Report of ISS visit to Hawick

Saturday and Sunday 20 & 21 October 2012

Three members of the International Staff Songsters singing in the aisles of Teviot Church

ISS members sing amidst the congregation

The sun was shining brightly as the coach carrying the International Staff Songsters reversed into the narrow lane to Teviot Church. The visit was the culmination of a year of special events marking the 125th Anniversary of Hawick Corps. It didn’t take long for the choir members to unload everything into the church, set up risers and to arrange seats. Even as the singers warmed up a capella, the beautiful sound gave a foretaste of the pleasures to follow. A short while later, piano, bass and percussion had slotted themselves into the corner. Then with full accompaniment the Songsters filled the church with magnificent sound.

A brief coach ride brought the group to the Hawick Citadel for a welcome tea. The tables had been beautifully laid by the ladies of the corps, who also served up some very popular desserts. Back at the beautiful church, there was a real buzz of expectation as corps members and townsfolk took their seats. Before entering for the concert, ISS leader Dorothy NanceKievill told the songsters to enjoy the evening, because they would not find many places in which it was so easy to sing well.

Rob Little’s majestic Introit from Psalm 24 in praise of The King of Glory, sung from within the congregation, set a high standard for the evening. As the music progressed the songsters moved from the aisles to the stage, building to the finale which filled the church with richness of sound.

Councillor Zandra Elliott brought greetings from the town, along with an expression of appreciation for The Salvation Army’s work and message. There followed a feast of music, including John Taverner’s haunting arrangement of William Blake’s poem The Lamb. The audience had a surprise when Richard MacIntosh switched to Spanish in the middle of his solo David Danced, an echo of the Songsters’ recent visit to South America.

The singing of Overture from the Magic Flute provided a humorous moment in the second half. Thoughtful words from Lt. Colonel George Pilkington led into the powerful modern anthem In the name of the Lord, and then the beautiful old song Jesus himself drew near. The songsters mingled again with the audience to bid goodnight in John Rutter’s arrangement of The Lord bless thee and keep thee. One person described it as “surround sound; like being with the angels in Heaven”

Supper and a good night’s rest in the homes of Salvationists and townsfolk meant the Staff Songsters met with friends on Sunday morning. Some corps members admitted to having little sleep because they were so thrilled and excited by the previous evening. The morning congregation, augmented by visitors from far and near, thrilled to the Staff Songsters’ music and testimony, and Col Pilkington urged us to be ready to fight like David – in the battles and in the manner that God calls us to.

Around 30 corps members joined the ISS for lunch at the local Buccleuch Restaurant. This venue gave everyone the opportunity to relax and get to know each other better. (Col. George said “the beef was to die for!”) And there was enough time for the visitors to see a little of Hawick, Queen o’ the Borders.

Though much smaller than Teviot church, Hawick Citadel proved to be another good venue for choral singing. ISS leader Dorothy Nancekievill commented on the lovely hall and the warmth of the welcome they had received in Hawick. As the hall rang to powerful opening and closing numbers, Jubilant Song and Praise His Holy Name many feet were tapping along to the music. The rich harmony of The Quiet Heart floated gently in the air over a silent audience. The local band and songster brigades presented their own musical items, but for many the highlight was the united Songster item. One Hawick member described it as “a privilege” to join with the International Staff Songsters Singin’ in the Heavenly Choir. Once again, Lt. Col George Pilkington’s thoughtful words directed the audience to God, who is our very life – before the songsters’ sang “this is the air I breathe, your holy presence living in me.” One listener commented afterwards that there was much food for thought that afternoon.

All too soon the weekend was over. With the hall cleared and the coach loaded for departure, a happy crowd stood on the hall steps to wave the visitors on their way. Back inside the hall, the conversation flowed easily over the many highlights of “a wonderful weekend that we will always remember”. A fitting end to a special year.

About prophetable

My wife Elizabeth and I were commissioned as Officers (ministers) in The Salvation Army in 1997, and have served in appointments in England and Scotland. Since July 2016 I have been working in The Salvation Army's Scotland Office as combined parliamentary and ecumenical representative.
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