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Empire Ministry Weekend – Report

NOVEMBER 16-17, 2019 – The New York Staff Band was greeted with beautiful clear blue skies and a big morning moon to guide the 3-hour bus ride to visit the Empire Division.

Our first stop was a Christmas appeal concert at the Destiny Mall in Syracuse, NY.  Upon arrival, our most gracious host Bandmaster Erik Jones, Empire Divisional Music Director, and Majors Scott and Susan Kelly met us and directed us to the ‘Canyon’, a rather unique area of the Mall which features Gallery walkways and overhead Rope walk bridges that many children were enjoying.  We set up in Staff Band efficiency and played to an audience of occupied but attentive and appreciative people enjoying an afternoon of shopping.  We are told that over 250 people were contacted on a personal level and some even came to the concert later that evening.

We left the mall and made a quick stop by St. Stephen Lutheran Church to set up for the concert later that evening, then it was off to the Syracuse ARC to enjoy a fabulous dinner.  A special thank you to Majors Robert and Gayle Miga for providing such a wonderful time of fellowship at the ARC.

A terrific crowd gathered in the Sanctuary of St. Stephen’s and after a time of prayer and the singing of “Bless Them Now” the Staff Band made its way  through the front doors in to position for an evening of Praise and Worship.

From the exciting pulse of the “Proclaimers” (Norbury) to the intense rhythm of the “Balkan Dance” (Crauzaz) and amazing euphonium playing by Aaron VanderWeele in the solo “Glorious Ventures” (Graham) the band showed its tremendous flair and dazzle. The soft and sensitive presentation of the Vocal item, “O Love” (Hagenberg) and Andrew Wainright’s arrangement of “And Can It Be” gave a wonderful prelude to Lt. Colonel James LaBossiere reminding us to  “Come to the Table” where Grace begins. Sit with the Savior, take your place with Him, leave all your sin at the door. The brand new piece “Rhapsody on St. Francis” (Wainwright) finished the first half with just the right amount of musical and emotional contrast to leave everyone wanting more.  After a short meet and greet with band and audience mingling, talking, laughing and sharing, the second half featured several Christmas selections and the exciting “King of the Seven Heavens” (Harper).

Sunday Worship was shared at the Syracuse ARC and without a doubt a musical and spiritual highlight was the playing of Eric Ball’s magnificent selection “Serentity”. Bandmaster Erik Jones shared with us how special that piece of music is to the members of his band in Syracuse.  Christian Riesebieter gave his compelling testimony, telling us of the time he spent in basic training for the Army National Guard and how physically and emotionally draining it was. His faith was upheld by the scripture “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5), and his gratefulness was expressed in Psalm 100 which concludes with the words “for the Lord is good and his love endures forever, His faithfulness endures through all generations.” Thank you, Christian.

The time spent in the Empire Division was indeed a wonderful time of Praise and Worship in Exaltation to our God.  Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Robert Venables, NYSB First Cornet