This weekend marks a milestone in the history of the local Salvation Army, as the church celebrates a century of ministry in Red Deer. Mayor Morris Flewwelling recently signed a proclamation proclaiming Oct. 8 – 14th as Salvation Army Red Deer Centennial Celebration Week as well.
Part of the events lined up include a performance on Oct. 13 by the Canadian Staff Band in Concert at the Memorial Centre, starting at 7 p.m.
Music has always been an integral part of the Salvation Army’s ministry, with the brass band beginning to appear in England in the early 19th century, according to Major Kevin Metcalf, the band’s executive officer.
During the middle ages, church music had been left in the hands of the professionals. But during the later era of English evangelists John and Charles Wesley, there was a shift to bringing music to the common people, and having them take a bigger part in it.
Salvation Army founder William Booth also knew the importance of music, and how it could be a tool in evangelism. The Salvation Army was born in England in 1878, and Booth was supported in the early days by the Fry family. Fred Fry, along with his sons, served as an informal bodyguard for Booth. Fry and his sons also happened to play brass instruments – and soon they were providing musical support for Booth as well, explained Metcalf.
Bands have been a feature of Salvation Army congregational life ever since.
“William Booth had a love for music, so it’s always been a part of who we are,” said Metcalf, who himself has been a part of the staff band for about 20 years.
Most Salvation Army bands are attached to a Salvation Army congregation. A ‘staff band’ is attached to a national headquarters (rather than to a congregation).
The Canadian Staff Band was established in the late 1800s (after the Salvation Army began its work in Canada in 1882).
Tragedy struck on May 29, 1914 when the group was on its way to London, England on the Empress of Ireland for an international congress. A collision caused the ship to sink in 14 minutes on the Saint Lawrence River with the loss of 1,012 lives.
Among the dead on the Empress of Ireland were about 150-plus members of the Salvation Army in Canada, including the entire leadership contingent and all but 12 of the Canadian Staff Band. The impact on the Army was enormous – the staff band was laid aside for decades, eventually being re-established in 1969. “That is reflective of how significant the loss really was.”
According to James Croall in his book 14 Minutes, 17 Salvationists were buried in Toronto. “Over 1,600 people walked in the funeral procession. An estimated 150,000 lined the route.”
In London, the convention they were meant to be at went ahead.
“There, the men and women of the Salvation Army from all over the world remembered their fellow soldiers. Every seat in the Albert Hall was filled, save for 148 chairs that stood empty, one for every Salvationist who had died. Across them was thrown the white mourning badge of the Corps.”
Today, the band is made up of 31 men and women who give their time to this volunteer project. The band also sees their mission as more than performing – it’s about pointing people to the Gospel message, he added.
“We hope it will bring some awareness of what the Salvation Army is doing in Red Deer, and that the church will be encouraged in Red Deer as well.”
Tickets for the band concert are $20 and can be purchased at the Black Knight Inn ticket office, by calling 1-800-661-8793 or online at www.bkticketcentre.ca.