The celebration of Lt.Col. Ray Steadman-Allen’s 9oth birthday at the Salvation Army’s Regent Hall last Friday revealed a man still enjoying his life and music with immense enthusiasm.
The audience enjoyed two and a half hours of excellent music making and tributes which exhausted many of far fewer years than Ray and his lovely wife Joy! Chatham Songsters were joined by Kettering Songsters to form a chorus, under the leadership of Andrew Blyth, which produced some of the most enjoyable music of the evening. Beginning with a beautiful interpretation of ‘God of all Wonders’ others numbers included ‘Age of Rockets’, ‘Gone my Care’ (ladies), ‘Whosoever will’ and ‘A Childhood Suite’. In a very short rehearsal period Andrew produced a blend of voices with a broad dynamic range and excellent control. This was choral singing at its best.
The Songsters and the accompanying brass group
The International Staff Band presented a wide range of Ray’s musical skills featuring ‘The Scarlet Jersey’, ‘The Ransomed Host’ (euphonium soloist – Derick Kane), ‘Victorian Snapshots – On Ratcliff Highway’, ‘The Eternal Quest (trombone soloist – Dudley Bright), ‘Trombone Vespers’, ‘In Quiet Pastures’ and ‘The Mission’
Soloists Derick Kane (left) and Dudley Bright
Special moments were provided in the form of ‘conversations’ with eminent Salvation Army musicians. First up was Prof. Edward Gregson (son of former Chatham Corps Officers and once a YP Band Member at the corps) who spoke of Ray’s influence in developing his own personal skills and attributing much of his own success to what he learned from Ray. The second to pay tribute was Bandmaster James Williams MBE who described the ‘very good band’ that Ray had led at Tottenham Citadel and which James himself inherited and finally Bandmaster William Himes OF* who highlighted Ray’s contribution to Salvation Army music worldwide (* Order of the Founder). It is hard to imagine better qualified men than these to recognise the immense contribution Ray has made over 90 glorious years.
In conclusion Major John Mott engaged Ray in a ‘one to one’ interview in which Ray gave some insight into the important aspects of his life and faith culminating in him giving a short impromptu rendition at the piano which he dedicated to his wife, Lt. Col. Joy Steadman-Allen.
We at Chatham recognise, along with so many others, the fantastic achievements of Ray, God’s musician. We also see a man who gets no greater thrill than from guiding others to salvation. We can all, whatever our talents, learn so much from him!