All Brass Bands
All Brass Bands - All the Time

Stacks Image 3

Stacks Image 8

The Salvation Army and Bands – How it all Started

The Salvation Army was founded as The Christian Mission by William Booth in 1865 and adopted its current name in 1878. They brought the Gospel by preaching and singing in those places where people gathered. In the early days in London, there was much opposition from pub owners and others who profited from the vices the Christian Mission stood against.

In Salisbury, England, they met at the market place to preach the gospel, but it was the same as in London, there was much opposition. One evening in 1878, the crowd received a shock though, as with the Salvationists stood four men playing brass instruments. The four men were father Charles Fry and his three sons, who had responded to the need of a bodyguard to defend the pioneers from rough handling. That was the start of Salvation Army banding.

During a visit to Salisbury, James Dowdle heard the band in action and sent a report to William Booth, who went to Salisbury to see for himself and decided to ask the Fry family to assist in several campaigns, in order to see what the value of bands to his organization could be. During those campaigns many people were converted, attracted by the playing of the men, who were also very concerned with the spiritual welfare of the people they met during their travels. After a period of campaigns the Fry family decided to leave their business and move to London to be able to be available fulltime. In effect they became the first Staff Band of the Salvation Army.

Brass Bands became popular from 1830 onward and by 1860 brass bands were becoming a regular sight at Salvation Army functions. With that in mind it is no wonder that Salvationists, after hearing the Fry family, thought about forming brass bands themselves. In that way they could bring their musical message to the people.

The first official corps band was formed in Consett in 1879 and many more followed quickly with a few more claiming to be the first. It needed an official inquiry to settle the argument. At first not all the bands were brass bands but rather a combination of brass, string and woodwind, but quickly more brass bands were formed and they rose in popularity.

The brass band gave a flexibility that other instruments used in the church did not have. No wonder that they were used for outdoor meetings as well as meetings where everyone was protected from the weather by a roof. Bands used their own music and clothing was not always uniform. It did not take long though before there came orders from William Booth which tried to get more grip on the development of bands within the organization. In 1885 he ordered that bands should only play music published by the Salvation Army. At that point there were only around 100 tunes to choose from. It also prevented bands using music with a religious character made available by other publishers. This also created the need for more music and later also for development of musical forms. Richard Slater and Frederic Hawkes led the Music Editorial Department during this time of progression and made sure that bands were provided with music which would be attractive to the public.

This helped bands to reach the people when they were marching through the streets, playing during a meeting in a hall or in the open air and while playing in old peoples’ homes or in the garden of a hospital. Soon the Salvation Army bands were playing in these surroundings with regularity and started a pattern which still holds today!

Bands - development

The first bands were found in corps, but there were other bands formed too, all with the aim to spread the Gospel. The corps band has always been the starting point for Salvation Army banding. Although not always very big, they have continued to play their music and have been an instrument in telling the people the good news of salvation. As mentioned before, the number of people in the band was quite different from place to place. The definition for Salvation Army bands states:“A company of no fewer than four Salvationists who work together to further the purposes of Salvation Army by means of instrumental music”.

Quite soon after the first corps bands were founded, the War Cry advertised for young healthy men who would learn to play a brass instrument to campaign throughout Britain marching from one place to another. Harry Appleby became the first bandmaster of this band who campaigned throughout Britain and then went on tour to the United States, while another band kept touring in England. Along the same line there were bands formed in countries like Australia, The Netherlands and Denmark, among others. While those bands travelled they were an example to the bands which already existed and encouraged lots of people to start a band in their corps.

Toward the end of the 19
th century there were bands formed by the staff at a few Territorial Headquarters. These bands soon had their own schedule, while the bandsmen were also members of their corps band and participated fully in their activities. Quite a few of the Staff Bands of today started like that. Nowadays the Staff Bands are made up of personnel who come from everywhere in the territory (and sometimes beyond). It is not necessary to be employed by the Salvation Army to become a member of a staff band. Salvationism and playing ability have become important criteria. In a few other countries, bands with members from different corps are active under the title Territorial Band.

In this space we have to refer to bands that function on a divisional or regional level. Lots of young people have been playing in Divisional Youth Bands and have that way been encouraged to seek the purpose of life. At the other end there has been a huge growth of fellowship or reservist bands, in which retired bandsman have found a place to make music together and enjoy the companionship of others.


As already mentioned, there is no restriction for the number of players within a Salvation Army Band. There are bands with only 4 players, but also bands consisting of more than 40 players. In comparison a contesting brass band consists of 28 players.
When we have a look at the parts which are used in music for brass bands, there is a difference as well. In a brass band we recognize parts as Eb Soprano Cornet, Solo Cornet, Repiano Cornet, 2
nd Cornet and 3rd Cornet. The Repiano Cornet part is not used within the music published by the Salvation Army, which means that the following cornet parts are used: Eb Soprano Cornet, Solo Cornet, 1st Cornet and 2nd Cornet.

Not every Salvation Army Band has the full complement of players. This means that printed music has to be available for groups from four players onward. There are many countries or territories which publish music. It all starts with music in four parts:
1 1st cornet
2. 2
nd cornet/1st horn
3. 2
nd horn Eb/Baritone Bb/Trombone Bb
4. Bass Eb/ Bass Bb

Some publishers add an optional 5
th part for Euphonium to it as well as parts for percussion.
There are various territories who all have their own instrumentation and publish their own music for different sized bands.

As was touched upon earlier, William Booth ordered that Salvation Army Bands should only play music published by that organization. Publications were to be used by Salvation Army Bands only. It was meant to keep the focus of the musicians on evangelism and music which could be used for that purpose. It also meant that there was a lot of misunderstanding and displeasure between the two fields of brass bands in England, The Salvation Army bands and the secular and contesting bands.
In the 1990’s the Salvation Army changed course and made their music available for other brass bands and in certain situations allowed their bands to play music by other publishers. This led to a far better relationship and understanding.


As the Salvation Army wanted its own music, it needed composers to provide them with what they wanted. In the first decades Richard Slater and Frederic Hawkes were influential. They worked in the Music Editorial Department (MED) and their music was used in the first Band Journals. Soon others sent in their compositions to be used for publications. Among them was George Marshall, who also assisted the MED in editing the music. When Eric Ball joined the department they were assured of more quality music with a clear message. When Eric Ball left his professional work for the Salvation Army, the secular bands got a chance to play his music during concerts and contests. After a while the Salvation Army was able to publish new works from his hand. His tone poem “Resurgam” was used as a test piece and later on, at his own request, made available to the Salvation Army. In the USA, Erik Leidzén wrote works for the Salvation Army and also for other publishers. and his “Sinfonietta for Brass Band” was commissioned as a test piece at the British Open Brass Band Championships. Dean Goffin wrote some pieces as a military bandmaster during World War II. At the British Open Championships in 1949 his Rhapsody in Brass was the test piece. This raised the question why there was no music by this Salvationist published by his own organization. The matter was resolved when two pieces, including “The Light of the World”, were unearthed from the files of the MED and subsequently published.

There are a lot of composers who, before Salvation Army music was opened up to other bands, had their works published by the Salvation Army only. Among them are Bramwell Coles, Leslie Condon, Arthur Gullidge and Norman Bearcroft.

During the 1970’s works from a few composers, who had pieces published by the Salvation Army before, were written and used as test pieces at brass band championships in Britain, among them Edward Gregson and Wilfred Heaton.

In this period, a new generation of composers from the United States made their mark. Next to their work as professional composers, people like James Curnow and Stephen Bulla allowed the Salvation Army to publish quite a few pieces. William Himes has to be mentioned here as well, although his work was mainly published within the organization.

We have to bear in mind that there a lot of composers who did their best to write music suitable for Salvation Army purposes. A few names to mention from this era are Noel Jones and Erik Silfverberg. The emphasis here though is mostly on people who were influential in both fields.

After the Salvation Army opened up their published music to the contesting and secular brass bands, quite a few composers well known by Salvationists were brought to the attention of a broader audience. Subsequently their music was used as test pieces and they were invited to write new compositions as well. Examples are Ray Steadman-Allen (“Hymn at Sunrise” and “On Ratcliff Highway”) and Robert Redhead (“Isaiah 40” and “Quintessence”).

Other composers to be mentioned in this respect are Peter Graham who has produced wonderful pieces for The Salvation Army and the contesting bands. Among the recent composers to serve both fields are Dudley Bright, Steven Ponsford and Paul Lovatt Cooper.

Everyone who composes for the Salvation Army has to use at least a hymn or gospel song and they must have been touched by words and/or melodies to produce beautiful compositions which have reached the souls of men.

Brindley Boon – Play the Music, Play
Cyril R. Bradwell – Symphony of Thanksgiving
Violet and Geoffrey Brand – Brass bands in the 20th Century
Dot Condon – Les Condon He Just Couldn’t Say No
Peter M. Cooke – Eric Ball The Man and His Music
Wally Court – In the Firing Line Colonel Bramwell Coles
Klaas de Bruin –Muziekkorps Enschede 100 jaar
Richard W. Holz – Brass Bands of the Salvation Army – Their Misson and Music
Richard W. Holz – Erik Leidzén, Band Arranger and Composer
Gernod Kumm – Lobe den Herren – mit Blech
Niels Silfverberg – Fighting for the Lord – The Legacy
Barbara Steadman-Allen – History, Harmony and Humanity
Arch R. Wiggins – Father of Salvation Army Music Richard Slater
Arch R. Wiggins – Triumph of Faith George Marshall O.F.

www.amsterdamstaffband/historie – June 2017 – June 2017

© 2017 Herman A. Haverkate Azn. – Enschede, The Netherlands (used by permission)

All Brass Radio does everything we can to protect the website from unwanted advertising.

In addition, we do use cookies in a very limited way.