International Staff Songsters visit to The Netherlands
Daily Reports 9th - 11th April 2010
Friday 9th April 2010 - Waterweg Centraal, Vlaardingen
It was with a sense of eager anticipation and excitement that the ISS set off by coach to travel to The Netherlands for a brief but long overdue visit. The first stop was Waterweg Central in Vlaardingen on the outskirts of Rotterdam, where the host corps had worked hard to attract both newcomers and former Salvationist to hear the ISS in concert. A packed hall welcomed the ISS as they entered from the hall greeting the congregation and then bursting into song with ‘Praise His holy name' - which was enthusiastically received.
The programme continued with Richard Phillips' and Stephen Pearson's exiting new work based on Psalm 150 "Let All Things Praise", and Leslie Condon's arrangement of Keith Banks' reflective song "Lord How I Love You". The first half of the concert also included Darren Bartlett's arrangement of the spiritual "Wade in the Water", Staff Songster Kerry Sampson's solo "They Could Not" by Ron Harris and Claire Cloniger (arranged by Len Ballantine), and songs by founder conductor Norman Bearcroft; the lovely "The Christ of Calvary" set to the Scottish melody "Annie Laurie", and the exciting "The City of God". Richard Phillips' very popular rag-time arrangement of "Count Your Blessings", brought the first half of the concert to a close.
The second half of the concert opened with the medley "Salute to the Joystrings", which proved as popular in The Netherlands as with UK audiences. Roger Cobb treated listeners to "Always There", Jay Althouse's arrangement of Brendan Graham & Rolf Lovland's song. The congregation was challenged by words from the scriptures followed by George Marshall & Mrs Sage's beautiful song, "My Treasure". The concert then moved to its conclusion with Ben Parry's thrilling vocal arrangement of Mozart's "The Magic Flute" and Len Ballantine's arrangement of "More Than Wonderful", after which the ISS again surrounded the congregation to sing Rutter's "The Lord bless you and keep you" as a benediction.
There were many who were visibly moved by the singing and expressed their personal thanks to the members. It had been a very special evening, with the congregation showing their pleasure with a standing ovation.
Saturday 10th April 2010 - Regenboogkerk, Hilversum
The ISS took the opportunity to visit the Goodwillburgh Centre in Amsterdam, and learnt about the work of Lt Col Alida Bosshardt, who pioneered the work of the Salvation Army in the red-light district of Amsterdam. This work is being continued by Envoys Koos and Henny Tinga, who later led a walking tour to the Army hall, right in the centre of the area which proved a very thought-provoking experience for the ISS members.
De Regenboogkerk, a large church in the suburbs of Hilversum, was the venue for an eagerly anticipated joint concert with the Amsterdam Staff Songsters. The venue was disguised as an aluminium warehouse! However, inside was a spacious and comfortable place of worship.
The evening concert was a very special occasion. It had been 12 years since the ISS had been to Holland, and 10 years since the two groups had united at the choral spectacular in 2000 in Croydon. The ISS were greeted to a warm welcome from a capacity congregation, as they marched in to the strains of ‘Land of Hope and Glory'.
Contributions by both the ISS and ASS were enthusiastically received, and included a great variety of music. From classical ("Magic Flute" - ISS), to choral ("O Magnum Mysterium" - ISS), to contemporary ("John 3:16", "We lift You up" (soloist Staff Songster Claudia Toeter), "Niemand is zoals U!", "Sabbath Psalm" & "Love, Grace and Power" - ASS), to reflective ("Uit het hart van Jesus" - ASS; "Know My Heart" - ISS & ASS & "Nothing but Thy Blood" & "Be Still"- ISS), to rousing ("Introit from Psalm 24","Let All Things Praise" & "The City of God" - ISS; "Praise His Holy Name" & "A Jubilant Song" - ISS & ASS).
The evening culminated with both Staff Songster brigades raising their voices in Len Ballantine's arrangement of "More than Wonderful". Following a standing ovation, the ISS surrounded the congregation to sing the benediction, Rutter's "The Lord Bless You and Keep You".
Sunday 11th April 2010 - Almere
Almere is a new town development built on reclaimed land in the centre of the country and is where THQ for The Netherlands Territory is now located. The corps' suite of buildings has a prominent location in the town and the fellowship is experiencing encouraging growth. The ISS were able to share in morning worship with the vibrant congregation in a style and format that felt so familiar to them, even if they were unable to understand what was being said.
Both the testimony of Lt Col George Pilkington (the ISS Executive Officer), and the message, brought by Major Jeanne van Hal who had accompanied the ISS throughout their weekend, spoke of the evidence that Jesus lives in our lives.
Following the Holiness Meeting, the ISS delighted the congregation with a short concert before boarding their coach for the journey home. Listeners were blessed by solo contributions from Rob Moye who sang Mark Hayes' arrangement of Terry Butlers "Deep, Deep Love"; and Margaret Launn, who brought us "Sinner Saved by Grace" by Gloria & Bill Gaither & M Humphries. The Army Classic sessional song "The Awakeners" by Albert Orsborn & Eric Ball, and Andrew Blyth's arrangement of Alvin Slaughter & Roger Ryan's contemporary song "Suddenly", were well received by the congregation.
Following another standing ovation from the very appreciative congregation, the short visit was brought to a conclusion as the ISS stood around the hall to sing ‘Total Praise' to a God who had truly been with the Group as they had shared with each other and with their new Dutch friends.
Reporters: Staff Songsters: Kevin Sandford, Juliet Parker, Lesley Nicholson & Kelvin Mercer