War Cry reports show that in the year 1887 there was a Singing Brigade in the Nottingham 1 Corps which was very active and did a good deal of specialling around the Division. Colonel W Starling left on record that in the year 1895 when he was Captain of the Corps, Bro F Wheatcroft led a small company of singers with painful limitations in music and with a variety of uniforms. However, it was in the year 1902 that Captain Charlie Vallance ( then retired and living in the USA ) constitutionally organised the Brigade and commissioned the first Songster leader, John Horner.
The Brigade made his debut at the Mechanics Hall, and whilst we are told of many difficulties and problems in those early days, the foundations were well and truly laid. After a period, Songster Leader Johnson took charge with comments such as The Brigade now muster twenty eight, their singing brings a great amount of blessing and profit to the people in Nottingham 1. They have commenced open-air festivals on Sunday evenings at half past eight , with crowds of people gathering to listen attentively to the singing. (Bandsman and Songster 1907).
In the year 1908 Songster Leader G Hutchinson took command and for 25 years he laboured with untiring zeal to weld his company of vocal musicians into a front rank Brigade.
In 1933 with Songster leader Hutchinson 's retirement, the deputy leader, Herbert Page took over the responsibility of leadership, a commission he was to fulfil for 30 years, Mrs Ivy page also proved an invaluable help to her husband and became the Songster Organist for over 40 years.
1934 Kennington Lane Nottingham
In 1934 a separate Songster open-air was commenced on Sunday mornings, with Songster Leader accompanying the singing on the concertina. The Officers at the time Major Elliott and Captain Anderson expressed their appreciation of the section, not only for their musical contributions but also as a spiritual fighting force. The Songsters also supported at the evening Holiness meeting on the first Thursday of the month. The brigade with senior band continues to maintain the witness on the Old Market Square on Sunday evenings.
In 1944 the Songsters were paid a surprise visit by General Carpenter, the Brigade which had just finished practice lined the kerbside and welcomed him in song. During this year the Songsters took part in a BBC radio broadcast commemorating a hundred years since William Booth's conversion.
The Songsters also sang for General and Mrs carpenter on the occasion of their retirement at the Albert Hall in Nottingham in 1946. Throughout the years the personnel of the brigade has varied as people have relocated to Nottingham either due to their careers, or students attended university as young men posted to the area due to their national service commitments
On the retirement of Songster Leader Page, our new Leader came from the senior band and deputy Bandmaster Ken Buxton took the lead for the next nine years from 1971-1980. Whilst Ken was in charge, the Brigade conducted weekends in Farnsworth, Sheffield , Colchester and Liverpool and also took part in a television service from the Memorial Halls. During the period of Ken's leadership the Songsters changed into the new style uniform and also explored new avenues of service through prison visitation and carolling at the Nottingham Playhouse.
In 1980 Bandsman Richard Spicer accepted responsibility for the leadership of the Brigade. One of the highlights was the Brigade's visit to the Belfast Temple , this proved to be an interesting visit, the comrades in Ireland making us very welcome.
The Brigade also reverted to the old style uniform, during this period of the I've have joined the army of the Lord cassette was made. However, after four years due to a career move Richard his wife Yvonne and family transferred to America .
YP bandleader Martin Bennett took charge as Songster leader in 1984 becoming the 11th leader since the Brigade formation. Martin has served in this capacity for 18 years to date. In a modern era a new presentation of the gospel has been in evidence, especially when songsters have been specialling using themed programmes. Drama, choreography and dance now feature with multimedia enhancing the message and the Timbrels still retain their appeal. As in earlier times, the enthusiasm devotion and high standard of deportment is apparent and the brigade continues to "sing with spirit".
The Brigade's record of away engagements is lengthy, yet it has given unfailing support at home. Many are the times it has been requested to proclaim the message at local churches and also to visit other Corps in the country. There has been the challenge of the busy Christmas season, with the sharing of the message in song in retirement homes, hospitals and at business dinners. Opportunities have been provided over the years to broadcast over the radio network, letters of appreciation show that this ministry has been a source of comfort and blessing to many.
The Brigade has found itself in varied venues. One January, night in concert at Southwell Minister , the programme being in the aid of the RNLI proclaimed "Warm music for a cold evening", the title was very apt. In contrast the Brigade have sung on a summer's evening from a stage moored on the River Trent as well as in the big top of Bertram Mills Circus with mass Brigades and church choirs. They have been privileged to sing at the request of the city council at an Armistice Service and were honoured by a Civic Reception.
Over the 100 years the brigade has been privileged see a number of Songster's farewell from within the ranks to enter the ministry. Thanks are expressed too for the many Songster local officers who have faithfully served the Brigade through the years.