Monday, 24 October 2011

Remembering our own

"The Salvation Army chorus has long been as much a part of our procedure as the march along the street. People of every type who attend our meetings expect to hear the invitation "Now we'll sing a chorus. Join in heartily!" It would be a great loss if the custom declined...

...The appropriate refrain, expressing a clearly stated idea, helps us in prayer and in praise, encourages our faith, increases our zeal, drives away doubt and adds to our spiritual vigour. The number of those who have surrendered to Christ while the believers around them have sung a chorus must run into many thousands.

Our meetings ought, therefore, to be graced often with chorus singing of one kind or another, and not only those which are for the moment in vogue

Let us sing them, old and new, to the Glory of God!"
General Carpenter, November 1945

Yesterday afternoon's meeting at the Army was notable for the fact that we exclusively used the song book - which is now something of a rarity in any Army gathering! From the relatively fervent singing around me, I drew the conclusion that I was probably not alone in enjoying this.The band augmented this musical step back in time with marches from Marshall and Gullidge.

Big Grandad and I were talking the other day about how, whilst we are not predisposed to dislike modern music, there seems to be particularly little thought given these days to the importance to fair constituency of people of good stuff, which has stood the test of time, being given continued airing in worship. Hymns which have lasted hundreds of years in some cases have suddenly been singled out in this particular generation, almost silently, for summary annihilation. All over the church, (and I am not being specific to a denomination or a congregation here!) the art of congregational singing, ie singing together as a body, is being overtaken by being sung at.

Furthermore, the original SATB arrangements of tunes like 'Diademata' and 'Praise my soul' have fallen into disuse, and 'Tucker' has been missing, presumed dead, for rather a long time already. Yes, the more recent incarnations might be a good 'romp' and more fun for the band, but what about the members of the congregation left wondering where the alto, tenor and bass parts they knew have gone, whose singing the band is accompanying?

I like our friends' mantra "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something 'Yellow, Red and Blue'" - that's the thinking I try to apply when I am leading worship.

Anyway, it's important to emphasise the good, and I for one was delighted to have the opportunity to sing choruses which were part of my Army upbringing, which have already lasted longer than most of today's crop will. They are reasonably predictable for the singer (and therefore easy to learn), they are catchy, and it is no wonder that their like inspired the internationally-renowned musical genre of the Salvation Army march, as Black Dyke's latest recording again illustrates. (Daddy hasn't got a copy yet, but notes that his favourite Army march, the Erik Leidzén's rarely-played masterpiece 'Steadily Onward' is on it!)

I was disappointed to find that nobody has put it in Youtube, but of our Army readership, many will remember Roy Castle's TV series, 'Marching as to War', and the music-hall piece with Roy on the stage and Norman Bearcroft leading the instrumentalists. Tunes like 'Champagne Charlie', and 'The man on the flying trapeze' were used to illustrate how the best tunes were sneakily taken back from the devil. Our denomination, if no other, should realise that our congregational singing has drawn for so many years, successfully, on the hymnological and ecclesiological influence of the music hall and the football terraces. Congregational singing should retain the corporate element. It is, after all, something we do together!

The first chorus we sang yesterday has well and truly stuck in my head today. I found it on the Cyber-Hymnal, along with the original verses, which were hitherto unknown to me and which were in neither the 1953 nor 1986 songbooks. It's catchy, it's memorable, it conveys truth, it's personal. You can whistle it in the shower, you could sing it with a coach-load. It reminds me of Sunday night meetings of my childhood, often requested by the congregation:

God is still on the throne,

And He will remember His own;
Though trials may press us and burdens distress us,
He never will leave us alone;
God is still on the throne,
And He will remember His own;
His promise is true, He will not forget you,
God is still on the throne.
Right now, when I am facing even more bother than usual (hence the few posts in the last couple of weeks) that promise is an important one to me. Step Mum is away this week, as she will be for the next three, and not being left alone or forgotten by God is reassuring. It is as true as I hum it today as it was when a hundred of us sang it yesterday.

In the same way, I am still here, remembering my own. I still think of you every day, and I am doing more than you will ever know.

Love from Daddy

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