Kneller Hall celebrates 150 years of Salvationists musicians serving ‘Under Two Flags’


For the first time in the 158 years history of concerts at the Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall, Salvation Army Bands joined with the flagship brass band of the Corps of Army Music, the Band of the King’s Division in a ‘CELEBRATION OF SERVICE’ outdoor concert performed on ‘the rock’.

2015 marked the 150th anniversary of The Salvation Army. To mark the event Salvationists from around the world arrived at the O2 arena this summer to celebrate. Eight years ago another establishment celebrated their 150th anniversary, the Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall.

In 1854 the Duke of Cambridge experienced a rather embarrassing moment in front of his cousin Queen Victoria. It was the first time British military bands had formed up as massed bands and it was a disaster. The bands didn’t play the National Anthem at the same tempo, in the same key or at the same pitch resulting in a cacophony of sound.
Not only was this deeply shaming to those concerned it carried the implication that regiments which could not play together would be hard put to fight together, thus diminishing their important deterrent effect on many of our erstwhile enemies.

Kneller Hall, a large country house and grounds of the distinguished court painter Sir Godfrey Kneller, was purchased and in 1857 the first ‘Military Music Class’ commenced with 85 pupils from 48 different regiments.

Eight yeas later in 1865 William Booth whilst preaching in the East End of London found his destiny and ‘The Christian Mission’ was formed before changing its name to ‘The Salvation Army’. When Bramwell Booth heard his father dictating a letter to his secretary saying, “We are a volunteer army” Bramwell responded, “Volunteer! I’m no volunteer, I’m a regular” with that, the word volunteer was crossed out and the substituted with the word ‘salvation’. Modelling itself after the military, the Salvation Army created it’s own flag (colours). Booth and the other soldiers in “God’s Army” would wear their own uniform with ministers given the appropriate ranks as officer and other members becoming soldiers.

There has always been a strong link between the British Armed forces and the Salvation Army. During the First World War thousands of Salvationists fought in the British Armed forces and again in the Second World War. The Salvation Army is also known for the support they’ve provided to troops serving in conflicts around the world. William Booth sent Staff-Captain Mary Murray to South Africa to support British troops serving in the Boer War and then in 1901 she was given the task of establishing the Naval and Military League, which then became the Red Shield Services. Some of the most notable brass bands in existence today in the Salvation Army can trace their history to those early days such as the International Staff Band, the Household Troops Band, Consett, Chalk Farm and many more.

It’s not surprising to realise that over the last 150 years existence of both Kneller Hall and the Salvation Army that hundreds of Salvationists have been trained at the Royal Military School of Music. Salvationists have performed in many of our well-known military bands achieving success in promotion the ranks. In the 1980s at one point all five Band Sergeant Majors of the foot guards had connections with the Salvation Army, and recently, a Salvationist occupied the top position, Senior Director of Music Army. 

When the Royal Military School of Music heard about the 150th celebrations planned by the Salvation Army, they sought to express their gratitude and appreciation to all those current and former Salvationists that serve, or have served, in one of the regimental bands. By putting on a concert featuring musicians from the military brass bands and a Salvation Army band.

The result was a unique one off concert on 24th June 2015 in the grounds of Kneller Hall. When the gates opened at 6:00pm the Yorkshire Divisional Youth band provided pre concert music. The ‘Celebration of Service’ concert featuring the Band of the Prince of Wales’ Division, the band of the Kings Division and the Household Troops Band of the Salvation Army, in a massed band outdoor spectacular then started at 8:00pm. With musical items from both the brass bands world and Salvation Army classics including a grand finale with fireworks it certainly was an evening to remember.

This event was organised by Citadel Promotions with permission of the Director Corps of Army Music, Colonel Barry Jenkins.


Gallery for Kneller Hall celebrates 150 years of Salvationists musicians serving ‘Under Two Flags’

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