Tony Cummings spoke to bandmaster Yvonne Ferguson of the BELLSHILL SALVATION ARMY BAND

Bellshill Salvation Army Band
Bellshill Salvation Army Band

As any church historian will tell you, the brass band music of the Salvation Army grew out of their founder William Booth (1829-1912) and his passion to take the Gospel to the great mass of working class people, who weren't being reached by the established church. Booth and his helpers took the popular songs of the day, gave them God-honouring lyrics and performed them on the streets in the military band style of the time.

Brass band music has served the Salvation Army church well, and though no-one would suggest that the stirring sounds of brass ensembles has the same cultural connection that it once had for the mass public, thousands of bands in citadels around the globe have kept alive a musical tradition which can still be enjoyed in concert halls and auditoriums as well as in the streets when Salvationists play a march.

Bellshill Salvation Army Band were formed in 1921. Located in the west of Scotland, the present ensemble, under the leadership of bandmaster Yvonne Ferguson, maintains a busy schedule presenting the Gospel in its musical ministry within the Corps through hospital ministry, visits to local churches and the annual Christmas activities for which Salvationist bands around the world are particularly gifted in supporting. A couple of months ago, Bellshill Salvation Army Band released their fifth CD, 'Immeasurable', and it's received glowing reviews. I spoke to bandmaster Yvonne Ferguson about BSAB and the part she's played in the band's continuing ministry.

Tony: Presumably you've had a long association with the Salvation Army.

Yvonne: I'm a fourth generation Salvation Army member, so all of my life.

Tony: Can you remember a time when the teachings about Jesus made sense to you and you put our trust in him?

Yvonne: I think during my early childhood I was aware of Jesus and obviously sang and played about but my own personal meeting with Jesus came about when I was about 18. Music played a hugely significant part in my life and it was whilst I was involved in music that I really met before the Lord and spoke intimately with him for the first time.

Tony: Were you taught music as a child?

Yvonne: Yes. I actually learnt to play the accordion aged five and then I started to play a brass instrument when I was probably nine. But obviously being in the Salvation Army, music is such a big part of their worship. I sang in the singing company and played in the band. I learnt to play at school not in the Army and I was then involved in the singing company and the Young People (YP) band and senior band. Piano is my other instrument. I studied trumpet and piano at University, and so I played piano for the songsters.

Tony: Presumably for many years you were a musician under another band leader.

Yvonne: I was, yes. There was a very influential YP band leader at my home corps in Dunfermline. I was at my home corps until 18 years ago and was very blessed to be influenced by a wonderful YP band leader and then progress to the senior band. As a leader myself, I was appointed deputy bandmaster of Dunfermline. I was deputy at 18 which raised a few eyebrows!

Tony: What year did you move to Bellshill?

Yvonne: 18 years ago, so 2000. It was a God-led move really, where I was very much in a position where I had two young daughters. My husband is in the Salvation Army as well, he's in the band. But Dunfermline corps sadly had really almost disintegrated when there were no other young people for our daughters. We became quite discouraged and so we were almost ready to make the decision to leave the Army and go to church. My father is from Bellshill. He was born in Bellshill so a lot of his family live in Bellshill. We were encouraged to go and help the band a couple of times, and the long story short, the bandmaster at that time, he very much encouraged me to make the move. Although it was a 50 mile drive we said we would try it and very, very quickly we realised that was where God wanted us to be. We actually moved a couple of years ago. We travelled for 16 years but we have now moved to be close to the corps so we can be even more involved.

I am surrounded by 39 in the band who all support me wonderfully well. Together God is using our ministry. What I would say is that in the days with the previous bandmaster in Bellshill we made five CDs and as principle cornet the expectation always was that you would feature as a soloist, so those were particularly challenging experiences because it is different playing in one situation in a church and in an Army corps but when you know that's going to travel about and people are going to hear it, that was quite a challenge, but again the Lord enabled me to do that.