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The Brigade was inaugurated during 1939, with the first practice being held on 29August (a week before WWII was declared) under the baton of Sister Violet Morgan and consisted of all female members (14 in number). A singing group had been established at Hurstville some time during the early 1930s, but this Songster Brigade was the first group formally installed.
During the 1940s the Songster Brigade participated in a 'Radio Sunday School' broadcast, as well as numerous other programmes which brought hope and blessing to many 'shut-ins' who could not leave their homes.
The tenth anniversary of the Brigade was celebrated on the weekend of 12 - 13 November 1949, partnering with Sydney Congress Hall Band for a Festival of Music. Numerous individual items of the "highest standard" were presented, including elocutionary contributions by Sister Thelma Treffone, pieces by Bandsman A. Staines (saxophone) and K. Staines (soprano cornet), a "beautifully rendered" vocal solo by Songster Mrs Emily Wasson and a euphonium solo by Bandsman Ron Beavan. The Bandmaster of Congress Hall (H. Morgan) handed Songster Leader Violet Morgan his baton to conduct the full company in their Benedictory 'There is a Green Hill'. The gesture was received with great ovations, as was the excellent conducting of the piece by Sister Morgan.
'The Musician' journal of July 1950 reported on the Songsters' visit to Goulburn NSW in June of that year. Apart from visits by the group to Salvation Army hostels and the District Hospital, the Brigade presented a Saturday night concert. Included in the programme was a piano-accordian duet by Mrs Major Nicholson (Hurstville Corps Officer) and Songster Leader Sister Morgan, which was "greeted enthusiastically", and timbrellists including 3 juniors who "played with their own charm and showed great skill".
Maitland NSW was the destination of the Brigade's June 1952 country tour. During the night programme the congregation showed their appreciation "in no uncertain manner", with the highlight being the presentation of the tableau 'The Hem of His Garment'.
On Sunday 3October 1954 the Songster Brigade was again given the opportunity to broadcast their unique witness over the airwaves, when they were invited to sing at Radio Station 2CH during the 8:15 am 'Sunshine Hour'. 'Sweet Will of God' and 'They That Wait Upon the Lord' were the two songs presented for the blessing and enjoyment of the station's listeners.
A departure for the Hurstville Songster 'tradition' was made during the Brigade's 15thannual festival in 1954, when Hurstville male voices were included for the first time in one of their pieces. On 7 April 1958, men were "permitted" to join the Brigade on a permanent basis.
The Brigade visited Lismore NSW in October 1959 as part of their 20th Anniversary celebrations, travelling the 800-plus kilometres by coach. On the Sunday of the tour they had no less than nine engagements, including visits to two hospitals and a retirement home.
By 1960 the Songster Brigade had appeared on television and toured many more NSW towns, including Maitland, Goulburn, Lismore and Gosford.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation's programme 'Community Hymn Singing' was relayed throughout the national network from the Hurstville Citadel on 21 April 1974, by Radio Station 2CH. The Songster Brigade, under the leadership of Songster Leader Merle Wemyss, presented two songs and the Band sang as a male chorus. Letters of appreciation and thanks for the blessing came from every state in Australia.
Over the next two decades the Brigade continued their missional visits throughout NSW and onto other states, including Victoria and Queensland. Easter 1985 saw the Hurstville Songster Brigade, under the baton of Dr Ron Smart, venture on to foreign soil for the first time, with Western USA being their final destination. This was the first time an Australian Salvation Army Songster Brigade had visited the USA.
The touring party consisted of 54 Songsters, and the tour was not just a trip, but a mission. The Brigade made a four day stopover in New Zealand on the way, visiting Christchurch, Palmerston North and Wellington. Honolulu, Hawaii was the next stop, where the Songsters were greeted with enthusiasm. Many shopping centres were visited and the Gospel in song was heard by all those who gathered.
Salt Lake City, Utah, was the first port of call on the United States mainland. The highlights of this part of the visit ranged from singing 'In This Very Room' in a converted warehouse, to the rendition of 'Give Me Jesus' in the Mormon Tabernacle. Not since 1919 had a Salvation Army group entered the Mormon Tabernacle to perform in an official capacity. The enormity of the responsibility was felt by the Songsters, but, as the Salvation Army flag was placed on the platform of the assembly hall, the assurance of the Holy Spirit's presence was truly evident. A standing ovation was given to the Brigade and thanks were offered to God for the opportunity to witness in this place.
In Seattle Washington, the Brigade had the privilege of singing both Australian and USA national anthems at the King Dome before a basketball game there. This was televised nationally, and after this event, the Brigade were recognised wherever they went.
The last weekend of the tour was hosted by The Salvation Army's Santa Ana (California) Corps. Easter Sunday was an inspiring day, as the Songsters were give some unique privileges, being invited to sing in the Crystal Cathedral in the morning, and then later to Disneyland for more witnessing. This tour was indeed led by the hand of God and many people were reached with the Gospel.
The Hurstville Songsters travelled south by coach in September 1988 to Wanniassa (ACT), Wangaratta and Camberwell (Victoria), under the leadership of Sister Mrs Marian Wallace. One highlight of the programme at Camberwell was a piano duet by Songster Julie Townsend and Deputy Songster Leader Craig Woodland.
The Brigade journeyed north to Grafton NSW and then on to the Gold Coast Queensland in June 1990 for a series of presentations, and in June 1993, Albion Corps in Queensland welcomed the Songsters for their tour of witness.
A letter was received from Port Macquarie Corps after the visit by the Songster Brigade in September 1995: "The whole weekend was one which glorified God and souls were, indeed, touched by the Holy Spirit through the music and ministry of the Songster Brigade."
Hobart Tasmania was the port of call for the Brigade during the 1997 Easter celebrations, where they presented the musical 'The Door', narrated by Major Narelle Rees, and which portrayed the Resurrection.
The Songsters' next overseas trip was in 2001, where they toured the North Island of New Zealand under the direction of Songster Leader Gaylene Millar. A fast-paced itinerary was completed by coach, with visits to venues ranging from Wellington City, Palmerston North and Napier, to smaller centres such as Hamilton and Taupo.
The Hurstville Citadel Songster Brigade has thrilled and blessed many souls over the years with the proclamation of the Word of God with music and voices. Now under the leadership of Songster Leader Julie Townsend, the Brigade continues to be a vital section of The Salvation Army at Hurstville, sharing the love of God through song.
August 2009: Hurstville Songsters celebrated 70 years of singing praise and worship to the glory of God!
To commemorate this significant milestone in their history, the Hurstville Songster Brigade celebrated on the weekend of 8 and 9 August 2009 with a workshop for present and former Songsters and a Celebration of Faith concert on the Sunday afternoon. Three of our former Songster Leaders took part by conducting over 80 current and former Songsters in individual items during the concert.
Select here to see images of the Hurstville Songsters over the years come to life!
Hurstville Songsters toured Singapore and West Malaysia during Easter 2011 (with an entourage of nearly 40 Songsters and support crew). Their fast-paced itinerary was:
Friday 15 April - Sydney - Kuala Lumpar
Saturday 16 April - Ipoh
Sunday 17 April - Kuala Lumpar
Monday 18 April - Melaka
Wednesday 20 April - Singapore
Monday 25 April - Singapore - Sydney
The Songsters' tour brochure proclaimed: "Hurstville Songsters are looking forward to ministering in West Malaysia and Singapore during Easter 2011, and pray that people will be brought closer to God through their ministry in song."
On Sunday 31 August 2014 the Hurstville Songsters (Julie Townsend - Songster Leader) celebrated 75 years of singing praise to God. The Songsters had four brackets during the morning meeting, with former Songsters (56 on the platform as a combined songster brigade) invited to join in with singing the benediction song “We Declare Your Majesty”. The last verse of this song sums up the Songsters’ message over the years: “Sing it again, all honour and glory, In adoration, we bow before Your throne. We bow before Your throne”.
For more photographs of the occasion, select here or go to the Gallery section of this website.
Following the meeting, all were invited to the Youth Hall for a ‘typical’ Hurstville morning tea, during which a special 75th Anniversary cake (made especially for the occasion by Rochelle Hide, wife of former Songster Jonathan Hide and daughter-in-law of current Songster Carolyn Hide) with an ‘edible’ photograph of the first Songsters in 1939, was ‘ceremonially’ cut by one of the oldest former Songsters, Margaret Packer (who was also celebrating her 80th birthday), and one of the newest Songsters, Samantha (“Sam”) Furka.
The Corps newsletter summed up the occasion succinctly:
Today we come together to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the ministry of our Songsters. Over these years it has not only been here at Hurstville that has been blessed by their ministry through music but many countries have been the recipients of this as well. From the inception of the Songsters in 1939 to now the goal has been to glorify our Lord and Saviour and we give thanks to all past, present and future members of the Songsters for your contribution towards presenting the Gospel through music.
It was interesting to read about the songsters on our website and to gain an insight into this ministry. For all the past Songster Leaders and to our present leader Julie we say thank you for your time, commitment and service for the Lord and to the Lord. We also say thank you to each member of the Songsters for allowing God to use your talents to bring a blessing to us each week.
And as the Songsters lead us through this morning’s meeting may the glory and honour go to our mighty God.
And in the words of one of the Songs we will hear this morning;
“We declare your majesty”
Aim for Perfection
Corps Officers Sherrie & Trevor Nicol (Majors)
Assoc. Officers Sean Li & Lydia Hong (Lieutenants)
Cnr Bond & Dora Streets
Hurstville, NSW 2220
Ph. (02) 9570 2617
Fax. (02) 9570 4840
“I will bow down towards your holy temple and will praise your name for your unfailing love and your faithfulness, for you have so exalted your solemn decree that it surpasses your fame.”Psalm 138:2
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