It hardly seems possible, after so many months of anticipation, planning and preparation, that the ISB 120 Celebration weekend is now over.
The Chicago, Japan and Melbourne Staff Bands have undertaken extensive tours of the United Kingdom, culminating in a long weekend in London where they were joined in the UK by the Amsterdam, Canadian, German and New York Staff Bands. 'Fringe' concerts in Basingstoke, Chelmsford, Hadleigh, Maidenhead, Maidstone and Stowmarket on Friday 3 June, along with a concert given by the New York Staff Band and The International Staff Band in London's Cadogan Hall, effectively set the stage for what had been billed as a spectacular weekend of celebrations.
At 7.30 am on Saturday morning, the bands began to arrive at the iconic Royal Albert Hall in Kensington to prepare for the afternoon and evening concerts. Each of the bandmasters took their turn in rehearsing the band in the allocated items for the evening concert. At the conclusion of the rehearsal, each band then had the chance to prepare theitr own 'solo' programme before moving across to Imperial College for lunch - a great opportunity to chat will colleague staff bandsmen from around the world.
The afternoon's sequence of 'mini concerts' given by each band in turn revealed the unique and special personality of each band - and who will ever forget the reception accorded to the Japan Staff Band as they marched onto the stage for their slot! After an hour-long interval, the ISB returned to the stage to play the other seven bands in - and then what had been billed as a 'spectacular' concert commenced!
A deeply moving worship meeting in the Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, saw the members of all the bands, together with their families, former members of the ISB and music leaders from the UK - and also from around the world - seated in the hall as they were led in worship by General Linda Bond, Commissioner John Matear and Colonel Brian Peddle. Musical ministry was provided by the Territorial Youth Band and International Staff Songsters and, as General Bond's sermon drew to a close, it was a moving sight to see the Mercy Seat in use in the ensuing time of reflection and response.
After lunch it was off to The Mall for the march and Buckingham Palace forecourt concert. As a participant, the march was an incredible thing to be a part of - and I understand from onlookers, it was an equally incredible sight to behold. The Mall was decked with Union Jack flags flying as the bands, each headed by their National flags and Salvation Army Band flags headed towards the palace, where the ISB paused at the side of the roadway to march the other seven bands into the forcourt before taking its place in the centre of the forecourt for the concert.
There were cheers and there were tears as emotions were stirred in the hearts of all the Salvationists present.
For the bands, their families, former members of the ISB and leaders and guests, a reception followed in the Westminster Central Hall to draw a truly remarkable weekend to a close.
There will doubtless be many more detailed reports emerging as this week passes, but for now, the members of the ISB offer our deep and sincere thanks to The Amsterdam, Canadian, Chicago, German, Japan, Melbourne and New York Staff Bands for making the trip to the UK to share in our 120th Anniversary Celebrations. We thank all those who attended any of the events, be it one of the local concerts given by a touring band, one of the London concerts or the march - or maybe all of the above, We hope to see all of you again soon.
God bless you
Kevin Ashman (Band Secretary)