The Crystal Palace, designed and erected in Hyde Park to house the Great Exhibition of 1851 and subsequently re-sited at Sydenham Hill in South London, was first used as a venue for Salvation Army gatherings and congresses in 1890. With its vast concert hall, huge platform and spacious grounds it was ideally suited for these events, particularly the Salvation Army musical festivals which formed the central part of the celebrations.
The Crystal Palace
The 1934 Territorial Congress, held on 23rd. June was the last "C.P. day" to be held before the building was destroyed by fire.
Advances in recording techniques coupled with The Gramophone Company's newly developed mobile recording van allowed the proceedings to be recorded for the first time. Six records MR1392 - 1397 (MF238 - 243) were issued in September 1934. These were available either singularly or as a commemorative boxed set and featured items from both the afternoon and evening festivals.
One can sense the ethereal acoustics of the building and the anticipation of the congregation from the noisy chatter that precedes General Edward Higgins announcing "The opening song on the programme", his outlining of "Hark the sounds of singing" (tune "Rachie") being punctuated by a whistle: Territorial Bandmaster Punchard signalling the massed bands to prepare to play. After a somewhat ponderous start (not all of the bandsmen had heeded Puchard's whistle), the bands settle into the tune and Gen. Higgins can be heard singing until he is overpowered by a prominent soprano cornet, which stops abruptly just before the chorus as the microphone is turned to face the congregation. The volume of singing increases dramatically from this point.
General E. Higgins
Salvation Army Congress Records
Record MR1392: "Congress Opening"
Record MR1392: Speech General E. Higgins Hark the sound of singing (Opening Song Evening) General Higgins, United Bands & Congregation Stracathro (Hymn Tune)
United Bands cond. by Terr. BM Alfred W. Punchard
Record MR1393: Gen. E. Higgins: "Message"
CS H. Mapp: "Benediction" MF239
Record MR1393: Broken Hill (March)
United Bands conducted by Terr. BM. Alfred Punchard Message from King George V read by General Higgins Abide with me (Closing Song Evening)
United Bands with Congregational Singing Benediction Comm. Henry Mapp (Chief of the Staff)
Record MR1394: "The Lord will provide" MF240
Record MR1394: The Lord will provide (Song)
United Songsters cond. by Col. Railton Howard Jehovah is our strength (Opening Song Afternoon) Warrington (Hymn Tune) Chief of the Staff, United Bands & Congregation
The Hymn Tunes "Warrington" and "Stracathro" were a single item by the United Bands. The playing of "Warrington" (MR1394/MF240) is prefaced by the Chief of the Staff announcing; "You will notice that the congregation is invited to join in the singing of the two verses printed on the programme after the United Bands have played the second piece once". "Stracathro" was General Higgins' favourite tune and was played by the united solo bands in recognition of his forthcoming retirement. The congregation joins in, as requested; singing two verses of "The Lord's my shepherd" although the words are somewhat difficult to make out.
Record MR1395: "Recollections" MF241
Record MR1395: Recollections (Selection)
International Staff Band cond. by Lt.Col. George Fuller (A baby can be heard crying throughout this recording.)
Record MR1396: "The Cleansing Stream" MF242
Record MR1396: God is spirit (Song)
United Songsters cond. by Col. Railton Howard The Cleansing Stream (Cornet Duet)
Ronald & Victor Handscombe with The Salvation Army Cambridge Heath Band cond. by Lt. Col. George Fuller
Record MR1397: "Adeste Fidelis" MF243
Record MR1397: Adeste Fidelis (Meditation)
United Solo Bands cond. by Terr. BM. Alfred Punchard
MR1397 - "Adeste Fidelis" (Meditation) As this melody is generally associated with Christmas and the carol "O come all ye faithful", it was a strange choice for Mid-summer.
These records serve as a reminder, not only of the musical proficiency of the performers, their leaders and the personalities of the day, but also to the spontaneity and traditions of the Salvation Army. The event is best summed up in the words of the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Charles Collet, who took the salute at the march past. "There must be more happiness to the square mile here than anywhere else on earth." (Colin R. Waller, GB)