Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 43, September 1999
By C W Malcolm
A contrast is presented by the picture of the 1938 Salvation Army Band and that of the Municipal Band on page 10b facing the article by Bruce Roberts in Journal 30. But they do not tell the full story: the Municipal Band was not always so large, nor the Salvation Army Band so small nor of necessity augmented by female players, a generally unusual feature.
Indeed there were times when neither Band existed and at other times there were fluctuations when one Band existed and the other did not. There were notable occasions when, in the absence of a municipal band, the Salvation Army Band was called to officiate.
When the large crowd of Paeroa citizens gathered at the railway station to farewell the first troops for the 1914 War, the Salvation Army Band was on the platform providing the music in its attempt to add cheer to the sadness of the occasion.
On 25 April 1916, at the first Anzac Day Commemoration in the Wharf Street theatre, Captain Gill Inglis of the Salvation Army gave the address and his Band not only accompanied the singing of the hymns but also demonstrated its skill by rendering the solemn Dead March in Saul with spine-tingling effect.
The Band fluctuated in size from time to time when Salvation Army families moved to or from the district. But it was possibly at its peak of performance in 1925 when the country's Salvationist Bands gathered in Auckland for one of its Band Festivals. It was by no means the largest Band there but it received the greatest ovation for its playing in the Town Hall.
Salvation Army Bands are not isolated local Bodies of the town in which they exist, but world-wide they are subject to the Rules and regulations of the International Headquarters in London with its own Musical Department, where its music is printed, with its own notable composers and its own establishment where its Band instruments are manufactured.
In 1967 its top ranking International Staff Band visited New Zealand including a spectacular march down Auckland's Queen Street. The four-hour long Funeral Procession of General Bramwell Booth in 1929 was interspersed at intervals by fifteen of London's top Salvationist Bands. London had witnessed few if any such scenes.
I was in London in 1978 and heard some incomparable bands during the Army's International Congress. As a tribute to the work of the Salvation Army a great service was held in historic Westminster Abbey. Surely it was rare indeed that those high and ancient stone vaults re-echoed to the music of the New York Staff Band which had crossed the Atlantic for the great Occasion.
But I am sure that the most moving band music I have ever heard was in St. Paul's Cathedral at a similar tribute to the Salvation Army when the Melbourne Staff Band from Australia ended the celebration with Bach's "Jesu' joy of man's desiring" the last note seeming to whisper round the vast dome above as if to prolong the lingering grandeur of its incomparable harmony.
By international regulation every Salvation Army Band obeys its London Headquarters: never to march away from their place of worship but always, as a guide, towards it; when marching through the streets to cease playing within a specified distance of any other church or place of worship to avoid possible disturbance; never to enter any band competition; and always to open and close their regular Band practices with prayer for their main purpose, to attract and draw men and women to the Christian Gospel.
A detailed history of the Salvation Army and its bands in Paeroa appears in Journal 17, June 1973, pages 7 to 13 by our contributor, C W Malcolm. [see Journal 17: Salvation Army in Paeroa - R]