The long anticipated concert to be given by the International Staff Songsters looked as though it might be seriously affected by the weather when we woke on Saturday morning. But God is good and the worst of the snow held off and the audience was almost as good as expected.
About 70 people were expected to attend the vocal workshop given by Staff Songster Leader Dorothy Nancekievill in the afternoon. Somewhat less than this number actually managed to make it and we must assume that the weather was the main reason for this. However there was no doubting the enthusiasm of the group as Dorothy rehearsed two songs to be sung in the evening concert.
Now for the evening concert. What a joy it was to listen to this quality group which did not allow the struggle for excellence to mask the main purpose of its existence, to spread the message of God and his salvation through the gift of music. It was also good to see the members of the ISS moving around the audience and greeting/welcoming people to the ‘house of the Lord’ prior to commencement.
‘Boundless in Love’, ‘I have seen the glory of the Lord’ and ‘O love’ were the three songs forming the act of worship which began the evening. Prayer and the beautiful ‘Lux Aurumque’ followed before the ISS brought the major work of the evening, Choral Symphony No 2 (Symphony of Psalms), the work of Stephen Pearson and Richard Phillips.
The well known hymn, ‘All hail the power of Jesus’ name’, was sung heartily by the congregation, thus enhancing the worship with the added benefit of giving Dorothy time to warm up her voice to join Hilary Bromage and Hazel Launn in singing the words of the Scottish poet ‘Robbie’ Burns, ‘Ye banks and braes’.
Richard Phillips, accompanist to the ISS (and a product of Chatham), thrilled the audience with his ragtime version of ‘Count your blessings’ before we enjoyed the first of the two songs rehearsed in the afternoon workshop, Handel’s ‘Hallelujah Chorus’. The ISS and the workshop group had certainly earned the interval which followed.
‘Songs of Joy’, featuring the words and music of Major Joy Webb and used by the Sunbury Junior Singers of years gone by, was a great opener for the second half. Two contrasting solos followed as Hazel Launn presented ‘Somebody believed’ in an upbeat jazz dtyle followed by a more traditional performance of the old favourite ‘The Holy City’ by Richard McIntosh.
The workshop group joined the ISS for the second of the two songs rehearsed in the afternoon, ‘O when the saints…’, which again demonstrated the value of the hour spent under Dorothy’s tuition. Two songs ‘For him all stars have shone’ and Sir John Stainer’s music, featuring words from scripture (John 3:16-17), ‘God so loved the world’ sandwiched a short message from Lt. Col. Paul Main (ISS Executive Officer).
Another swing/jazz number, ‘Lightwalk’ set the scene for the final item ‘More than wonderful’ in which former Staff Songsters present in the audience were invited to join the current group. As you can see from the photograph there were quite a few of them.
This had been a superb evening in which vocal and instrumental music was used to great effect in praising God and showing his love to everyone. The benediction, sung by the ISS as its members surrounded the congregation, was John Rutter’s beautiful ‘The Lord bless you and keep you’. It was well worth coming out on a very wintry evening even though the journey home was to prove a little hazardous for some. Everyone made it safely despite some scary moments and we thank all who came and helped to make it such a great occasion.