Praises sung for Salvation Army Songster’s 60 years

published on 29 Mar 2022

Songster Dot Harris with former songster leader Val Thomlinson
Songster Dot Harris is presented with a certificate by former songster leader Val Thomlinson to mark her retirement

A singer who spent more than 60 years as a Salvation Army Songster has been celebrated after announcing her retirement.

Dorothy Harris (Dot) started singing with the church and charity’s choir as a 17-year-old, first at the now closed Birstall Corps (church) before moving to the Batley Corps in the early 1960s where she has sung ever since.

Dot, 78, will also step down from her role as Songster librarian.

Dot, who has two children and three grandchildren, said: “I feel very privileged to have been part of the Batley Songsters. Singing has been a great joy and blessing, a way of expressing my faith and ministering to other people through music. It’s a very rewarding experience.”

Batley Songsters
Dot with the Songsters in 1990

Brought up in a Salvation Army family, her father was a Songster leader at Birstall Corps and her mother a singing company leader.

Enrolling as a Songster at the age of 17, at 19, Dot moved to Dewsbury Corps with her parents until that closed 18 months later. In 1963, she moved to Batley. Outside of The Salvation Army, she worked for social services and then as a scheme manager at a sheltered housing complex.

Dot continued: “The years have flown by and I have seen many changes including from wearing bonnets to hats! The songs have changed, as well as the musical arrangements.

“I would sing solo parts and before my husband Edwin died, we would do duets together. It was a joy.

Batley Songsters
Dot with the Batley Songsters when they changed from bonnets to hats

“We had quite a few weekends away with the Songsters, across the UK and in June 1982 we performed at The National Songster Festival at The Royal Albert Hall with United Songsters from the territory, which was a great experience. In 1991 The International Staff Songsters visited Batley.

“As the Songster librarian, I worked closely with Songster leader Val Thomlinson, deciding what songs would fit with the theme of the meeting that week. I also filed and indexed the sheet music.

“Val as the leader taught me how to put feeling into the music, that we are singing our testimony and giving a message.”

With reduced mobility due to arthritis, Dot took the decision to retire, but will continue to attend church and document the Batley’s Corps rich history as Corps historian. The corps recently marked its 140th anniversary.

Dot added: “It’s not been an easy decision to retire, but I feel like this is the right time. I will miss it, but I will still be singing on a Sunday, just in another part of the church. I will miss the fellowship and devotion, but I will always have my memories. They will stay with me forever.”

Val with fellow Songsters
Major Heather Yates with Dot and Val

To mark her retirement, Dot was presented with a certificate and gifts by Corps Officer Captain Mark Cozens and Val Thomlinson during a recent Sunday service.

Captain Mark said: “Music has such a rich heritage within The Salvation Army and is a big part of our church and worship. Dot has been at the centre of that as a Songster and Songster Librarian.

“Dot gave a moving testimony and encouraged members of our new singing group to sing from the heart in praise of God. We want to thank her for her contribution and for inspiring a generation of new singers.”

a mother with her baby

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