On a cold, damp Sunday afternoon (9 December 2007), a crowd assembled in the foyer of Birmingham’s Symphony Hall. As the people slowly made their way into the auditorium, there was a buzz of excitement and anticipation. For many, this was the perfect start to their Christmas festivities, an opportunity to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas, and to celebrate the birth of Jesus. It was also an occasion for meeting friends from near and far, many having made considerable journeys to attend this special “Christmas Celebration”, featuring members of the Birmingham Citadel Corps of the Salvation Army. Special guests for the event included vocal soloist Bobby Irvine and Commissioner Keith Banks.
Previous events in this series have been very successful, there is always considerable demand for seats, and this year was no exception, attracting a near-capacity audience, mainly made up of non-Salvationists.
The opening item left the audience with no doubt as to the reason for the concert – to reflect on and celebrate The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. As on previous occasions, the Birmingham Citadel Timbrels impressed the audience with their well-drilled routine, performed to a medley of Christmas tunes arranged by Philip Harper (musical director of the Polysteel Band). The Primary children “stole the show” with an unusual look at the Christmas story, written by Commissioner Banks. Guest vocalist Bobby Irvine used his rich sound and clear diction to communicate both the message of Christmas and his own personal faith and experience.
The Citadel musical sections presented a well-prepared range of Christmas music. Of particular note was a composition by Gordon Lamplough, Venite Adoremus Dominum (O Come Let Us Adore Him, Christ the Lord), played by the Birmingham Citadel Band as their major work for the afternoon.
At events such as this one the contribution of the accompanists is often overlooked. Fulfilling this role requires a partucular expertise and sensitivity. Both were in evidence throughout the concert and served to enhance the contributions by the soloists, vocal groups and audience.
Despite recent media reports of school nativity plays and other Christmas occasions being reduced to purely secular events, this was certainly not the case at Symphony Hall. The message throughout was loud and clear. Commissioner Banks left the audience with a simple, but clear, message that “He is alive. Christ is alive.” Unsolicited comments after the celebration ended included “The best yet”, “Wasn’t that wonderful?”, “We must order our tickets for next year”, “What a beautiful voice he had”, “The young children were marvelous”, “Those timbrels should be appearing on the Royal Variety Performance.”
An occasion such as this always attracts many people who rarely attend a place of worship. For some it is their only encounter with the Christmas message, for others, it is a family occasion or an opportunity to meet with friends. Whatever their motivation, members of the audience were sure to have experience the true spirit of Christmas and to have been reminded of the love of Christ for each one of us.
Birmingham Citadel web site, original report by David Bartle