The Fry FamilyFrom this great massed band grew the tradition that led to establishing the International Staff Band in 1891 and many more to follow around the world.
Following the significant name change to The Salvation Army in 1878, General William Booth was looking for ways to better attract large crowds at their open-air meetings.
One day, Booth encountered a brass quartet playing on a street corner. He was impressed by how the crowd listened to the group’s message after the quartet played. After introductions, Charles Fry and his three sons agreed to participate in General Booth’s campaigns helping to bring, as Diane Winston in her book “Red-Hot and Righteous” expresses, a “sacred canopy of secular society.”
Over time, the Fry ensemble evolved to use other instruments and became well-known under names such as “The Hallelujah Minstrels” and “The Happy Band.” It was not long before the group abandoned their family business and became soldiers of The Salvation Army. Charles gained worldwide fame writing the lyrics to the popular hymn, “Lily of the Valley,” which is sung throughout the world today!
The earliest Salvation Army corps bands began in 1879 and 1880 and, in short order, the Army began to incorporate band music in its ministry; also to emerge were original sacred compositions and arrangements specifically for Salvation Army bands.
William and Catherine Booth’s fifth child, Herbert Booth, followed his elder brother, Ballington, as principal of the Men’s Training Home between 1884 and 1888. Herbert organized a successful fundraising campaign that provided funds to purchase what would become Clapton Congress Hall. During the four years as training principal, 4,000 officers were trained at Clapton Hall and assigned throughout England and the world. It was during these years that Herbert formed large brigades of cadets and sent them on evangelistic campaigns around England. He called the brigades “Household Troops.” A band was formed in almost every brigade.
In 1890, The Salvation Army’s Silver Jubilee was convened at the famed Crystal Palace. The British newspapers described the 1890 congress as the “greatest religious celebration the world has ever known.” The description of the thousands of bandsmen, led and coordinated by Herbert, is today reminiscent of the “76 Trombones” of Meredith Wilson’s “Music Man!” From this great massed band grew the tradition that led to establishing the International Staff Band in 1891 and many more to follow around the world.
It all started with Charles Fry’s family quartet!
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