What it’s like to join SASWE… by Rachel Frost

Rachel Frost is a Theology Student and is studying at Edinburgh University, and hails from Cambridgeshire. We asked her to put her first impressions of joining SASWE as a clarinet player into words.

To say I was nervous about my first trip with the Salvation Army Symphonic Wind Ensemble is an understatement. I was still relatively new to the Salvation Army, having come to my local corps in Edinburgh as a student the previous year. This anxiety was centred mainly about a trip to Glasgow as, coming from Edinburgh, this was a place I was warned never to visit. None the less I stood waiting for my 6.30am train having been up for an hour pondering what else I was nervous about. The people were the next one, what would they be like? Would they be welcoming and friendly like at the Corps, or would they be a bit standoffish, especially given I was not a member? Then there was the music, I may have been a decent musician at school but that was compared to a limited number, how would I compare with the other musicians? Then there was the train travel, the drive to Shipley with two strangers, and a night Billeting with a couple who I had never met.

However, I am very pleased to say that none of these worries were validated. The people were some of the friendliest I had ever met and immediately made me feel welcome, by the end of the day I felt like I known some for years such was the genuine nature of their friendship. The music was wonderful, tunes that I both knew and did not know intermingled within a program of general fun. Whilst I can’t deny I struggled with some of the runs and the pace of “Just like John” I played everything smiling inwardly and outwardly such was the skill in the arrangements. My Train travel and inaugural trip to Glasgow were both successful. The  drive to the concert and the return were both fantastic fun, and taught me an awful lot of practical jokes to play on brass players! The couple I billeted were wonderful and I had the best breakfast of Pancakes that morning.  All in all it was a great trip and reflected many of the themes that first led me to the Salvation Army. I now look forward to the next gig and the chance for further chat and fellowship (just nit when we are supposed to be rehearsing).

I am a bit of an ecclesiastical all-sort, not really settling in a number of churches. I been a Methodist, Baptist, Church of England and had dabbled in the free church when I first came to university. All these churches had been good, but had not filled the fellowship category that I looked for in each new establishment. I had tried a couple of churches when I first came up to uni but none of them seemed to suit. I’d been emailed by the ‘Corps Officer’ (who I assumed was the leader, having never heard the term before) of the Salvation Army City Corps of Edinburgh and, as it was a 20 minute walk away from my halls, decided I’d go and have a look. The Corps immediately made me feel welcome, I felt taken into their family. The Corps are still, a year and a half later, a wonderful family. I have any number of adoptive parents and grandparents, as well as some siblings! The preaching and the music are all wonderful but what keeps me going back and what I miss when I can’t be there is the family. This is why I have chosen to stay in the Salvation Army, the fellowship and family element that they offer to all people.

SASWE at Shipley

There was an air of purpose and anticipation as members of the Salvation Army Symphonic Wind Ensemble converged on Shipley on Saturday.  Despite the majority of the band having travelled extensive distances, they were soon practising hard to put the finishing touches to their musical programme.

SASWE at Shipley

Planning for the event had begun a couple of years earlier when an invitation was extended after hearing the playing and enjoying the ministry when the band visited Brighouse.

As darkness fell and the audience began to gather, there was a renewing of friendships together with those coming to hear this unique group for the first time.  Despite the nervousness about the very young baby right on the front row, it was clear from the very first notes that the capacity audience were in for an entertaining evening.

SASWE at Shipley

The band, under the direction of Andrew Mackereth, provided an exciting and varied programme which offered something to appeal to everyone.  From the opening celebration, ‘Réjouissance’ (A Laken) to the concluding challenge, ‘The Presence and the Power’ (A Mackereth), the music married excitement, precision and sensitivity.

The evening included lots of audience participation.  In addition to the congregational songs, everyone was invited to sing a long with Shipley Worship Group as they presented a ‘Spiritual Medley’ and ‘I will follow you’.  There was also plenty of singing to the band pieces, although Barrie Hingley’s arrangement of ‘Marching to the Devil’s Tunes’ might not have seen everyone singing from the same hymnsheet.

Report: SASWE at Brighton Congress Hall

Brighton Congress Hall was the first Saturday engagement of the season for the Salvation Army Symphonic Wind Ensemble (SASWE). A large congregation gathered to hear a very good evening of music from this fine ensemble of musicians from all  areas of the country under the leadership of Bandmaster Andrew Mackereth.

At brighton congress hall

Pieces ranged from the march ‘Rejouissance’ written by a former member of the group, the late Alan Laken, to two new items one written by Retired Songster Leader Michael Babb, also a former member for many years and a valued composer, ‘I bring my heart to Jesus’ the second by Bandmaster Andrew Mackereth, ‘The Presence and the Power’.

Special mention was made of the Promotion to Glory of Songster Leader Maisie Wiggins who, until last year was a very loyal member of the ensemble since it began more than twenty years ago. As a tribute to her, Andrew composed a piece which included parts of solos Maisie had played, and choruses and melodies which were personal to her family.

The Corps community choir ‘All Aloud’ were included in the evening and brought a good selection of secular songs.

Other items included some Army classics which had been transposed by member Kevin Horner.

Many comments were made that the programme provided many varied and well played items making the event a great evening of fellowship and music making.

As a fitting gesture to Retired Songster Leader Michael Babb for all his contributions to the ensemble, a souvenir picture was taken of him with the band.

Bram Warren

Announcing our Honorary Patron, Barrie Hingley

We are very pleased to announce that SASWE now has an Honorary Patron, Barrie Hingley.

Barrie Hingley

Wing Commander Barrie Hingley OBE BMus LRAM ARCM RAF (Ret’d) Barrie Hingley was educated at Drax Grammar School and started his musical interest in the Salvation Army Band in Selby, Yorkshire. He joined Royal Air Force Music Services in 1956, spending a year in the RAF School of Music, and later gained conducting diplomas at The Royal Academy of Music and The Royal College of Music followed by a Bachelor of Music Honours Degree at London University.

After serving with several Royal Air Force Bands at home and abroad he was commissioned in 1967 and became Director of Music of the Band of Royal Air Force Germany and then the Midland Band of the RAF. His service was recognised In 1971 by the award of the MBE. Later appointments included Director of Music of the RAF School of Music for eleven years, and Director of Music of the Central Band and Headquarters Music Services. His promotion to the post of Principal Director of Music RAF in February 1989 made him the tenth in a line of distinguished musicians who have been at the head of RAF music.

As Principal Director of Music he conducted hundreds of concerts, parades, recordings and broadcasts in the UK and many of his arrangements and compositions have been recorded by RAF Bands. He conducted the RAF Central Band on tours of France, Hong Kong, Canada and on two major tours of the USA. He became Senior Director of Music of the three Services and had musical responsibility for many National events. The tribute to HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in celebration of her 90th birthday held on Horse Guards Parade in June 1990 involved the co-ordination of many bands and choirs, conducting over 1000 musicians and writing much of the music. He was awarded the OBE in the 1995 New Year’s Honours List just prior to his retirement.

After leaving the RAF he has continued to compose and arrange music. His music is constantly played in TV and Radio programmes throughout the world. Commissions have been completed for HM The Queen’s Annual Christmas television broadcasts, including a new version of the National Anthem recorded by the Choristers of Westminster Abbey; the Sultan of Oman’s 25th Anniversary Celebrations, the Centenary Celebrations in Saudi Arabia, the 50th Anniversary of VE Day performed by a large Symphony Orchestra and 1000 voice choir, and music for BBC TV broadcasts and tribute events on Horse Guards Parade with massed service bands, choirs and orchestras. The National Youth Ballet commissioned him to write a ‘Nativity’ Ballet which has been performed at the Royal Albert Hall, on BBC TV and Sadler’s Wells. His music has been used for many films, documentaries and TV programmes, the Royal Tournament, the Festival of Remembrance, and the Edinburgh Tattoo.

He was appointed Director of Music for the Queen’s Golden Wedding Pageant, a celebration with over 1,000 horses in Windsor Great Park, with musical forces included the Massed Bands of the Guards Division, a large Symphony Orchestra, Six Fanfare Teams, Massed Mounted Bands and the 300-piece Bach Choir under Sir David Willcocks. Unfortunately, with rehearsals completed and CD’s recorded and ready, the event had to be cancelled because of extreme weather conditions!

Other commissions have included writing the music for the Queen Mother’s 100th Birthday Celebrations, including Her Birthday Song, and music for the huge musical forces in the Mall and forecourt of Buckingham Palace for HM The Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations for which he was director of music. His Jubilee Anthem for that event was recorded by the Choir of St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Royal Philharmonic orchestra as an official tribute.

In retirement, Barrie Hingley’s interest and support for the Salvation Army in his early years still continues in Hillingdon, West London. He is also the President of the Royal Air Force Music Services Association.
Barrie says: “I heard the Salvation Army Symphonic Wind Ensemble (SASWE) perform recently at the Symphonic Hall, Birmingham. The Ensemble was heard during the day and in the evening concert alongside other Salvation Army Bands of the highest musical quality. Despite Salvation Army audiences being more familiar with the sound of a brass band, the fine musicality of the Wind Ensemble’s playing brought warm and enthusiastic applause from the audience. I thought it was well deserved.”

Tributes to Maisie Wiggins

I first met Maisie when we were both visiting Instrumental Teachers at a school in Harrow.  The Head Teacher was Muriel Yendell and the Music Teacher was Des Vinall.  I distinctly remember playing in a Concert alongside Maisie in a Staff ‘Dixieland Band’.

Always keen to try something ‘new’ Maisie duly arrived at the inaugural rehearsal for SASWE at Ilford Salvation Army Hall in October 1994. She was indeed a founder member of this group and at her last SASWE performance was given a great personal ovation by the audience in Birmingham Symphony Hall.

Alison Riddell joined SASWE in 2016, and it was of great interest for me to learn that she was a friend of Sally Stafford, with whom I had worked in Music Education in Buckinghamshire. I then went on to learn that both Sally and Alison had been fellow teenage oboists in Harrow Students’ Concert Band with Maisie!

As you will read in the tributes, Maisie was indeed a great role model for two young aspiring musicians.

John Davie

Alison Riddell (nee Maylor)

My first memory of Maisie Ringham was when I joined the Saturday morning Music School in the London Borough of Harrow at the age of 13 or 14.   I had just started playing the oboe and remember hearing the Harrow Students’ Concert Band rehearsing.  In those days all the young people had to be under the age of 18 and the professional sound of the group was such that many of us used to go and listen to them rehearsing in our spare time when we were not involved in our own rehearsals.  I longed to be good enough to be part of this group, and occasionally would be asked to play during a rehearsal if they were short of an oboist – such an honour!  The piece of music I seemed to remember being played most frequently was Finlandia, but I also remember frequently hearing, and later playing, Plymouth Hoe and Mancini Magic.  Eventually I achieved the standard I needed, to be accepted into the Harrow Students’ Concert Band as an oboist.  What a wealth of musical experiences and opportunities then began!

Although the significance of it at that time didn’t really register with me as a young teenager, my mother, who like Maisie had also been a student at the Royal Manchester College of Music (RMCM), about 4 years behind Maisie, told me that Maisie had been awarded the Candlin Wind Scholarship and had achieved the rare feat of being appointed principal trombonist of the Halle Orchestra, conducted by Sir John Barbirolli, which was virtually unheard of in those days for a woman, especially one still in her early twenties.

As well as conducting the Concert Band at the Harrow Young Musicians on a Saturday morning, Maisie was a member of staff at the Harrow Youth Orchestra which rehearsed on a Friday evening.  There was a rivalry between the two organisations, but many of us would often deputise for each other in various orchestras, and it was a friendly rivalry which drove the already high standard even higher, and we would often go to each other’s concerts.

Through Maisie, and her peripatetic teaching in various schools, I was offered my first opportunity to play ‘professionally’ in a ‘theatre pit’ for a school production of a musical.  This led to other performing opportunities for many of us, mainly in schools, churches, with local operatic societies and with local orchestras – and our musical lives had begun.  Music was our lives, and became our social lives as well.  We had a wonderful time, all thanks to Maisie!

Now in my mid-fifties, the first word that springs to mind when I think about Maisie is “inspirational”.  She has inspired so many people in so many ways.  Maisie seemed to have endless energy and was always so encouraging.  If anyone came up with an idea, she never thought it was a bad idea and seemed to find a way to try all of them, making us all feel important and valued.  I don’t know how she fitted all her activities into her diary, or how she managed to find time for her family and be such a proactive member of the Salvation Army.  She always spoke fondly of her husband and children, and they were clearly a very close family and family values were very important to her.

Maisie seemed to have endless energy and enthusiasm.  I remember during one rehearsal Maisie told us that she had been up until 2.30 – 3 o’clock in the morning the previous night, preparing the music and putting it into the pads herself.

Maisie offered opportunities to so many young musicians in Harrow.   She taught us how to be professional both on and off the stage.  If we did anything, we did it properly.  She introduced us to a huge repertoire of very varied music and gave us the opportunity to play with musicians of the highest calibre that we would never had had if it hadn’t been for her connections with the top musicians who held her in the highest esteem, one of whom was Don Lusher.

We made a record, which was virtually unheard of in those days, especially for a band of amateur musicians whose members were mainly teenagers.  We fund-raised for this by selling cakes on a Saturday morning during the break.  My mother became famous for making a batch of about 60 home-made glazed currant buns every Friday night so that we could sell them to raise money.  Maisie encouraged us to find other ways to raise money, and I remember booking a date at St Mary’s Church, Kenton, to perform a concert to raise money so that we could make the record.   We performed a series of concerts until we had raised enough money, and in 1978 we recorded an LP with Rosehill Records.  Each one of us had our name on the back of the record sleeve, we felt so special, and all the tutors and music school staff were named as well.  She always acknowledged and thanked everyone involved in her achievements.

Maisie took us to play in Leeds, where we twinned with musicians in Sheffield from a similarly set-up Saturday Music School.  We went to Harrogate to the International Festival of Marching Bands, and because we would have to march she brought in someone to teach us how to march properly.

Maisie invited me to play as a soloist in a concert.  This was the first time where I realised, with her support, that the audience were on my side and not something to be feared.  She gave me courage and self-belief, and did the same for other young musicians, many of whom went on to become professional musicians.

I later went on to study at the Guildhall School of Music, and so many of us went on to other music colleges, inspired by Maisie lighting a flame inside each one of us to love music and give the best performance of it that we possibly could.  She was an inspiration to us all, a wonderful trombonist and musician whose playing had that magic that ‘made you listen’, an amazing teacher,  a remarkable lady, a true friend to us all and dignified at all times.  She made each and every one of us feel valued and I will never forget her.  I cherish every memory I have of her.  May she rest in peace and be remembered in our hearts forever.


Sally Stafford

Maisie Ringham conducted the Harrow Students Concert Band for decades and was a real tour de force: she often sported a white painted drum stick to direct the band and when the ensemble wasn’t quite together she used it to smash out the tactus on her stand. On one occasion, splinters of wood flew into the air. After registering a little surprise, Maisie simply said, “Time for a new baton”.

Maisie was tremendously musical and brought out the best in every ensemble she conducted. She showed us all the way by her example: quiet, precise but unfussy organisation; empathy and support for anyone in need; phenomenal concentration and attention to detail in getting the music right; total dedication and commitment.

There are only a few “movers and shakers” in this world, and Maisie was certainly one of those to me. She came to our wedding with her husband Ray, and showed much pleasure in the band, smiling and encouraging the young musicians who knew me through my teaching and conducting. They are nearly all professional players and teachers now: Maisie’s baton will be passed on for generations to come.

Maisie was also there in our sadness. She came to my father’s funeral and visited my mother especially on Christmas Eve. I will never forget this kindness but it was only to be expected. Maisie believed as she lived, and lived as she believed.

Maisie and Harrow Students Concert Band-1