African rhythms and idioms, the band played this with a sense of excitement, rounding out a most glorious evening of celebrating God, Lord of All.
Gospel Arts Weekend – Sunday, 29 March 2015
Gospel Arts Sunday was just as moving as the evening before. Everyone seemed on a spiritual high and was thankful for the gifts God has given to them. To start the service in an attitude of worship, the band played a prelude of hymn tunes and selections from the Scripture-Based Songs series. Throughout the service, the theme Lord of All was exemplified – in word, song and deed. Vecal Astwood sang a wonderful rendition of the CeCe Winans song He’s Concerned About You and Bandmaster Ming read Scripture.
The band played two offertory selections, As We Are Gathered (Trevor Worthington) and the march Jubilant Day (Harold Burgmayer). During the march, the band was led by an “up and coming” conductor, 3-year-old Jaaziah Astwood. The band had a full workout uner his baton! Next, Bandmaster Astwood and Band Secretary Shonette Wilson presented a check for $250.00 to Major Cindy Butler and Ralph “Buddy” Hollis for Partners in Mission 2015. The Lord has blessed the band tremendously and the members wanted to give back to their partners in the Lord’s work.
Major Frank Pittman brought the Word and challenged all to allow themselves to be living sacrifices, to be used by God. To conclude the service, Major Rita Pittman led the congregation in singing, with band accompaniment, I’ll Not Turn Back. A most fitting song of declaration and commitment to round off another Gospel Arts Weekend at the corps.
Holy Week 2015
The week following the Gospel Arts Weekend was Holy Week and the band was on duty once again to help spread the Gospel of Christ. On Tuesday night, they ministered at the Divisional Holy Week Service at the West End corps. On Good Friday, at 8:00 AM, the band shared with the West End Ministerial Alliance at an open-air service at the Somerset Cricket Club. This was open to the community and there was a very good representation from many of the churches in the western end of the island. Major Curtis Butler spoke, along with seven other pastors, on the sayings of Christ. It was a beautiful, Bermuda-ful morning in His presence and light. The band provided accompaniment for hymn singing and prelude and postlude music. The theme selection for Holy Week was James Curnow’s rousing At Calvary, which the band played on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.
All in all, this season was quite busy for the West End Community Church Band, but they are grateful for Christ’s sacrifice and gifts. The ability to assist in worship, proclaim Christ and make a joyful noise unto the Lord is a most precious and powerful opportunity. Even though the band is very diverse in ages, ability and background, God uses them as a vehicle to share His love and message others.
Report submitted by Bandmaster Jerome Astwood