Band together for Salvation Army celebrations

Salvation Army band
Salvation Army band

Leighton Buzzard Salvation Army Band is celebrating its 125th anniversary this Saturday and Sunday.

There will be special celebrations at the Citadel, Lammas Walk, being led by Commissioner William Cochrane, and renowned instrumental soloists Derek Kane (Euphonium) and Thomas Fountain (Cornet).

Many former members of the band are revisiting Leighton Buzzard on Saturday afternoon to take part in the reunion, which will feature a musical workshop conducted by Derek Kane (principal Euphonium of The International Staff Band of The Salvation Army).

A Celebration Festival will be given by Leighton Buzzard Band on Saturday evening at 7pm. Everyone is welcome.

Formed in 1889, three years after The Salvation Army was opened in the town, the band was not very well received (according to the local press at that time) as it consisted of a “squeaky clarinet, brass instruments blown out of tune, and an insufferable drum”!

However, a few weeks later another report appeared which said “The Salvation Army Band was pleasant to listen to on a Sunday afternoon”.

That was the early forerunner of the band celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.

Between 1889 and 1912 the band played under the leadership of eight bandmasters, but in 1912 Mr George Reeve became the Bandmaster 
and held this commission until his retirement in 1960, completing 48 years in this position.

To commemorate the occasion his retirement ceremony took place in Market Square and BBC TV cameras recorded it. Since this date the leadership of the band has been undertaken by six further Bandmasters, the present leader being Gordon Camsey assisted by Deputy Bandmaster Richard Guess.

Now celebrating 125 years of service and witness in the town, the band still thrives, having given unbroken service throughout all the years, and surviving two World Wars in the process.

A number of bandsmen paid the Supreme Sacrifice during the Great War.

The band has maintained a regular presence in the town over the years by assisting at many civic occasions, in particular the Christmas Eve Carol Singing, and supporting many charitable events, as well as being ever present at Sunday services held at the Citadel.

Over the many years the band has travelled extensively throughout the country to conduct weekend services at the invitation of other Salvation Army Corps.

A spokesman said: “The band today numbers some 26 musicians, men and women, ranging in age from students to retirees, and from a variety of vocations.

“It is the hope and desire of every member of the band that it may long continue in its service in The Salvation Army in Leighton Buzzard.”