The New York Staff Band (NYSB) recent 5-day tour of the United Kingdom can only be described as an unqualified success, remarkably so. Traditional British reserve was put aside with 5 successive and prolonged standing ovations, from corps congregations to more studious brass aficionados.
In cooperation with the UK and Ireland Territory (UKT) music department the strategy was to hold each festival in a Salvation Army corps building, not a more specialized concert venue or large church. This was the first such venture for the NYSB and UKT post-pandemic restrictions, and the idea was to pack the army buildings with people again. It worked. Each ticket-only event was sold-out in the first week of ticket sales.
NYSB Bandmaster Derek Lance and team prepared a challenging and creative play list, embodied by Prayers and Tribulations (composed as an artistic response to the scourge of the global pandemic) and Creation (a 50 minute simultaneously grand and playful rendition of the Genesis creation account). Here were the centerpieces of the first and second half of the program respectively, both specifically written for the NYSB, both substantive, both genre pushing. The contrast worked, with Creation reliably concluding the festival triumphantly with a spirit of energetic congregational participation and worship.
From Sale in the northwest, to Birmingham in the midlands, Norwich in East Anglia, and then down to central London and the fabled Regent Hall for a joint concert with the International Staff Band (ISB), then concluding with the ISB and the International Staff Songster (ISS) in the historic William Booth College, with music leaders and musicians from across the UK, this was a short, punchy tour for the history books.
Both public and written communications repeatedly referenced the NYSB contribution and presence as ‘a breath of fresh air’ and ‘just what we needed,’ maybe reflecting some release from the ardor of the pandemic lockdowns. Major Tracey Bale, Norwich corps officer, wrote simply: ‘The band didn’t just display their musical talents but their deep love of God and the desire to share that love through their music.’
The NYSB is a USA East gem, with musicians that work very hard in practice, performance, personal and family sacrifice. The expected standard of excellence is one we could well emulate in so many of our other endeavors.
Thank you NYSB, you can be counted on to always ‘sound a clear call’ and get us ‘ready for battle.’ (I Cor 14:8)