Street Music

euphonium705088I was out and about today in the city of Glasgow doing good works and healing the sick and raising the dead and all the things that a busy clergyperson does the week before Christmas when I came upon a familiar sound. It was the sound of a Salvation Army band playing Christmas Tunes. I hesitate to call them carols because I heard them playing Jingle Bells, Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer and We Wish You a Merry Christmas in that order before packing up and leaving.

The sight of a Salvation Army band brings up all kinds of mixed thoughts. After all, going carolling (yes it is a verb) in a Salvation Army band was an integral part of the run-up to Christmas in my childhood. It is what I was brought up to do.

This lunchtime it was Govan Band playing rather well. I can still be a connoisseur and the tenor horn parts will never leave me. I watched them for a while whilst wondering what the financial transaction between those giving and those receiving represents. In my childhood, people often gave money to the Salvation Army because of “cups of tea in the war”. However, it can’t be that these days, I suspect.

A little further down the street, I was treated to some of the same music but played on Scotland’s national instrument of war.

Whatever other conclusions I may have come to as I walked from one place to another, this one thing is sure. I prefer Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer played by a brass band than played on the bagpipes.

Happy holidays to you all.


  1. I encountered the Salvation Army at the bottom of the escalators in the Buchanan St Galleries last Saturday afternoon. It was sorely tempting to drop an orange down the tuba as I passed, but I refrained, sailing by on my way with thoughts of expressions of multi-{ethnic,cultural,religious} societies…

  2. Jingle Bells is certainly a carol and, arguably, a hymn too.

  3. (corrected link from last comment – is it really that long ago that I last commented here?)

    I love bagpipes, but am at a loss to imagine Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. They’ll be doing Hallelujah next (everyone else seems to be).

  4. David |Dah • veed| says

    Good Father, you have come a long way from the Salvation Army. (I have rarely encountered them here in Mexico.)

    As far as “Scotland’s national instrument of war,” with the advent of laser-guided missiles and 500 pound bunker busters dropped from 10,000 meters, it is much more difficult to scare your enemy away with that squealing noise.

  5. Sumner says

    In the US we encounter Salvation Army at the doors of many stores and malls, ringing a bell hoping for monetary donations. I have heard that they even now have credit card readers and can run the card right there! I think I’d prefer the band, but I’ve never encountered one.

  6. The bell thing is very much a North American thing. Bands are the the way to get the money in on this side of the Atlantic. They had an open bucket today (which I thought was not a legal way of collecting money) rather than a credit card reader.

  7. Zebadee says

    I had the misfortune to stand too close to the RAF Leuchars Pipe Band. The sound was far worse close up than the noise of the engines of their planes. Not only a weapon of war but also an instrument of torture. The Geneva Convention should ban such weapons.

  8. David |Dah • veed| says

    The Salvation Army (El Ejército de Salvación) Christmas Kettles started in San Francisco over 100 years ago when a local officer wanted to collect funds for Christmas Dinner for the poor. He remembered a kettle collecting money back in Liverpool England and decided to try this at the local ferry dock. He positioned himself to get folks both coming and going. Thus a tradition was born.

    Now you can go to the US Salvation Army website and get info about setting up an online Christmas Kettle on your blog to collect from your visitors directly to the SA.

    Mexico has very strict separation laws, more strict than the USA, and laws regulating religious institutions, so I have never seen a Christmas Kettle or a SA band in Mexico. I do know that they operate a shelter here in Monterrey.

  9. Eamonn says

    “It was, unmistakably, the skirl of a bagpipe…

    The senior officer halted his men and came riding back. ‘Captain Windham, I believe there is an ambush set for us down yonder.’

    ‘It does not sound like an ambush, egad!’ replied his colleague rather tartly, as the heathenish skirling grew louder.” (D. K. Broster, The Flight of the Heron [1925])

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