‘Songster Fest’ welcomes Major Len Ballantine

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Southern California choral groups join for an afternoon celebration.

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Major Len Ballantine, esteemed throughout The Salvation Army music world for his compositions and direction, was special guest for the Southern California Division’s Choral Spectacular—the “Songster Fest”—held April 30 at the Long Beach Citadel Corps. The event brought together area Salvation Army vocal groups, or “temple singers” as Ballantine refers to them, and gave each group the chance to perform individually as well as en masse under Ballantine’s direction.

Southern California Divisional Music Director Kevin Larsson hosted the event, with Southern California Divisional Leaders Lt. Colonels Kyle and Lisa Smith also participating. Ballantine and his wife, Heather, are Canadian officers who are retired from active duty. Len Ballantine serves as Songster Leader (SL) for the Canadian Staff Songsters, and together the Ballantines run Len Ballantine Music, a web resource for musicians.

In order of their individual appearance, the performing groups were the Torrance Songsters (SL Matt Woods), the Los Angeles Korean Songsters (SL Jason Lee), the Long Beach Citadel Songsters (SL Barbara Allen), the Southern California Divisional Gospel Choir (Leader Isaac Henry-John), the Tustin Ranch Songsters (SL Lt. Colonel Diane O’Brien) and the Pasadena Tabernacle Songsters (SL Martin Hunt).

Highlights included the Los Angeles Korean Songsters, who performed three songs in Korean, including “Amazing Grace.” On one song, a young girl dressed in a colorful traditional dress joined them, playing a drum.

The massed Songsters sang Ballantine’s compositions “I Will Wait,” “If You Would Be Strong” and “Let It Be Written.”

Torrance Songster Leader Matt Woods testified to the power of choral music.

“Music can be inspiring in and of itself, but when paired with life-giving text, it can be life-changing,” he said.

Earlier that day, the Ballantines participated in worship at the Torrance Corps, where Len Ballantine gave the message and led the Songsters as they presented “I Will Wait.”

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