Visit of the International Staff Songsters, Sunday 12th February 2017

Morning worship began with ‘His strength is perfect’ and continued under the heading ‘Music that Inspires the Soul’. Songs from the songsters included ‘Breathe’ and ‘The Christ of Calvary’, whilst Hadleigh Singing Company and Young People’s Band contributed ‘You are my all in all’ and ‘All aboard the Gospel Train’ respectively. Ryan Northwood shared a question and answer testimony before the songsters brought a setting of Psalm 150, ‘Let all things praise’.

Lt Col Paul Main focused on the prominent place that music played, initially as outlined in the book of Chronicles, and later referring to Paul and Silas singing when imprisoned. One of several John Gowans songs used during the weekend, ‘If crosses come’ was a reminder of the commitment that is required of those who would follow Christ, and the meeting closed with John Rutter’s ‘A Gaelic Blessing’.

Hadleigh Temple Band played a number of tunes prior to the afternoon programme, and then the songsters entered the hall to the march ‘Rosehill’. Moving into position they presented the lively ‘He is risen’ from ‘Anastasis’ (Richard Phillips) before changing the mood with ‘Bow the knee’. Easter music featured quite prominently in the programme, and they continued with ‘I’ve just seen Jesus’: the verses set the scene, relating the story of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus, whilst in the chorus Mary Magdalene gave her account of meeting the risen lord, and the impact that would have.

A gently syncopated setting of ‘You can’t stop God from loving you’ preceded Hazel Launn’s solo rendition of ‘Somebody Believed’, sung in a relaxed jazz style. The congregation joined in heartily with the song ‘Lord, for the years’ after which Hadleigh Temple Band played Sam Creamer’s ‘I’m living on the mountain’, with solo contributions from Keith Johnston and Robin Bryant. This was accompanied by images of the Fijian rugby players from the Olympic games, their anthem being based on the same melody.

The major item from the songsters was Richard Phillips’ ‘Choral Symphony’, consisting of four movements: ‘Holiness’ (featuring ‘Nicea’), ‘Aspiration’, asking the question ‘How can I walk with the Lord’, ‘Devotion’, with the words ‘His love is all I need, for love I pray‘, and ‘Thanksgiving’, a lively 6/8 finale which later introduced ‘Glorify your name in all the earth’ as a counterpoint.

Songster Leader Carl Carter led Hadleigh Songsters in Nicholas King’s setting of ‘Power in the Blood’ before a sensitive performance of ‘Love cannot fail’ introduced the message. Under the heading ‘Words of Grace’, Paul Main spoke initially of Valentine’s Day, going on to explain that love can be costly at times. He then reminded everyone of the sacrifice made by God in giving His Son to die so that we could receive life in all its fullness. The devotional period ended with the moving singing of Stainer’s setting of ‘God so loved the world’.

It is traditional that the home songsters are invited to combine with the International Staff Songsters for a joint item, and Carl conducted the massed forces in ‘God of my praise’, despite a little confusion regarding the last few bars! After a repeat performance of ‘Lightwalk’ the weekend ended with the uplifting ‘God, we will give you glory’.

Pictures courtesy of Jeffrey Partridge:

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