With weather that made a glorious day sections from around the territory made their way to the Swansea for Morriston Songsters 75th Anniversary Celebrations – ‘In Every Corner Sing’. Joining the host Songsters were Belfast Temple Band (Bandmaster Jack Burch), Bristol Easton Songsters (Songster Leader Martyn Bryant) and Clydebank Songsters (Songster Leader David Currie) bringing together 130 Salvationist musicians from all four nations of the United Kingdom. They were joined by Lieutenant-Colonels Anthony (Chief Secretary – Designate) and Gillian Cotterill (Territorial Leader for Leader Development – Designate) and supported by Lieutenant-Colonels J.P. and Karin Ramos (DHQ).
During the afternoon the three visiting sections along with Morriston Band presented outdoor concerts in the grounds of St. Mary’s Church in the city centre attracting many shoppers to listen to the various groups and allowing opportunities for local Salvationists to engage on a personal level including the invitation to the festival that evening.
In the presence of the Lord Lieutenant Reverend Lionel and Linda Hopkins, the High Sherriff of West Glamorgan Henry Gilbert, the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Swansea Councillor Phillip and Lilian Downing and Assembly Member Mike Hedges a large congregation including former Morriston Songsters and Salvationists who had travelled from near and far, including those from overseas filled the church. The sense of excitement was palpable as the congregation was invited to stand to welcome the visiting sections who each marched in behind their section and national flag to the rousing ‘Men of Harlech’ before joining in and filling the church in an arrangement of ‘Soldier, Rouse Thee!’ to the same tune. Prayer, words of welcome and introduction were offered by Major David McCaw-Aldworth (Corps Officer, Morriston). Each Songster Brigade presented their own ‘spot’, including ‘Great is the Glory of the Lord’ and ‘Sing for Joy’ (Clydebank), You Can’t Stop God from Loving You’ and ‘Jesus Paid it All’ (Bristol Easton) and ‘Gwahoddiad’ (male voices), ‘The Christ of Calvary’ and ‘God of my Praise’ (Morriston). Belfast Temple Band interspersed the vocal contributions with ‘On We March’ and ‘Boundless Kingdom’.
‘Swing-time Religion’ featuring Bandsman Mark Murray brought the congregation back to their seats for the second half of the programme, again the congregation filled the church with the sound of singing that Wales is known for in ‘Let all the world in every corner sing’ (where the inspiration for the weekend came from). The Songsters who by now had formed a Massed Chorus presented several songs spanning a range of styles and decades. ‘I Know a Fount’ was received without applause while it didn’t go unnoticed during the singing of ‘The Awakeners’ (accompanied by the band) that most of the congregation were singing heartily along. Cornet soloist Mark Murray’s sensitive playing of ‘Don’t Doubt Him Now’ prepared everyone’s hearts and minds for thoughts brought by Lieutenant-Colonel Gillian Cotterill who reflected on the words of the solo and that although everyone faces difficulty at various points in their life that they take heart and receive the peace of God for Christ has overcome the world. The Massed Chorus brought the evening towards its close with ‘Midnight Cry’ featuring Songster Leader Chris Lear (Morriston) before they were joined by the band and congregation in ‘O Boundless Salvation’. With the final ‘Amen’ expressed the band launched into ‘Celebration’ during which the Songsters lifted up the words ‘We’ll keep the old flag flying round the world’ as the flag was waved aloft.
Extra seats had to be squeezed in the hall for worship the following day with Belfast Temple Band. Led by Band Sergeant Stephen Wray the theme of ‘Grace’ unfolded during the morning meeting. God’s grace and working was evident in the life of Clayton Taylor who testified, the band contributed ‘Written in Red’ and Morriston Songsters ‘Your Grace Still Amazes Me’. Lieutenant-Colonel Anthony Cotterill in his message based on Ephesians 2:1-10 spoke about the grace of God being undeserved for everyone but offered to everybody.
The final meeting of the weekend was a Celebration Festival where the hall was filled to capacity again which included the High Sherriff who so impressed by the festival the night before had rearranged his schedule to be present. With the doors wide open local residents were in no doubt that God’s people were joining together to praise him. The band included ‘ARC Centennial March’ and ‘Since Jesus’ and were again supported by the home Songsters. Lieutenant-Colonel Gillian Cotterill spoke on having to trust on the Lord taking the words of the song ’Lord, You Know that We Love You’ and she invited those gathered to listen and reflect while the band shared ‘Fire in the Blood’ which had a profound effect on many. The Songsters sang a blessing over both the band and leaders before the whole corps shared its appreciation with the singing of ‘Calon Lan’ and the Welsh National Anthem.
A weekend that will live on in the memories of many for a long time not only that it honoured the past, the ministry of the present and the expectation of what is to come in the future but also for its scale, it’s impact on people and passionate teaching concluded with the singing of ‘God Soldier Marches as to War’.