8 December 2023

Celebrating Christmas with The Salvation Army 2023: A jolly good night!

Ivan Radford

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Ivan Radford reports on the territorial carol concert.

‘Joy’ had the first and last word of the night at Celebrating Christmas with The Salvation Army 2023.

The International Staff Band kicked off proceedings with ‘A Christmas Overture’, its opening blast of ‘Joy to the World!’ setting the mood for an encouraging, upbeat evening.

Over the following 90 minutes, the word ‘joy’ was then sung or spoken at least 35 times.

Smiles were on the faces of the congregation as they joined together to sing ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’, accompanied by an eight-trumpet fanfare, ‘Hark! the Herald Angels Sing’, ‘Hark the Glad Sound’ and ‘As with Gladness Men of Old’.

A photo of eight Salvation Army trumpets lining the front of the stage of the Royal Albert Hall

The International Staff Songsters sang of ‘news of great joy’ in ‘Sussex Carol’ before Chief Secretary Colonel Paul Main welcomed everyone present to an evening that would remind them of the happiness at the heart of Christmas.

Readings from Luke by fitness icon Rosemary Conley, CBeebies presenter Joanna Adeyinka-Burford and Dame Siân Phillips reinforced that message of joy, as the congregation was told of Mary visiting Elizabeth and glorifying the Lord and of the angels telling the shepherds the good news of Jesus’ birth, which would cause great joy for all people.

The ISB’s lively ‘Yule Dance’ combined ‘In Dulci Jubilo’ and ‘I Saw Three Ships’, before a video highlighted the work of the Family Tracing Service. Colonel Paul interviewed Billy Harrington-Roberts from the team and they spoke about the love and joy that reconciliation can bring to people’s lives. A number of families helped by the Family Tracing Service were present in the audience.

A photo of Joanna Adeyinka-Burford reading the Bible on stage at the Royal Albert Hall
Joanna Adeyinka-Burford

Violinist Caitlin Kisumba presented a vibrant version of ‘Joyful, Joyful’, accompanied by the Salvation Army Big Band and the ISS, and together they signalled the other key word of the night: jazz.

The Salvation Army Big Band, sporting saxophones and horns aplenty, breezed through ‘The Most Wonderful Time of the Year’. The influence of John Barry could be heard in the playful syncopation of the ISB’s ‘Christmas Calypso’.

The Salvation Army Big Band teamed up with West End threesome the IDolls, who sashayed through a swinging rendition of ‘Jingle Bells’.

The boisterous trio’s rendition of ‘Oh Bless the Lord My Soul’ led into the message from Territorial Commander Commissioner Anthony Cotterill, who celebrated the awesome, overwhelming experience of Jesus coming into our world.

A photo of the IDolls trio singing on stage at the Royal Albert Hall wearing glamorous outfits
The IDolls

Referencing William Booth’s last public address – his famous ‘I’ll Fight’ speech, delivered from the same platform 111 years ago – the TC spoke of the Army’s mission today to continue proclaiming the goodness and freedom found in Jesus.

‘It is our hope and our prayer that this Advent and Christmas you’ll know the overwhelming joy that comes from God’s presence,’ he added.

The evening reached a joyful and triumphant climax, as Caitlin was joined on stage by Andrew, Sarah and Eryna Kisumba. The multi-talented family presented ‘Your Love Lifts Me Up’ along with the Salvation Army Big Band, the ISB and Portia Emare from the IDolls.

After that uplifting finale, Colonel Paul concluded the night with a prayer, encouraging people to ‘spread the Christmas joy to many, many, many more people’.

The ISB serenaded the cheerful crowd on their way, of course, with ‘Christmas Joy’.

Written by

A photo of Ivan Radford.

Ivan Radford

Managing Editor, Salvationist

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