New Year begins with Salvation Army marching in Rose Parade

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Southern California Divisional Music Director Kevin Larsson marks 15th year as Rose Parade bandmaster.

Approximately 180 Salvationists marched with The Salvation Army Tournament of Roses Band Jan. 1 in Pasadena, Calif., in the world-famous Rose Parade. With 97 years of participation, The Salvation Army has the longest-serving band in the parade’s history. The band is one of only four marching bands guaranteed a spot in the lineup of 20 bands, along with Pasadena City College, the U.S. Marine Corps and the Los Angeles Unified School District All-District High School Honor Band.

The Salvation Army Rose Parade Band is organized by the Army’s Southern California divisional music department, led by Bandmaster Kevin Larsson, who this year marked his 15th year as Rose Parade bandmaster. According to the division, this may be the longest any bandmaster has led a band in the parade.

The marchers represented 32 states, as well as Puerto Rico, Canada and the United Kingdom. Thirty-seven members of the Yorkshire Divisional Youth Band from England comprised the 2016 guest band.

“The most interesting part to our Salvation Army Rose Parade Band is that we only come together once before the actual parade,” said Jacqui Larsson, Southern California assistant divisional program secretary.

The non-local participants—all of whom are active musicians and members of their local Salvation Army churches—arrived in late December. The Southern California Division provided the music and timbrel routines ahead of time so they could prepare.

“On Dec. 29 we had our only marching rehearsal with [everyone],” Larsson said. “We practiced at a local university on their soccer field, fed the band and then practiced some more. And then we didn’t see each other again until we all came together on Jan. 1.”

The guest band took in some local attractions during their time in Southern California, and gave a concert at the Pasadena Tabernacle Corps.

For some, the parade is a family affair. The Yorkshire Band had a father and daughter marching together, and a mother and daughter participated in the timbrel section. Majors Kyle and Lisa Smith, Southern California divisional leaders, marched with their two teenage sons, and Major Gwyn Jones from San Diego marched with his teenage son and daughter.

Music is a fundamental part of The Salvation Army.

“It has been a way to attract a crowd but also a way to witness to those who hear us,” Larsson said. “As we march down Colorado Boulevard our hope is that the thousands of viewers on TV and on the parade route will hear the music to the song ‘Stand Up For Jesus’ and know that there is a God who loves them.”

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