Bravo to a great festival!

The music of our lives: the harmonies and dissonance, the rhythms and themes, the melodies unexplored. While this year’s Festival of Worship Arts promised a high standard of music, it delivered much more for the 1,828 people who attended. It prompted heartfelt praise and reflection. Deviating from the traditional format of featuring groups throughout the territory, the festival’s streamlined schedule and line-up of guests and participants seemed to hone this focus.

The weekend featured Commissioners Dick and Vibeke Krommenhoek, territorial leaders of the Norway, Iceland and the Faeroes Territory, who were introduced warmly by Territorial Commander Commissioner Paul R. Seiler. Throughout the festival, meetings were anchored by the Chicago Staff Band (CSB), the Bill Booth Theater Company (BBTC) and The Singing Company, territorial praise band.

The keynote session, All God’s Children Sing, debuted the new Territorial Youth Chorus with “I dare to be different,” led by the composer himself, Commissioner Dick Krommenhoek. A clever vignette by the BBTC revealed priorities that compete with our worship of the Lord. Breaking into song with references from pop culture to sports, the BBTC warmed up the audience for the genius of Ken Medema.

“We use the word ‘genius’ lightly. For instance, I’ve been called a genius before,” quipped Bandmaster William Himes, who planned the weekend with the music and gospel arts department. “I’m no genius. But my friend, Ken, is the real deal.”

Medema’s talent filled the room as he invited delegates’ involvement on each song, from the Caribbean allusions of “Amen” to the reflective “Time” to the victorious “Rise up.” His wit and depth were matched by Commissioner Dick Krommenhoek whose masterful music imagery showed how just as the invisible C note line links the treble and bass staffs to create harmony, Jesus is the image of the invisible God in whom all things are held together.

“God, the Creator, is there in the music of our lives, trying to bring us back into harmony with Him,” said the commissioner.

The meeting also featured a World Services Ingathering revealing a record of more than $8.3 million and the dedication of young adult Summer Mission Teams and Captains Andrew and Melissa Shiels and their children who are going to serve in Latvia. World Services was also the impetus for 100 delegates joining the territorial commander for a 5K Walk/Run early the next morning.

Saturday’s first meeting, All God’s Children Seek, again featured the brilliance of Ken Medema who extemporaneously brought delegates’ stories to life in music which featured the themes of relinquishment and renewal. “He brought me to tears. So inspiring and encouraging,” wrote Major Kelly Collins on, a new app that instantly gave positive feedback throughout the weekend.

Throughout the festival delegates congregated at Resource Connection which naturally had an emphasis on instruments, including representation by three music distributors and sonic instrument cleanings. In addition to perusing popular offerings like the latest Hallelujah Choruses release and casual wear, delegates bought out a new line of uniform blouses and outer uniform jackets! Many stopped by the historical museum display as well.

Saturday mid-morning and afternoon featured the Bravo! solo events where young people, ages 9-25 in four levels, competed in piano, vocal, brass, guitar and percussion. Surrounded by family and friends from their corps and divisions, the musicians gave their best.

Bravo! winners in the open category, as well as the new Territorial Youth Band and Chorus, were featured throughout Saturday evening’s All God’s Children Praise—a “wow” of a session kicking off with the exhilarating “Call of the Gospel” (Cordner) by the Territorial Youth Band and Chorus and CSB. Incorporating a stunning range of styles and idioms, the meeting was woven together with the three movements of the major work Quest (Sharman) presented by the youth band, thought-provoking vignettes on prayer by the BBTC, praise led by The Singing Company, and vocal selections by the youth chorus.

The contributions ranged from the strident echoes of “Lamentations of Jeremiah” in Latin to the soothing tones of “Your God will come” to the gospel “Music down in my soul.” In addition to Quest, standouts for the youth band included Concertante for Cornets and Band featuring 21 cornets from the CSB and youth band, more than a dozen trombones on From that Sacred Hill, composed and conducted by Commissioner Dick Krommenhoek, and the classical transcription Big Little Fugue in G Minor (Bach/Himes) led by Bandmaster William Himes. A lighthearted, original jazz/funk song, “Without You,” by Commissioner Krommenhoek contrasted to his earlier piano/vocal of Isaiah 53 after his wife’s recitation of the poem, “Someone Else’s Son.”

But some of the most impressive works of the evening were by the Bravo! winners: Moriah Hellstrom’s lightning fast piano solo, Sonatine, Movement #3 (Ravel), the challenging fingering of Carnival of Venice (Arban) on tuba by Jon Heaver, the virtuoso technique of, Baden Jazz, Movements #1 and 3 (Jirmal) by classical guitarist Sean Jeon, and the range and control of self-taught vocalist Delaney Evans in her performance of O Mio Babbino Caro (Puccini). Standing ovations abounded.

“They’re your kids, and we’re proud of them!” said Bandmaster Himes of the winners and Territorial Youth Band and Chorus who had provided such a glorious weekend of God-honoring music. He reminded delegates of the vital role Army music camps play in music literacy, which is the foundation for such success, and asked for their continued support and encouragement of young Salvationist musicians.

“What fantastic talent there is in this territory!” exclaimed Commissioner Dick Krommenhoek. “We’re so proud to be part of the Central Territory this weekend.”