Salvation Army brass band
A Salvation Army brass band is a brass band affiliated with a Corps, Division or Territory of the Salvation Army. In society, a Salvation Army band playing in public places during Christian events in the calendar such as Christmas has become a part of seasonal customs particularly in the UK.
Purpose of Salvation Army bands today
The primary purpose of all Salvation Army bands is to serve as an instrument to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All other activities and functions of the band are only proper when this ultimate goal is observed. The spiritual commitment of all members of the group, from the bandmaster down, must be firm if the band's purpose is to be effectively achieved.
Within the framework of the primary purpose, a brass band can be a powerful evangelistic tool. Music is capable of generating intense emotion and transmitting a message, even without words. The judicious choice of music for a worship service can set the mood and enhance the message, preparing the congregation for the desired experience.
Music is also a means to attract and hold members to the movement. Many individuals were originally introduced to The Salvation Army through the music programs. Others would have strayed from the cause if not for their interest in brass bands. Service provided by musicians often far exceeds just playing an instrument - most band members also serve in other roles in the corps.
The brass band is also an excellent means of drawing attention for fund-raising and publicity. Nothing fills a Christmas kettle faster than a quartet playing on the spot. Participation in public and civic events raises awareness of The Salvation Army and its mission in many communities.
Finally, the brass band provides a source of Christian fellowship for the players. In some cases, the primary purpose of a group is stated as fellowship. Christian fellowship is an important part of worship for many believers, and its quality within the context of working together to produce a pleasing and praising sound can be superior.
The early Salvationists, as today, took their Gospel message to the people in their own environments, largely in the streets and markets of the towns. In 1878 Charles Fry and his three sons formed a brass quartet which played during outdoor meetings in Salisbury and immediately proved to be a success in not only calming the rowdy and sometimes hostile crowds, but helping to promote the Salvationist's message.
The Army's founder, William Booth, came to hear of them, and started to use them in his own campaign, recognising the power of music - even of a secular nature. Indeed, he is said to have remarked, "Why should the Devil have all the good tunes!".
Over time the Fry ensemble was augmented with other instruments, not exclusively brass, and became famous under several names such as "The Hallelujah Minstrels", "The Salisbury Brass Band", and "The Happy Band". The Fry family themselves very soon gave up their family business and joined the Salvation Army full-time.
Other bands appeared across the country to help the promotion of the Salvation Army's work. Two of the earliest were in Consett, County Durham, and Northwich in Cheshire which were formed in 1879 and 1880 respectively. These were the first corps bands. It was not long before the Army fully adopted the use of music in its work, by instructing its officers to obtain and learn any instruments that would "make a pleasing sound". The Salvation Army Headquarters eventually established the International Staff Band, its flagship ensemble, in 1891.
Gradually the bands developed into the same basic format as the traditional amateur brass band and a rich repertoire of music was adapted, arranged and composed for the Salvation Army to use in its work and praise of the Lord. Many of the leading brass band composers and players of the 20th century had roots in or close links with the Salvation Army.
Spread of worldwide brass banding
As The Salvation Army spread to many different countries, brass bands went with them. The Salvation Army is one of the benefactors to the world wide expansion of the brass band.
Influences on secular brass bands
The Salvation Army kept itself apart from the secular brass band world. They did not enter contests or play music other than their own - which had been specifically written or arranged for them. Secular tunes were used, but arranged to reflect the spiritual work they supported. Many of the bands developed into highly competent ensembles equal to or exceeding the proficiency of their secular counterparts - being respected and even envied by those that heard them.
Around the same time that the Salvation Army bands were forming the temperance movement was also using brass bands to promote its message. These, however, were integrated with the other amateur brass bands - and the vestiges of their influence can still be seen in the names of some of the bands today.
Happily the Salvationist movement in recent years has opened up its doors to its colleagues in the secular brass band world. A rich resource of music has been made available for other bands to play and new relationships between the Salvation Army band movement and their counterparts in ordinary life are being made.
Brass bands in the British tradition are limited to cornets, flugelhorns, tenor horns (known as alto horns in U.S.A), baritones, trombones, euphoniums, tubas (known as basses in brass bands), and percussion; but not trumpets or French horns, since they are orchestral and concert band instruments.
With the exception of the bass trombone and percussion, all parts are transposing and written in the treble clef, which means that for every instrument, from the big basses right up to the soprano cornet, the fingering for the written notes is similar. This system, which is unique to UK-style brass bands, ensures most parts can be covered when there is less than a full complement of players
The instrumentation in Salvation Army banding is almost identical to that of secular banding except for a minor difference in the cornet section whereby the repiano is dropped and the remainder of the row is made up of parts designated 1st and 2nd (two players each) rather than 2nd and 3rd; and that some major pieces have a split first trombone part, the lower part usually cued elsewhere in the band.
The corps (church) band, for example Parramatta Citadel Band, is the basic unit of Salvation Army banding. These are the local bands, supporting worship services each Sunday and other special events as needed by the corps. Corps bands range in size from a quartet to 40 or more players. Primarily the bands play from the Salvation Army Tune Book, for some smaller bands the playing of these simple hymn tunes is their primary function, some usually smaller bands are limited to this, however many extend to more complex pieces such as marches. Elite bands of the Salvation Army are comparable to professional level secular competition bands, capable of playing almost anything.
The primary function of a corps band is to support the Sunday worship services of the corps. Unlike a band which is primarily doing concerts, a corps band usually does not develop a standing repertoire. The typical corps band plays one or two pieces each Sunday morning, plus accompaniment for congregational singing. The corps bandmaster must have a ready list of items that can be played without rehearsal, in case key players are missing on a particular week. Corps bands also support a variety of other corps activities, either as a complete unit or in ensembles.
Members of a corps band are usually soldiers of the corps. The corps officer, as the commander of the unit, functions as the executive officer. Except in the larger corps, there are generally holes in the instrumentation
Regional bands are usually sponsored by an area command or a divisional headquarters. Some regional bands are formed because there are no large corps bands in the area. The regional band, drawing on several corps, can complete the instrumentation and play more complex music. Some regional bands serve as elite groups, with the better players in an area in the group. The staff band can be thought of as the extreme case of a regional band. Many youth bands are regional in character.
Regional bands are more concert-oriented than corps bands, although many regional bands serve as duty bands for large meetings and events. Many regional bands rehearse less frequently than once a week, especially those covering a large geographic area. Also, some regional bands operate on a seasonal basis, for example, not operating during the summer months.
Most regional bands have a more formal structure than the typical corps band. Usually, a ranking officer from the sponsoring command serves as executive officer. There is usually an official band board. Board positions such as band sergeant, secretary, quartermaster, and librarian are often filled. Many regional groups have strict admission or audition standards. Membership in a corps band in the region is almost always required.
One of the major reasons why the Salvation Army has had a thriving brass band movement for over 100 years is the youth band and associated music education programs. Beginning at the corps level, many young Salvationists are taught to play and sing, starting sometimes as early as seven years of age. These are normally called young people's bands. A YP band of note is PSA YP, a large ensemble hailing from Sydney, Australia.
Some small regions, known in the Salvation Army as divisions will have a Divisional Youth Band drawn from people aged 13–30 who live within the area covered by the division. One such example is Sydney Youth Band.
Bigger areas are known in the Salvation Army as Territories. The United Kingdom with the Republic of Ireland territory hosts what is known as the Territorial Youth Band (TYB) for people aged 12–18 and is one of the finest examples of youth banding in the world
The youth bands are supplemented in the music education program by singing groups, individual instruction, and summer music camps. The traditional week-long music camp has evolved in some divisions into a four to six week music conservatory, usually still held at a camp but with the same campers for the entire duration.
In recent years, the fellowship band has become an increasingly popular form of Salvation Army ensemble. These groups take a variety of forms, including bands made up mostly of players who have retired from other bands, which is one of the most common. Other groups that might be considered fellowship ensembles are those where non-Salvationists are invited, but the group is still sponsored by the Salvation Army. One such group is Vintage Brass, sponsored by the Long Beach Citadel corps in California. Because most fellowship bands have a less formal structure and less demanding schedule than regular Salvation Army bands, they are sometimes seen as casual or lesser ensembles. However, many fellowship groups are excellent musically and rival some of the top standing ensembles in the quality of their performance. A second fellowship band is the Asbury University Salvation Army Student Fellowship (SASF) Brass Band, located at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky. The band is made up of students from Asbury University, Asbury Theological Seminary and the nearby University of Kentucky. This band, officially chartered by US National Headquarters, has been around for many years, and continues to have a vital part in the Salvation Army's ministry in the Central Kentucky area, and frequently tours throughout the Central, Southern, and Eastern US Territories and Canada.
The staff bands are the top level of Salvation Army banding. A staff band is sponsored by a territorial headquarters. The staff bands were originally made up of staff members from the headquarters. Although most staff bands still have many Salvation Army officer and employee members, non-staff players are more common in the modern staff band. The staff bands are among the most formal Salvation Army groups. Most have long histories, and travel and record on a regular basis.
There are nine staff bands that are generally recognized as major staff bands. The International Staff Band is considered to be the premier band of the Army:
- Amsterdam (Netherlands)
- Canadian (Canada and Bermuda)
- Chicago (USA Central)
- German (Germany)
- Hong Kong (Hong Kong and Macau)
- International (United Kingdom)
- Japan (Japan)
- Melbourne (Australia South)
- New York (USA East)
- Southern Territorial Band (USA South)
The players are, of course, essential to the existence of the band. Salvation Army musicians have some common characteristics. Almost all Salvation Army bands have standards such as those listed below.
- The musician must be a member, in good standing, of a corps. In most cases, the individual must be enrolled as a soldier. Youth bands usually require that members attend a corps regularly and be of the proper age.
- Most bands have some standards of musicianship. For example, a corps band may require that anyone wishing to join the band be able to play selected tunes from the Band Tune Book. Larger bands such as regional groups often have audition and/or invitation policies.
- Salvationist musicians are volunteers. No monetary compensation is given for service in a band. Even composers and arrangers whose work is published in the various Salvation Army music publications are not generally compensated except for nominal amounts.
Some bands will have band reservists who are elderly players that have retired from the band. Reservists may play from time to time if needed.
A band board is a committee that oversees the operations of a band. Most corps bands do not have full, formal boards. The definitions below are generic; each band may have its own variation on the scope and composition of the band board. In larger bands some positions may hold secondary positions for example Deputy Bandmaster or Assistant Secretary.
- Executive Officer
All Salvation Army bands are sponsored by some level of the command structure. The executive officer is the official representative of the sponsoring organization. This person serves as the chairman of the band board. In some cases, the executive officer is not a player in the band.
For a corps band, the corps officer is the de facto executive officer.
The bandmaster is the musical director and conductor of the band. This person has the primary responsibility for selecting music, developing performance programs, and setting the musical standards for the group. In a corps setting, the bandmaster is a senior local officer, with an automatic seat on the corps council. Regional and staff bandmasters are usually appointed by the commander of the sponsoring unit.
- Deputy Bandmaster
The Deputy Bandmaster is the second in command as far as leadership of the group is concerned. If the Bandmaster is away, for whatever reason, the Deputy Bandmaster assumes control of the group. This is also true of situations where the Bandmaster is playing with the group as a soloist, or if the group splits in two, as many larger bands do while on tour. This person is also responsible to help the Bandmaster in any of his own duties.
In a corps setting, the Deputy Bandmaster is also a senior local officer, and is generally a member of the corps council. While not an essential position, many bands have a Deputy Bandmaster.
The duties of the band secretary include recording the minutes and decisions of the band board, communication between the board and the players, and logistical details for engagements. When a band travels, the secretary is responsible for making the transportation and accommodation arrangements. If dues are collected, the secretary handles them unless a treasurer is designated. The band secretary is usually a player.
Salvation Army bands have a spiritual purpose. The band sergeant is the band's chaplain. The sergeant also handles discipline and attendance problems. The band sergeant is usually a player.
The quartermaster is responsible for the band's uniforms and equipment, including any instruments owned by the band. The quartermaster is usually a player.
The band librarian is responsible for the music library, and the distribution of parts to the appropriate players. The librarian is usually a player.
- Callender's Cableworks Band which began as a Salvation Army band in the 1890s, and then transitioned to a temperance band before receiving the patronage of the members' employer, Callender's Cable Works.