For over 60 years, the Belgrave Heights Easter Convention has brought Melbourne’s Christians together for worship and Bible teaching. For the 2013 Convention, the Melbourne Staff Band (Bandmaster Ken Waterworth) participated in the Easter Sunday afternoon and evening sessions and also presented a short concert.
From Good Friday through Easter Monday, with three services each day, seminars and late-night youth events, the Easter Convention is a time to receive many spiritual blessings and enjoy rich fellowship. Many who attend pitch a tent or bring their caravan to enjoy the idyllic Dandenong Ranges where the convention site is located.
The Staff Band’s executive officer, Lt.-Colonel Ian Hamilton, has been a member of the Belgrave Heights organizing committee for a number of years. It was at his suggestion that the committee invited the Staff Band to participate in the convention.
The Staff Band’s prelude to the afternoon session included two items by William Himes, Amazing Grace and Soli Deo Gloria. The auditorium was literally packed to the rafters, with close to 1,800 people in attendance. After a welcome by Lt.-Col. Hamilton, the Staff Band, with Craig Downes and Rebecca Raymond leading the singing, accompanied the congregation in the song Crown Him with Many Crowns, using the classic “Royal Albert Hall” arrangement by Charles Skinner. Ministry items during the service included Guardian of My Soul (Darren Shaw) and a vocal solo, New Jerusalem, sung by Rebecca Raymond.
Prior to the message, the Staff Band accompanied the contemporary hymn, Here Am I Lord. There was no chance that the music would overpower the congregations, as they sang both the great hymns of the church and newer hymns with great gusto. It was quite a powerful experience to hear such singing, praising and worship of our mighty God.
Reverend David Cook, recently retired Principal of the Sydney Missionary and Bible College, was the preacher in both sessions. His text was Romans 8, bringing alive many of the well-known verses throughout the chapter and challenging the listeners to continue to strive for spiritual maturity.
Before the evening session, the Staff Band presented a short concert, commencing with Christ the Lord (Marcus Venables) and Temple 125 (Kevin Larsson). Rebecca Raymond sang what many say has become her “signature tune”, Now I Belong to Jesus. Ron Prussing (trombone) “let down his hair” for a very swinging performance of Trombonology (arr. Mark Freeh). One of the most popular performances of the concert was the duet Pie Jesu (Andrew Lloyd Webber), played by Dean Rusling and Scott Downes.
To conclude the short concert, the Staff Band gave Australian premiere performances of Send the Fire (Martin Cordner), which is medley of tunes by Phil Laeger, and Amazed! (Paul Sharman), which is based on the song “I stand amazed in the presence”.
For the prelude to the evening session, the Staff Band played Lift Up Your Voice (Stephen Bulla), a contemporary setting using the familiar tune “St. Francis”, which is associated with the words “All creatures of our God and King, lift up your voice and with us sing, Alleluia!”. Once again, the auditorium was packed for the evening session, which was piloted by Belinda Morden, a member of the Convention organizing committee.
The session commenced with a time of singing, again led by Craig Downes and Rebecca Raymond. Songs included Mighty to Save (Ben Fielding & Reuben Morgan), Give Thanks and Blessed Be the Name of the Lord.
Staff Bandsman Jamie Smith was interviewed by Belinda Morden during the session, and was able to explain the significance of music in The Salvation Army to the non-Salvation Army audience. Smith shared Galatians 2:20 as a Bible verse with personal significance.
The Staff Band’s musical presentations in the evening session included Hail the Risen Lord (Stephen Ponsford), which includes Stuart Townend’s “Resurrection Hymn”, and, by special encore request, Pie Jesu. Rebecca Raymond gave a stirring and emotional rendition of the song They Could Not. With a powerful message, this was certainly a highlight for many.
Reverend Cook gave an engaging message focused on Romans 12:2, reminding the listeners to be transformed by the renewal of their minds and also reminding of the need to care and be concerned for others. The day finished with the great hymn How Great Thou Art, sung with intensity and a sense of awe as the Easter journey and God’s great love was considered.
Melbourne Staff Band web site