An Active Army

Timbrel

When Major Victoria Edmonds was 16 years old, a school assignment required her and every student to be graded on a performance. Victoria decided to put on a timbrel show for the class.

Since Victoria was nine years old, she had participated in such performances. After watching a timbrel group minister at a Sunday service, she immediately wanted to learn more about the tambourine—a small, round musical instrument that has been part of the Salvation Army’s tradition since its earliest days.

Along with Carol, the daughter of a corps officer at the Army’s Harrisburg (Citadel) Pa., Corps, Victoria took one of their familiar drills and put it to music for her class. “The students and teachers said they had never seen anything like that before,” remembers Edmonds. 

As an officer, Major Edmonds has traveled internationally to see timbrel brigades accompany Salvation Army bands and choruses during Sunday services. “In places like Africa, Australia, and South America, timbrels have been part of their cultures for centuries,” says Edmonds. “It’s a tool of praise, as it was in the Bible, not just for performances.”

At the Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Camden, N.J., where Edmonds teaches timbrel classes, she laments that some young people don’t see timbrels as real musical instruments, or learn how to play them as they would a guitar or drums.

“To me, a timbrel is an instrument, just as a flugelhorn or a set of drums are instruments. Timbrels and drums are both members of the percussion family. Their drills are very similar.”

Like anything one does or practices, says Edmonds, it should always be done unto the Lord. To her, even creating a music lesson plan is an act of worship in God’s name.

“When I write a new timbrel drill, I will sit and review it for hours. I want it to coordinate and flow to the beat of the music. That precision is another way of giving glory to God.”

As a child, Victoria was inspired by seeing an older generation play the timbrel. Today at the Camden Kroc Center, the roles are reversed; it’s the children introducing the timbrel to adults.

“Adult women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s were watching the young soldiers play at the Kroc, and they asked to be taught the timbrel too,” says Edmonds. “Seeing these women, most of whom have not played an instrument before, will encourage others to try something that they may have never thought they could do.”

The next step for the adult women timbrel group, says Edmonds, is to raise money to make their own timbrels. Just as some guitar players have their instrument fitted to them, the group wants their instruments fitted for their hands.

“It gives these women a sense of pride to have their own timbrel that they can carry with them,” says Edmonds.

She says the timbrel, which the Salvation Army continues to use for worship and performance, can also serve as a powerful recruitment tool.

“I would love to see a community timbrel group in a place like the Camden Kroc. They could all learn the same drill, so on Sundays, they could all perform as one,” says Edmonds.

“No matter if it’s men, women, younger folks or older—a group that plays the timbrel well together is one good–looking group.”

by Hugo Bravo

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