Echuca 120th

The Salvation Army in Echuca celebrated its 120th anniversary on the weekend of 3 – 4 March 2007, the occasion being marked by a visit from the Melbourne Staff Band (Bandmaster Ken Waterworth). Three hours from Melbourne by coach, Echuca is a pleasant country town on the banks of the Murray River.

The Saturday night festival proved to be the Staff Band's first interstate performance of the season, as the venue was the Moama Soundshell across the river in the town of Moama, New South Wales. Situated right on the bank of the Murray, the Moama Soundshell was not entirely unfamiliar to the Staff Band, as the week before they had performed on the stage of the Sidney Myer Music Bowl.

Despite threatening weather, after a day of stifling heat, the band began its program with Praise Tribute (Kenneth Downie). Newly appointed Executive Officer Major Len Turner introduced the band and the next item, Handel's Allegro Deciso. The euphonium duet Brillante was presented by Jamie Smith and Mark Hamilton. Based on “Rule Brittania”, the duet was somewhat appropriately accompanied by an increase of clouds looking as if they were about to deliver some typical English weather.

New concert elements are familiar in Melbourne Staff Band performances, but on this evening the light show was provided by nature. As the band began Leonard Ballantine's new arrangement of Wade in the Water, the rains began. Pavane (Fauré, arr. Norbury), the next number, was punctuated by numerous rolls of thunder (in some measure making up for the absence of Darren Waterworth, whose string of consecutive Staff Band concert performances was broken by a back injury).

The major work of the evening was Kenneth Downie's King of Heaven. As different sections of the band were featured in this challenging work, flashes of lightning lit the sky. However, the weather did not worsen to the point of endangering the audience, and the Staff Band was able to continue the performance. Other items included Righteousness, Peace and Joy, Cavalleira Rusticana (featuring Jason Stewart), Shepherds Hey, and the William Tell Overture. The concert was concluded with Erik Leidzén's classic march Manhattan.

The weather was somewhat more pleasant on Sunday, when the Staff Band split into two contingents, one group staying in Echuca and the other traveling to nearby Rochester. These groups conducted identical worship services at their destinations. Major Turner led the service in Echuca and Captain Jeanette Sheppard handled the Rochester assignment. The description of the morning service below is from Echuca.

The Staff Band opened the service with David Catherwood's arrangement of My Jesus I Love Thee. Following words of welcome from the local corps officer, Major Turner led a call to worship which included three contemporary gospel songs: “Ancient of Days”, “Praise My Soul”, and “Above All.” Al Straughan, principal baritone, gave a children's story, followed by the Staff Band's presentation of Jesus Is All I Need. The Echuca Corps traditionally observes a break in the service, when coffee and tea are served and opportunity is given for both visitors and congregation regulars to get to know each other.

Be Thou My Vision, played by the band, brought the meeting back to order. Gail Van Gaalen gave a testimony; and Clinton Fisk read Scripture. The message of the morning was brought by Major Turner, and following a congregational song the meeting was brought to a close with Dr. Harold Burgmayer's arrangement of Hyfrydol.

Following a shared lunch with the Echuca soldiers, the Rochester contingent arrived and the reunited Staff Band went to the Main Street for a march and short open air. Stepping off from outside the famous Beechworth Bakery (with a bit of competition from a local harmonica specialist entertaining the bakery patrons), the band marched down to the Hopwood Gardens for a brief open-air meeting.

After finishing at Hopwood Gardens, the action moved to St. Mary's Church, for an afternoon ecumenical service, Songs of Praise. Congregational songs were plentiful in this service, including “Majesty”, “Praise My Soul”, “Be Thou My Vision”, and “Shine, Jesus, Shine.” Items from the Staff Band included the bolero I Have Decided to Follow Jesus (William Himes), the cornet solo Swedish Hymn (performed by Neil Roper), the trombone feature My Shepherd (Brenton Broadstock), Worthy Is the Lamb (Roger Trigg), Kerygma (Steven Ponsford), and the march Harlesden.

Melbourne Staff Band web site