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  • Writer's pictureDavid Stanley

A Salvation Army Festive Return to the Royal Albert Hall

Two and a half years after their acclaimed debut at Britain’s most iconic concert venue, students from The Music Man Project returned to the Royal Albert Hall last December as special guests in the Salvation Army’s annual carol concert. Instead of 200 musicians with learning disabilities supported by symphony orchestra, this performance featured the famous Music Man Project UK Student Ambassadors accompanied by the International Staff Band and the International Staff Songsters. Other notable guests included singers Portia Emare and FourHymn, trumpeters Philip Cobb, Mike Lovatt and Dan Newell, violinist John Hooper and organist Paul Leddington-Wright. Baroness Floella Benjamin, Nick Hewer and Sinitta provided readings and the concert was presented by Lieut-Colonel Dean Pallant and Captain Jo Moir.

The showcase event continued an outstanding partnership between the Salvation Army and Music Man Project, which already provides concerts, workshops and new regional Music Man Projects for disabled communities at Salvation Army Corps across the UK. It was fitting that The Music Man Project appeared as special guests in the Salvation Army’s concert because the reverse had already occurred back in April 2019, when the Salvation Army opened The Music Man Project’s own concert at the Hall with a special fanfare composed by David Stanley.

Despite COVID restrictions limiting major performances for almost two years, The Music Man Project Ambassadors lit up the Hall with their usual mix of enthusiasm and musicality. They sang the opening of their theme song “Music is Magic” before launching straight into an energetic performance of “Love Shine A Light”, featuring the wonderful singing of Chris Coates and brilliant drumming of Daniel Camacho. It was a privilege to work alongside Bandmaster Dr Steve Cobb and Songster Leader Dorothy Nancekievill, and the group experienced nothing but care and respect throughout the whole process.

Prior to the performance, the Salvation Army visited a Music Man Project teaching session at Leigh-on-Sea Salvation Army to record a short introductory video. The film was shown to the audience at the concert and can be viewed on YouTube here.

Needless to say, The Music Man Project brought the house down and received a standing ovation from the audience after just 6 minutes of singing. The performance was perhaps best summed up by the words of Sinitta who walked onto the stage as we left and proclaimed, “How do I follow that!?” Watch the performance by The Music Man Project on YouTube here.

Given everything that happened in 2020 and 2021, the carol concert with the Salvation Army was just the lift we all needed. It filled everyone at the Hall with hope for a more normal and positive future.

Thank you Salvation Army for your continued faith in our musicians and for the opportunities you provide for us to share our musical message with the world.

Watch the complete concert on the Salvation Army YouTube channel here.

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