Article of the week: Why we still need brass bands
5 June 2021
Craig Lewis outlines the benefits he believes bands bring to individuals and the Army
BRASS bands may seem like an anachronism to some. I would wholeheartedly disagree with that sentiment. A brass band is a modern musical tool that does far more than just entertain. Let me identify for you some of the specific benefits that brass bands bring to individuals, corps and The Salvation Army.
Music can grab people in a way that words seldom do. As we step outside our corps we see that music can draw attention, entertain and even bridge the gap between the often insular language of the Church and the world beyond our doors. It is also flexible in style and genre, adaptable to speak to diverse crowds with their own musical interests. ‘Go into the world. Go everywhere and announce the message of God’s good news to one and all’ (Mark 16:15 The Message).
A brass band is a place to belong – a family. In today’s world of technology, with faces stuck in electronic devices and isolated people working from home, we can feel more alone than ever. A band can be a vibrant group that actively engages in both worship and service together. ‘For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others’ (Romans 12:4 and 5).
Typically, musicians gather weekly in rehearsal and worship, where they are exposed to the word of God and challenged to grow in their faith and witness. Whether it’s through weekly group devotions or understanding the words and meaning of the music they play, there are huge opportunities to grow disciples. ‘It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from Heaven. Even angels long to look into these things’ (1 Peter 1:12).
We have few ministries in the Army that are as crossgenerational and welcoming of new Christians as brass bands. How many young people have been mentored by a seasoned musician sitting beside them? They have been taught everything from musical skills to deportment, discipline, team work and commitment – valuable skills that are transferable into so many areas of life. ‘Point your kids in the right direction – when they’re old they won’t be lost’ (Proverbs 22:6 MSG).
Making music in this setting is an active expression of worship. God made us to be musical beings. It is one of the many ways that he communicates with us. Corporate and participatory worship brings us closer to both God and other people. ‘Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Ephesians 5:19 and 20).
Age, race, gender – none of these matter in a brass band. Instead, we become one. One in mission, one in ministry. ‘We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully’ (Romans 12:6–8).
Brass bands are a distinct part of The Salvation Army’s brand. This is most visible at Christmas when our ministry engages in fundraising within our communities. If you were running a business and revenue growth could be attributed to a particular factor, you would invest time and energy in sustaining and growing that component. Likewise, if brass bands do so much for the organisation at Christmas, then it is prudent to invest in them all year round to ensure they are thriving in the peak months. ‘Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run; hurry and scurry puts you further behind’ (Proverbs 21:5 MSG).
I’m sure that you could come up with your own reasons in addition to mine. I leave you with this quote from Martin Luther: ‘Next to the word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.’
CRAIG IS TERRITORIAL SECRETARY FOR MUSIC AND GOSPEL ARTS, CANADA AND BERMUDA