The Salvation Army: Blowing for the Lord

Ian Bradley traces the development of the Salvation Army's brass sections.

It is impossible to imagine the Salvation Army without its songster brigades and brass bands. Yet, although these institutions are almost as old as the Army itself, they developed in a haphazard way and did not at first meet with the approval of all Salvationists.

Once music had shown itself to be a powerful means of rousing the heathen and moving the sinner to repentance, however, all doubts about its place in the Army’s evangelistic work were dispelled. A special department was set up to encourage singing and music-making and to promote the highest possible standard of performance.

Choruses and hymns had been sung at meetings of William Booth’s Christian Mission, as the Salvation Army was known until 1878, since it began in 1865. But although he was himself a keen organist and singer, Booth at first shunned the development of any more formal musical arrangements. ‘I have ever found choirs to be possessed of three devils,’ he told an early conference of the Mission, ‘the quarrelling devil, the dressing devil, and the courting devil’.

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