140th anniversary of The Salvation Army Band

Jun 17, 2024

As part of National Salvation Army Week (May 13-19), the Grand Rapids Fulton Heights Citadel Corps held a historic event, celebrating the 140th anniversary of The Salvation Army Band on May 19th.  The corps reached out to band alumni throughout the USA, and held a special Alumni Band Concert, featuring guest soloists Tom and Heather Hanton on trombone voice. Major Doug Rowland, former corps officer, shared his testimony and special remarks.   

In 1883, the Salvation Army opened fire in Grand Rapids – the first location in the State of Michigan, and in 1884, the Grand Rapids Band was the first commissioned in the entire United States. David Hay was the first commissioned bandmaster in the country and John Youngblood the first commissioned drummer.

“From its early beginnings, The Salvation Army’s brass bands have been an integral part of our ministry,” said Grand Valley Area Commander Major Tim Meyer. “With our Christian heritage and motivation, The Salvation Army continues its unique service to all people in the name of Christ, not only here in Grand Rapids but throughout the world.”

Prior to the concert, Curtis Britcher, a fifth-generation Salvationist, retired after having served as bandmaster since 1991, handing his baton over Chuck Warfel. Warfel then proceeded to lead almost 40 former and current band members as they performed a combination of Salvation Army original musical scores and other selections.

Photo: 140th Brass Band Anniversary Group Picture

Those participating also included the youngest current member, the oldest current member, and the longest serving band member; Calvin Bland (14), Major David Carr (84) and Jane Chase (active 57 years).

Photo: Calvin Bland, Major David Carr, and Jane Chase.

Representative of many multi-generation band members serving throughout the years were three generations of musicians active in the concert - Janelle & Steve McDonald, their son Timothy, and Janell’s father, Major Donald Lenz.

Photo: Janelle McDonald, Timothy McDonald, and Major Don Lenz

“My salvation is playing a brass instrument, it brings me closer to the Lord,” said Major Don Lenz. “I worship when I play. The Lord has used music to bless me over, and over, and over again.”

“The Salvation Army Brass Band has given me a sense of purpose of what I want to do with my life,” said Timothy McDonald. “It makes me proud of what we do, as a family.”

The last song of the evening was “Christmas Joy”, in honor of special guests and band alumni, Tom and Heather Hanton, who got engaged in Grand Rapids in 2002 during a scheduled pause in the annual Christmas parade.  A television news crew even caught the proposal while covering the parade.

The Leaders of the Great Lakes Division, Lieutenant Colonels Steve and Christine Merritt were also in attendance.

The event, which also included an open house highlighting ministries ‘Behind the Red Shield,’ and a silent auction for the Fulton Heights Citadel, was organized by Corps Officers Major R.C. Duskin and Major Maureen Diffley.

Photo: Front Row - Lt. Col. Steve Merritt, Lt. Col. Christine Merritt, Chuck Warfel, Major Maureen Diffley. Back Row - Major Tim Meyer, B/M Curtis Britcher, Major R.C. Duskin


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