SING FOR JOY
For the first time in nearly a decade Morriston Corps welcomed a visiting corps musical section for the weekend and the choice of Kettering Citadel Songsters under the leadership of Songster Leader Mark Allan has proved an excellent one.
Saturday evenings programme was billed as a ‘Spring Festival’, the excitement and atmosphere in the hall was electric, an audience of over 100 people had gathered to welcome the Songsters to Wales and it was good to see the hall filled. Welcomed by enthusiastic applause the Kettering Songsters came into the hall with the loudest applause reserved for Songster Leader Mark Allan who along with his wife Kirsty were soldiers of the Corps before their move to Northamptonshire a number of years ago.
‘Come let us sing for joy to the Lord’ were the opening words of ‘Sing for Joy’ – Richard Phillips’ arrangement of Psalm 95 which led into the quieter ‘Bow the Knee’. Those listening knew they were in for a good evening. Following words of prayer by Songster David Ablett the Songsters presented another arrangement of scripture ‘Psalm 91’ and the anthem ‘Sing and Rejoice’. An opportunity for the audience to join in a congregational song almost lifted the roof off the hall as our visitors heard the ‘hywl’ of a Welsh audience lifting their voices in praise. Songster Suzanne Rose (a former member of The International Staff Songsters) was the first soloist of the evening and delighted everyone with her vocal talent in an exciting upbeat arrangement of ‘O Magnify the Lord with Me’. The Songsters then presented a haunting arrangement of ‘The Wondrous Cross’ the first of several songs that conveyed the approaching Easter period. Songster Marcie Garwe spoke words of personal testimony about her life and how she had relied on God during uncertain times.
‘Jesus Victorious’ is a rarely heard major Easter work from the pen of Richard Phillips that portrays the events of that first Easter, written in three movements the song goes from the pain of Good Friday through the uncertainty of Saturday before ending in the triumph of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday – a challenging work in which the listener felt they could have been there.
A much-needed interval saw old friendships being reformed as well as new ones formed and an opportunity to cool down. The second half kicked off with ‘Jesus is Alive’ and ‘A Melody in my Heart’. Kettering Songsters have always been blessed with capable pianists and a piano duet by father and daughter Derek Wears and Andrea Fountain may have rested the songsters’ voices for a few moments but certainly did not rest their fingers as they ran up and down the keyboard. A little bit of Salvation Army trivia introduced ‘Christ For the Whole Wide World’ before the audience had another opportunity to sing. Moving into a period of reflection two songs originally from the Gowans and Larsson Musicals were used. Y.P. Band Leader Chris Hunt presented thecornet solo ‘Someone Cares’ and the Songsters sang ‘Everywhere’ leading into thoughts from Lieutenant-Colonel Jack Hassard. With the final song of the evening ‘Never Before, Never Again’ and its words ‘In that one defining moment He paid for our sin’ filling the hall those gathered left in anticipation of a great day in worship the following day.
Sunday morning commenced with 60 people gathered for prayer led by Songster Dorothy Watts in this quiet time prayers were offered for many people and situations. It was good to learn that things that concerned us as a corps were being prayed for by the Songsters at Kettering before their visit to Morriston.
Morning worship commenced with the Songsters opening with ‘On This Rock’. Lieutenant-Colonel Jack Hassard introduced the theme of the meeting as Three Pictures and his thoughts throughout the morning were based on pictures of life, healing and sight. Morriston Citadel Band supported accompanying the opening song ‘How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds’ before moving into moments of prayer led by Songster Wendy Thompson. Scripture (Matthew 9:18-31) was read by Songster Adam Marsh before the Songsters sang ‘I’ll Follow Thee’ and lead into thoughts of the first picture of ‘Life’ looking at Girus whose daughter is dead when he begs at the feet of Jesus because everything he had to offer is nothing compared to what he was to receive.
Morriston Junior Singing Group thrilled with their singing of ‘Blessed Be the Name’. After the congregational singing of ‘There is Beauty in the Name of Jesus’ Songster Valerie Ablett testified focusing on connections and that although we may have earthly connections but we need to have first-hand knowledge and direct link of the Saviour. The second picture ‘Healing’ described in Luke 8 focusing on the woman who touched the hem of Jesus garment who was healed even though she had been ignored by society for years. The Songsters followed by singing the beautiful setting by Damian Wileman of ‘He Sought Me’.
In her testimony, Songster Helen Marsh spoke on where Jesus is in her life and how prayer plays a part in it. The third and final picture ‘Sight’ found in John ch.9 and Jesus gives sight to the blind man. Bringing the three pictures together a time of response included the chorus ‘Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus’. Albert Osborn’s ‘I Know Thee Who Thou Art’ was sung with meaning by the congregation before the Songsters concluded worship with ‘We Have Peace’.
After morning worship the hall was transformed from worship space to dining room as the 80 plus members of Kettering and Morriston Songsters sat down for lunch together further strengthening the relationship between both groups. Thank-you must be paid to Major Elizabeth McCaw-Aldworth and her excellent team of kitchen helpers who provided excellent food over the weekend. To set up, feed and clear away for lunch in a two-hour time slot was not far short of a miracle!!
With the hall cleared and set back up the last meeting of the weekend saw the first of our new monthly Celebration Meetings. Morriston Citadel Band welcomed playing members of Kettering Songsters to unite for the afternoon commencing with the classic march ‘Wisbech Citadel’ and the Songsters then singing the energetic ‘God of My Praise’. Suzanne Rose opened in prayer and the Songsters followed with ‘Showers of Blessing’ a new up-beat arrangement of old words by Suzanne’s husband Gary. Having sat back for the weekend Morriston Citadel Songsters were invited to contribute and sang ‘Your Grace Still Amazes Me’ which has in recent years become a firm favourite. Songster David Ablett featured as soloist in ‘A Friend of Mine‘ (written for David to use on Kettering Songsters tour of Canada and the USA) and was accompanied at the piano by his wife Valerie and with cornet obligato by Chris Hunt. The Songsters then reminded those listening that even in the hard times ‘Jesus Will Still Be There’ before words of testimony from Songsters Kirsty Allan. Kirsty spoke about how her life had changed since the family moved away from Morriston, how returning not only felt like yesterday bit also a lifetime ago and remembering the verse from scripture ‘In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths’. Feet we set tapping during ‘How Sweet the Sound’ written in a bossa-nova style. In their second contribution, the band played another toe-tapper with ‘Danforth Citadel’ from the pen of the march king Bramwell Coles. One of those totally unplanned and unrehearsed moments of a weekend like this is the united item, conducted by Songster Leader Chris Lear both Songsters Brigades joined together in ‘Power in The Blood’ surely the only better singing than this will be in Heaven! Words of thanks were paid on behalf of Kettering Songsters by Songster Secretary Suzanne Grainger before words of response on behalf of Morriston Corps by Songster Secretary Simon Richardson and the presentation to Kettering Songsters of a slate clock which incorporated into the design the words of ‘Calon Lan’. Instead of the traditional response of applause the whole corps stood to sing the words inscribed on the clock to our visitors.
Drawing to the conclusion of the weekend Songster Sergeant Ruth Elsey brought things together in her thoughts and included the singing of ‘I am Praying’ and ‘With Wings as Eagles’. The final item of the weekend was ‘Beautiful Saviour’ a real anthem of praise.
A truly God filled and Spirit inspired weekend at a close after saying our goodbyes to new friends they set of back home but not before they were sung off with a reminder that there will forever be ‘A Welcome in the Hillside’ and prayer from Major David McCaw-Aldworth for their journey home.
This weekend will be well remembered for years to come not only for the excellent singing of our friends from Kettering and the message that they brought with them but also as one of the high points of recent years, for the enthusiasm and encouragement it has given to us here in Morriston as we endeavour to be a church relevant to our community.