Dear Salvation Army – Are Brass Bands Dying A Slow Agonizing Death?

I grew up playing in a brass band.
I was forced (lovingly of course) at the age of 7 to learn how to play a cornet.
I have played in brass bands for most of my life…yet I often find myself asking the same question over and over again – “Is Brass Band music still relevant today?” In a world of pop music, and trendy dubstep dance beats how does the genre of brass banding fare?

praise band
I enjoy playing in the band but if I’m honest I would rather listen to a worship band with guitars and keyboards and drums over another “rousing march”. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m the one who has the problem here. But when I look out into groups of people in corps halls or large gathering places (as I play in the band) I can’t help but notice that although the older people are tapping their feet and occasionally clapping their hands, the younger generations of people aren’t that into it. They just don’t get the attraction of brass banding. Other such evidence of this trend is that fact that the total corps who still have a band in them are dwindling. This could be contributed to possible leadership shifts and band members moving on but generally if you’re not from a major metro area you’re not likely to see a brass band play on Sunday morning during holiness meeting.

Are we seeing the slow agonizing death of brass bands?
What will the Army look like in ten years from now? Will this trend continue?

The Pros to Brass Banding:
-Playing music actually helps with math skills (studies have proven this correlation)
-Education in actually reading music on a music page. Most guitar players in worship
bands only play chords and do not read musical notes. In brass bands they teach
music theory and a band member has to sight read and watch for accidentals, key
signatures and dynamics.
-The comradery and team work. This is a learned process and the band becomes a team
working together. There is fellowship that occurs through such a task of playing

The Cons to Brass Banding
-Music seems outdated to younger generations – they find even a contemporary worship
song seems forced into starchy staccato notes blown through a brass instrument
instead of played by guitar or keyboard like it was intended to be played.
-Less and less students of brass bands are being trained up and if they are learning
an instrument it takes places primarily at music camp or in a metro corps where more
resources including instructors are available to teach them.

I love playing in the brass band…but I am fearful that they won’t be around much any longer as older generations are passing away or unable to play anymore and younger generations are more attracted to modern forms of worship. When The Salvation Army was founded they put together little traveling, mostly unorganized ragtag bands that consisted of guitars, brass instruments and woodwinds (ok maybe even the occasional bagpipes)…they were out making a joyful noise in open air meetings (which by the way we have also lost mostly in our army). Then these bands got organized and modeled themselves after military bands of the day. Later an entire movement called “the big band” era rose up and brass bands were more popular than ever…these were the glory days…but…we aren’t in the glory days of brass banding anymore.

It might become quite a tragedy if we allow these bands to simply pass away…but is it time to let go and move on? I don’t wish to kill a sacred cow here today, as I have said I love playing in the band…but I don’t necessarily enjoy listening to them. Call me crazy. Call me a number of hurtful things because I might have rocked the boat here – sorry about that. But in regards to effective ministry and evangelism – are brass bands cutting it anymore?

I look out into our community and world and see the rise of newer more relevant uses of music and I wonder if we are so steeped in tradition that we can’t see beyond it and into the eyes of people who just don’t get brass banding anymore. I don’t wish to be hurtful and if it works in your community then I am overjoyed and happy, but by and large are we seeing a slow agonizing death of brass in our Army? I have mixed emotions about this, but as time rolls on I can’t help but think we’ll be seeing less and less of these groups in corps throughout the territories of our Army.

Questions to Ponder:
What can be done?
Can we save them?
Should we save them?
Should we adapt?
Are we already adapting?
What will our Army’s music look like in ten years? Twenty years? The next generation?

Something more to ponder today for our Army.
P.s. the key to any music we play whether in brass bands or modern praise bands is to glorify God and help usher the active worshiper into the presence of God. Regardless of what styles we may use or prefer may that be our constant aim in our music ministries!

22 thoughts on “Dear Salvation Army – Are Brass Bands Dying A Slow Agonizing Death?

Add yours

  1. I don’t think the brass band is even close to dying – not in the Army, nor in the world of music. There are scores of young people who are attracted to music through the medium of the brass band. Is it for everyone? No – and it shouldn’t be. Nor should we presume that guitars and keyboards are what the majority of young people crave.

    Anything done well and invested in will thrive. In my experience, where the brass band has diminished, you’ll find a subpar investment in its wellbeing. I’ve seen young people saved through banding – even during the 21st century! The fellowship of a band that is actively discipling while it is at the same time musically proficient is powerful.

    1. “Is it for everyone? No – and it shouldn’t be.” Rob Reardon

      I agree.

      And yet the Army has thrust it in the face of everyone for years. It’s been lazy. It still is. Band music at an open air – seriously – how out of touch are we? Bands were relevant at the time they were put into place. As it says above, they weren’t organised cliques, they used ay instrument and play music that was relevant. They aren’t anymore.

      Even the corps/churches that don’t have them anymore are lazy. They used cliched ‘worship’ music from places like Hillsong that focus on us and not on the wonder of God’s majesty. What’s happened to Salvos who write contemporary, relevant, challenging music? I’ll tell you… they left the church.

      This isn’t an issue about whether or not brass bands are dying, the Army is in decline because it has been left behind by other churches. Now don’t read this wrong – not all of these churches are better places to be – many pander to the ‘me’ focused society that we are living in, but the Salvos need to find their voice again – to speak out about injustice and to advocate for those without a voice. We’ve been too quiet for too many years.

      Officer numbers are declining because the church is declining and there is nothing exceptional about the Army anymore that spurs people to want to be a part of it.

      Forget about brass bands, this is far more serious – this is about saving God’s church and His people.

    2. Brass Bands are on the upswing all over the world especially in the USA. I think part of the reason for decrease in the brass band in the Army is that there are many first generation officers and soldiers who don’t understand, care so they that feel banding is irrelevant. The Army have been poor stewards in its lack of music programs in so many of our corps. We are to blame for the decreased interest in banding. The lack of bands, which are incredible for outdoor ministry, has helped to make the Army less noticeable in the community. In so many communities where the bands died, you will find firing corps!

  2. The bigger picture is that the Army is SO steeped in tradition, that they often lose sight of what they SHOULD be doing. Prime example, Communion and Baptism. Jesus commands us to do both, yet because of “traditions” Army corps all over the world steadfastly refuse to do it. I’ll get shouted down, argued with, and told “we dedicate. We enrol senior soldiers” “we were founded to help alcoholics so communion isnt an option” All excuses, that dont cut it. Jesus said. “do this in rememberance of me.” He was so passionate about Baptism that He did it Himself.
    The fact of the matter is that Army Corps all over the world are shrinking. They are dying, because their traditions are more important to them that being humble servants who will die to themselves to Worship God. So instead of laying the brass bands down, because they are in fact antiquated and not in any way appealing to a whole generation of people, they stubbornly dig their heels in. They have forgotten that William Booth started the social service arm as a direct response to obeying scripture – and loving his neighbour as himself, all in an effort to love people into the Kingdom. Today the social service arm has been disconnected from the purpose of loving people into God’s kingdom, and is a slick multimillion dollar empire. THey still do amazing stuff, but their motive has done a 180.
    In conclusion, the Army, for the most part, has completely lost its way. It’s not spirit filled. It clings to tradition and religion, and places more importance on those things than it does on actually following Jesus teachings and living to serve and Worship Him.
    It is so sad to watch a Church die in front of us, but that is what is happening.

    The question shouldn’t be “where will brass bands in the Army be in 10 years” it should be “Will the Salvation Army exist outside of corporate social services and family stores in 10 years?” Maybe it will. I’d bet London to a brick though that unless there is a radical doctrinal change, the “Church” side of the Army will be dead and buried in 30 years.

    1. Andrew, If the Salvation Army throws away all its traditions then what’s the point of it. If it does what you suggest then it may as well die as it will be just another church like any other. Its “traditions” are surely what makes the Army different. If those differences aren’t needed anymore then let it die. I for one don’t think its time for that yet.

      1. Absolutely Agree C. Lyons! Traditions are part of who we are, but on the other hand, if the traditions [ie: band] are an object of worship, then we do need to re-evaluate it.

  3. Whilst I do not play an instrument I think that in most instances the band can enhance worship. Band members are getting older with little. ‘young blood ‘ coming up through the ranks. The Salvation Army is dwindling in numbers but we are no different to other churches who find that their congregations are not as large as they once were. I don’t believe that going down the route of communion or baptism is right. Yes, I know we don’t get as many in our Sunday services any more but that doesn’t mean we should abandon our traditions and what we are as an organisation. When we become soldiers we know what we are signing – we don’t drink we don’t smoke etc. let’s not throw everything away. If at the end of the day the band or songsters die a death – it’s not the end if the world . The music is what attracted me to The Salvation Army but I believe in its values whatever.

    1. Of course the band or songsters must never become an object of worship, however they should be used as a means of worship and a tool for evangelism.

  4. The Brass Banding movement has certainly had it’s day as been somewhat mainstream and these days only occupies a smallish musical niche. Brass bands do struggle to remain relevant but I think have a role to play in the community to provide an outlet for young people and musical education. It may be hard to justify in a worship sense and as a core element of the Salvation Army but I think there is still a place for Brass Bands in todays society. Even if it is only a niche market. Having said that, one great initiative running at the moment is ‘Just Brass’ which is really embodying some of the core aspects of the Salvation Army Mission.

  5. Jesus is the same today as yesterday. He is always relevant and never changes thank God. Its man thats got the problem. Our Church is dead musically because some bright spark thought that music coming from outside the Army was more relevant to the younger generation than the music we had. We had a song book with songs that were tuneful,and with encouraging words. This has been replaced with music written for Groups or Bands as they are referred to nowadays and also for solo singers or groups but not for congregational singing. None of our congregation can sing these ” new” songs and it will take serious practice to learn them. Why did we have to change what we had,why did we not keep our traditions like the biggest Churches have. The mind boggles.

  6. In the UK Salvation Army Brass Banding has been on the decline for a long time, especially away from the large cities. However this goes against the trend outside The army where brass banding is flourishing.Go to the traditional homes of Brass Banding like Yorkshire, South Wales and Cornwall and Young People are learning and playing in Brass Bands as much as they ever did. Yet in those same areas Salvation Army Corps Bands are very few and far between. Indeed in Cornwall where Brass Banding amongst Young People seems to be booming if you put all the Corps together you couldn’t make a decent band. Perhaps the question should be “Why is the Salvation Army not attracting young people?” and “Why does the leadership of the Salvation Army not see Brass Banding as relevant?” I have it on good authority that at one time in the recent past the Army deliberately posted officers to corps in Yorkshire who were anti Brass Bands. How mad is that?

  7. I am a Swiss man (please apologize my bad english) and I am not member of the salvation army. I grew up in a small christian brass-band, which had the same purpose: playing in worships. So let me say: Please do not underestimate the influence of SA-music and musicians of the rest of the brass-band world. I grew up with the music of SA and i loved it. The spirit, who all these compositions and arrangements have, it touched me and it does it still now. I still own some LP recorded by the ISB und all CD’s of them. I had as a child the possibility to see Eric Ball conducting, playing with Robert Redhead (NYBB) and to listen to David Daws live. All memories, I will never forget. I could name a huge amount of other composers, players and conducters (brass but also jazz) of the SA, who impressed me and a lot of other musicians around me. Without your music, the (brass-band) world would be much poorer. Don’t forget, in times where the SA scores were not availabale outside of the SA, many Bands and conductors were sad about and tried with a lot of energy, to get this lovely music on other ways. Even nowadays, I got conductor as well, me and a lot of conductor-friends ar still curious and looking of your work. Happy, to get more of this music full of spirit, to play and enjoy musicians and audience with music with christian content. Please, don’t be too sad about shrinking bands, think of what the SA already did for yourself and also for the rest of the (music) world.

  8. Interesting article, let me speak from experience. I run a brass band program for kids through The Salvation Army called Just Brass. At our corps in Australia we have 95 kids involved, across the country we have 320 kids involved through 10 corps. These kids are involved because it is fun, educational, confidence building etc not because it is contemporary. Music ensembles are a great way to involve people, develop leaders etc. The style of music is pretty irrelevant – orchestras are much older than brass bands but have millions of people involved around the world and some huge kids programs. Interestingly the biggest selling concerts around the world are the main subscription series of Beethoven 5, Beethoven 9, Mozart etc – not exactly contemporary.
    I actually think the main issue for The Salvation Army is not the style of our worship but the communities in which we exist. It seems many SA corps are in middle class areas with relatively low disadvantage and our corps end up competing with other churches to be contemporary, look nice – even changing their name to a community church. I call them niceness factories where they like to sing Jesus is my Boyfriend songs.
    Middle to Upper class people don’t need the Salvation Army , it was created by God for the most disadvantaged and in that environment our style of worship works because it can involve lots of people where they can belong and develop. When someone is starving, homeless or abused they are not that concerned about how funky your music is!

  9. I have an issue with the Army making it’s brass band catalogue available to all brass bands.
    The Army has a history and legacy of many of its past composers who have written for both Army and secular brass bands and they would have written their compositions on the clear understanding of where it was targeted. One composer who comes to mind is Arthur Gullidge who wrote for both Army and secular brass bands and he would have known whilst composing a piece who it was targeted at. The Army music board has now trashed that legacy. When Gullidge wrote a piece such as “By Love Compelled’ he wrote that knowing it was aimed at an Army band and congregation. How would he now feel knowing that piece is available for all-comers to play?
    I have recently returned to playing in a Corps band after a break of many decades. I now find the current day Army music composers do not seem know to whom their compositions are targeted, in fact I would ask the question quite bluntly. When an Army composer is now putting together a new composition who do they have in their mind’s eye as the target for that piece? Is it an Army congregation or are they thinking of how it will be received by a secular brass band when it is sited in the catalogue. Since returning to playing I rarely see a piece of sheet music on my stand which is suitable to play in a Sunday morning meeting.
    Most Army Corps bands are not blessed with a lot of virtuoso players. They are usually worshippers who like to contribute by playing in the band. The great Army composers of the past used to be able to write suitable music which spanned the talent spectrum from the great Army iconic bands down to the much smaller less talented bands. They would make great use of structure, harmony and clever transitions to create playable pieces such as “Light of the World”, “By Love Compelled”, “Wonderful Healer”, “In Quiet Pastures” etc which sounded wonderful and the average Corps band could play them and the congregation could relate to them. Our current crop of composers seldom achieve this or at least not that I have noticed.
    So I ask Army composers, please try and remember small Corps band when putting together new compositions and above all think about who you intend the target to be. Are you targeting Army congregations or are you more interested in how smart and clever your piece will look when it appears in the Army catalogue?

  10. Wow. Will this topic never die? 🙂 I don’t think brass bands are the problem. It’s much more nuanced than that.

    Some commenters above are correct. Many in the Army, afraid of losing a part of Army heritage, have clung desperately to any shred of hope that brass banding might be on the rise somewhere in some part of the world (and therefore justify enormous expenditures on brass-related events to the exclusion of other valid forms of music/art/dance/drama.) Thankfully, there are those in leadership who are just as interested in allowing other types of musical and creative people have a voice in an Army that is increasingly less homogenous.

    I think the main problem is not the instrumentation of the band but the ability to move with the times and adopt new repertoire in a way that plays to the strengths of whatever ensemble is leading worship. I grew up in the Army playing a brass instrument and enjoyed the music for its own sake as a member of many corps, divisional and territorial bands. However, some modern worship music is difficult to translate into the medium of brass banding.

    I grew up playing classical piano and in brass ensembles, which required one to be able to read music. However, learning music “formally” is not the experience of many people nowadays. I think the most glaringly obvious example of this is that when you show up to a brass band rehearsal, everyone has a sheet of music in front of them with different parts written out for them, dynamic markings, 1st and 2nd endings, etc. When you show up for a typical praise band rehearsal, often you are met with a chord sheet (lyrics and chords), or at best a lead sheet. Many praise bands learn by rote or by mimicking a recording. Brass bands may listen to a recording, but much greater emphasis is given to following what is on the page. This can be a constraint for some brass bands, as a good praise band is able to move freely between sections of a song and lead prophetically (following charismatically anywhere the Spirit of God may be leading at any given meeting). Historically, this has been done by a pianist, but a modern ensemble can give this part of worship ministry even more vibrancy.

    There are strengths in both of these mediums and methods.

    I think that if the brass band is to remain not just relevant but a force in the Army for personal/corporate revival and adoration of the risen Christ, its musicians must continue to adapt and play to the inherent strengths in such ensembles. And I don’t mean more marches 🙂 Maybe I’m speaking as a disgruntled former alto horn player here, but maybe the “oom-pah” songs have had their day.

    More Tower of Power, Chicago and Earth, Wind & Fire licks in our praise songs, please. 🙂

    1. I don’t have any problems with what “Humble Code” has said. The Praise & Worship bands have their place. It is not “my cup of tea” but if it is keeping the youth interested and more importantly bringing them to participate in worship then that’s fine. Let’s encourage it. My only beef is that brass bands are still part of many Corps and that I would like to see our modern composers put together compositions suitable for Sunday morning services. They may well be out there but I haven’t seen too many appear on my bandstand. I see lots of stuff that would play well at a Sunday PSA or maybe a Saturday night concert but it simply isn’t appropriate to be playing this stuff in a Sunday morning service.

      I don’t believe any of this shows a reluctance to change or adapt. It indicates to me that a lot of current Army music composers aren’t keeping in mind when and to whom most Army Corps brass bands will be playing.

      I cannot speak for my Corps bandmaster but I can report on what I see. The band is usually asked to present a “band message” each Sunday morning. Most Sunday mornings the bandmaster will select an appropriate and usually well known hymn tune and play it through 2 or 3 times and to add a bit of variety may get the euphos and troms to play one of the verses. I expect it is done this way because there appears to be no Hymn Tune Arrangements or Selections coming through from our current composers.

      So, I am not bagging any other forms of worship within the Army. I am simply saying that if Army Corps bands are still considered to be a part of Army Sunday worship it would be great for them to still be catered for by composers and music boards with simple compositions suitable for Sunday morning services.

  11. This is just a brief response to the article as this is such a huge subject! Just a few points though:
    • In response to the question ‘Are brass bands still relevant today’, followed by ‘In a world of pop music, and trendy dubstep dance beats how does the genre of brass banding fare?’ I would say (and this is only my opinion), good music is timeless. That is the reason people still go and listen to Mozart, Beethoven, Bach etc etc in swathes. Whilst pop music is what the majority of people now listen to, the most popular songs tend to have a very short shelf life and soon become a thing of the past. So far we don’t have enough evidence to suggest that the types of songs being introduced to congregations today are going to last more than a few years, in the same way that many hymns have last several hundred years that are still sung today. How long until the pop world changes style again and we’re left lagging behind? Also, it is worth pointing out there is a good deal of music being written for brass band of a ‘contemporary’ nature.
    • ‘I would rather listen to a worship band with guitars and keyboards and drums over another “rousing march”.’ Whilst marches are a big part of what brass bands play, there is a much wider range of music out there for brass band – it is down to the bandmaster to select music that is appealing. We have numerous composers writing for the SA who have made it in the wider music world and many more who could have made a living out of it, but they have given their gifts to the SA. A brass band is arguably one of the most flexible ensembles – it can play big band, swing, film music, marches, hymn tune arrangements, classical transcriptions etc very convincingly.
    • ‘Other such evidence of this trend is that fact that the total corps who still have a band in them are dwindling.’ This is generally not my experience, in fact most of the corps that I’ve been to where there’s a band are thriving. Brass bands also benefit the corps financially, for instance through Christmas carolling programmes, concerts and CD recordings.

    Other pros to brass bands are:
    • They are not limited by numbers – you can have anything from 4 players right up to several hundred (as shown at ISB120 where 270 players joined together on stage) – yet each player is contributing. Therefore there is not the exclusivity of some other ensembles.
    • They are incredibly practical – they only require a working knowledge of treble clef, meaning players can transfer between instruments with little problem and a leader requires little experience of reading scores. They don’t require masses of equipment to be set up before they can get going, and are able to play outside in the rain or snow!
    • They encourage music literacy – it cannot be underestimated how important this is. I have come across a number of praise bands who I’ve given sheet music to and they’ve not been able to play it because they don’t read music!
    • They’re visible – take ISB120 for example where it is estimated 15,000 people saw the Army on the streets of London. When was the SA last as visible as this? Yet at the other end of the scale we can have 4 players on a street corner playing Christmas carols.

  12. It is a shame that the corps bands are dying in Australia. I grew up playing in the YP band and then onto the senior bands and what blessed me above all was the adaptability of the music and where and when we could play our music to many people. I do not have a problem with worship bands but have been disappointed that these groups think they are the
    group to have and have pushed out brass banding in this country. When did you see a worship band march down the street and play in the street as people walked past or just stood there to listen. We did not always play marches but spiritual music that met the needs of so many.

    In the UK they did a survey about the bands and the stats showed this…..
    Out of 17000 musicians that have left the army this equated to 35 players per band and nearly 500 corps lost. This did not include the families that have left as bands have been pushed away as some call it being adaptable. Is it really being adaptable when we have focused to much on one particular group and when in fact other churches now are seeing an increase in brass band playing. The brass band in the army is just as important and I think the younger generation need to except that this music is just as important as there music and they groups both have a part to play.. The musical sections in the Uk are still there with YP bands, singing companies and then the senior sections. They praise there music and live for the exceptional composers who still write some life changing pieces.

    I think we need to bring back the brass bands back into our corps and stop changing the army whilst pushing those out because they don’t get it or don’t like hearing bands. I for one don’t enjoy hearing worship bands that play the same chord over and over again and in fact only have in some cases only 1 verse and chorus if you are lucky. We should never forget the great music that has been written through the inspiration of these fine musicians and who have been blessed by Christ to write such great music and songs. We should not forget past Officers who wrote the musicals for the Army that had such an influence in our lives and we should stop trying to conform to other churches because someone gets a bee in their bonnet and says bands are old fashioned. If you really take the time to listen to the music and read the words that the music has been put too then you will see Christ in all these pieces jumping out praising and bringing people back to Christ through music. We have become insular by hiding away in our halls and conforming to life by shutting our halls up at night on a Sunday.

    I would like to put it out there that Sunday was the day to worship and not go to the football, fishing or what ever comes to fancy on that day and we need to re focus why we call ourselves Christians, why we call ourselves salvo’s and the fight we should be fighting for humanity. Music has an important part to paly in this mission and brass bands have a part to play when they take the music out of the church and onto the street. The street is where we quietly preach the word through music and trigger memories or thoughts for those who may have lost their way. I was touched after years away from the army and listened to a army band playing in the street. The music was uplifting and spoke to me in many ways. If this can be done for me then I believe it still can be used by the power of God for others.

    I would also like to quickly mention that out side banding our playing many army pieces of music but they don’t have one thing when they play these pieces. The understanding to why it was written and the spiritual aspect to the music that’s blesses those who here this music. David Childs a few years ago had Blake Dyke play a army piece and he said” I do not know anything about this piece but it mad the hairs on the back of my neck stand up”. David Childs got a blessing from this music and yet the Bandmaster of the International Staff Band started talking about the technical side of the piece. The opportunity to explain in full the music was lost. How many times this will happen if we do not explain to the congregation or audience why music was written and the significant of each piece can be that musical ministry that it was commissioned by God to do.

    We need to go back to why William Booth started the army as we have lost our way and have been caught up in trying to always make changes as we think they are for the better. We need to fight the fight and in this day an age we should be fighting for humanity that is being destroyed by greed, religious disorder and who is better than one another. We are to walk like Christ did and not sit in our halls thinking that praising god just on a Sunday morning is good enough and open out halls again. We need to give people and hand up not a hand out and be proud of why the army came to be and if we follow these simplistic ways then God will use the army and all its musicians in bring people to God. Music is universal and speaks the one language there for it does not matter what country we are in the music we play does bring people back to God who have been lost or are new to Christ.

    This is not about being right or wrong but we need to make sure that we stop pushing others out to make way for new. But we also need to remember that the Army is not growing and we need to start to put the hand of friendship out to all those who have been hurt or pushed out to make way for new ways of music within the church. God has blessed all musicians with this great ability to play and sing and bring his message to those who are seeking a new life. God is all powerful and will continue to use musicians to bring his message to the lost and believe that’s wee need to forgive one another first and start looking at why we have lost so many to the Army and present our hand of friendship, love and forgiveness to build Gods kingdom. We as Christians have so much more we need to do before his return and as people that have been given a wonderful give from Christ should be used for the building of his kingdom.

    God bless

    1. “The brass band in the army is just as important and I think the younger generation need to except that this music is just as important as there music and they groups both have a part to play.”
      The younger generation has never taken a decision to do away with a brass band in The Salvation Army.
      Thousands of The Younger Generation in the UK play in Brass Bands, therefore it is their music.

  13. On Friday night I attended a rehearsal for a function in November. The music list was presented to us and fair dinkum, it is enough to make me want to walk away. We didn’t get time to play through all of the pieces on offer but the ones we did have a go at are, in my opinion, absolute rubbish. I am sad to say they are all reasonably recent Salvation Army publications. It is almost like we are rehearsing for a day at the circus. One of the pieces sounded like an introduction to a bullfight while I was certain with another piece that the cornet was going to take up with “Little Brown Jug” at Letter A.
    I have only recently returned to playing in a Salvation Army band after a gap of many decades and in that time resisted the opportunities to play in a community or town band. Now that I have returned it seems like their music has found its way into the Salvation Army which is proving to be a terrible disappointment to me. Salvation Army bands are intended to be used in a ministerial way, not as if playing to a town fair or similar.

  14. As a late commentor I have read the interesting perspectives above.

    Some backgroung – I served as deputy BM in my Corps for 7 years, and then as BM for 2.5 years before stepping down for numerous reasons. Back in the day the Brass Band was adopted as an effective evangelical tool at a time when the target (ie – those the Salvation Army were reaching and converting) were all into Brass Banding. Is was the popular method of music making of the day.

    So today, we invest in brass banding as we always have. The problem I perceive is where those in the brass band in Corps do not grasp the bigger picture. In my experience it has become about the brass band, and the discipleship and fellowship becomes secondary. Rob Reardon summed it up succinctly “I’ve seen young people saved through banding – even during the 21st century! The fellowship of a band that is actively discipling while it is at the same time musically proficient is powerful.”

    Yes the band can be powerful, but when it is failing to be a) an effective tool of evangelism, b) an intentional method of discipleing then we should really look at what we invest our God given resources in.

    We must be good stewards of what we have, and in many cases what we have is a good quality brass band. In these cases we must step away from idolising the Army band and instead see them as a tool to fulfil our mission. If there is something more effective, or if the Brass Band is failing in its purpose (assuming its leaders and members agree a purpose in line with the mission of the Corps), then being good stewards of what God has given us we should invest in something more effective.

    I’m not sorry if the brass band dies, because the risk is we are keeping it alive through our own desires and not through the God directed inspiration for reaching the masses.

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