Concert Closes OOB Camp Meetings

by Robert Mitchell

The Canadian Staff Songsters (CSS) and the New York Staff Band (NYSB) closed the 2023 OOB Camp Meetings in the Pavilion on Tuesday with a concert that received a standing–ovation.

The CSS made its first appearance at the camp meetings this year under the leadership of Major Len Ballantine. The NYSB, led by Bandmaster Derek Lance, is no stranger to OOB and usually ministers there every year.

Both groups alternated performances and provided a variety of crowd–pleasing music that glorified God.

“You may have thought you came to a concert tonight, but I’m here to tell you we’re here to worship the God who is worthy of our praise,” said Lt. Colonel Kathleen Steele, the territorial program secretary, and executive officer of the NYSB, before the opening prayer.

The CSS started this set with “Let There be Praise” and then “Joyful, Joyful” which was then followed up by the congregational song, “Amazing Love.”

Lance said, “whether you’re leading a band, or playing in a band, there’s nothing better than playing a congregational song and having people sing back to you, just like that!”

The piece “Prayers and Tribulations” piece was inspired by the COVID-19 Pandemic and includes the Chorus, “In Thee, O Lord.”

“I would pray that, as you listen tonight, you would find comfort. Regardless of your present situation or circumstance, or any of your trials, know that there is a God who deeply cares for you and who deeply loves you,” he said.

Before the CSS performed “O Love,” Ballantine offered a short devotional. He read Ephesians 3:14–19, a passage that quotes Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians where he asks that they might grasp “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of God.”

“The prayer of Paul for the Ephesians … is our prayer for each other … that we would know that love and understand the depth of it and live within it,” he said.

Ballantine also explained how Elaine Hagenburg’s “O Love” was inspired by the 19th  century Scottish minister George Mathewson, who penned “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go.” He went blind at 17, lost his fiancée, and penned the lyrics the day his sister, who was also his caregiver, married.

It was a special concert for CSS members David and Beverly Ivany, retired officers who marked their 47th  wedding anniversary the day before. They perform in the group with their daughter, Rochelle.

In an interview before the concert, the couple was looking forward to ministering in song.

“It’s just wonderful to share the love of God with everyone,” Beverly said. David added, “There’s nowhere else in the world I would rather be than right here.”

The event closed as Lt. Colonel John Murray, the CSS’s executive officer, presented plaques to Commissioners William A. and G. Lorraine Bamford, territorial leaders, and Bandmaster Derek Lance to mark the occasion.

Brad McCurtain, who has served on the advisory board of the Portland, Maine, Corps since 1979, was among those in the audience who was blessed by the performances.

“I’ve been coming to the camp meetings for 20 years,” he said. “I feel very close to God when I’m here.”

McCurtain said he especially likes to look at the wooden cross at the top of the sanctuary as he enjoys the activities on stage.

“I marvel at this facility,” he said. “It’s so moving. This is God’s work. It’s beautiful.”

The 2024 OOB Camp Meetings are scheduled for July 27–30.