Herbert Mountain

Bandmaster Herbert Mountain

1945 to 1950

Boscombe Band were indeed fortunate in securing as its new bandmaster one of the army's leading musicians. When commissioned on 22nd July 1945 Herbert Mountain had already served 23 years in this capacity firstly with Sheffield Citadel and then with Blackpool Citadel. He bid a reluctant farewell to Blackpool in 1945 when the firm for whom he worked ceased trading, but he soon established himself in the house furnishing business at Bournemouth partnering Retired Bandmaster E. Broughton of Salisbury.

Born into a salvationist family in Sheffield, Herbert Mountain had soon grown to love the Army and its music. At an early age he realised his ability to 'make parts fit', and before he was 12 had already arranged music for himself, his brother and other boys to play. He made rapid progress as a trombone player, though later confessing that he seldom practised, and in December 1923 became the first SA bandsman to broadcast a trombone solo.

Herbert had a secret for maintaining the fighting faith of his men so that the exacting service was the natural outflow of their love to God. He instructs and conducts his Band from a box some nine inches high. That box often became a mercy seat. If the bandmaster knew that any bandsman was in spiritual difficulty - and he usually knew - he would say, quietly and simply, as the practice was closing "Is there any one who would care to kneel at the box?" Often times there was a response and Herbert has seen many crowding around the box to renew their dedication to God.

Musician 12th April 1947

Upon his commissioning as Boscombe bandmaster he was warmly received by the bandsmen, who greatly respected his reputation. Herbert Mountain had high standards for Army banding - music had to be the hobby that took over from all other. Regular attendances at all indoor and outdoor meetings was mandatory - a very good explanation had to be given for any absence. This well intentioned enthusiasm for putting the band first sometimes proved detrimental to the corps; bandsmen were not encouraged to join the songsters, and all but the YP Band Leader were forbidden to teach in sunday school. It was also considered unworthy for a bandsman to stay at home with the children - this was the wife's responsibility.

Great things were expected of the Band after his appointment, and reports evidenced the progress that had already been made.

The band (Mountain) numbering about 35, is in excellent form, and gave me some of the best playing I have heard since before the war. It has cultivated a very pleasing 'singing' tone and its future seems assured. The band, practically at pre-war strength, has been revolutionised under Bandmaster H. Mountain. It is reaching a standard of technique that will place it as one of the best in the South of England. The bandmaster seldom uses a score, even in the most intricate scoring, and it was a thrill to hear the contrasts in light and shade and the correct interpretation. The inclusion of tympani manipulated by Bandsman (Gordon) Lawrence is a distinct asset.

Major Saywell (National Secretary for Bands) writing in the Musician February 1946

A score was never used in public by the bandmaster who apparently had difficulty in interpreting music directly from it, preferring instead to take the score home and commit it to memory by playing it through on the piano 3 or 4 times. As a result the band had a limited repertoire and, not unnaturally, he made regular use of pieces that he himself had composed such as Armee du Salut, Echoes from the Hills, Sheffield Citadel and Naaman the Leper. His favourite composition - the air varie Love at Home - was featured on virtually every programme. No doubt written as a result of the happiness of his own home, where meals were shared regularly with Salvationists and friends, it was published only after some controversy as it was considered to have 'too much of a swing' for those days.

The week-end of November 4th/5th/6th 1950 was set aside to mark the retirement of Bandmaster Mountain, with meetings led by the British Commissioner, Commissioner Dalziel and the National Secretary for Bands, Sen. Major E. Rance. The Sunday afternoon meeting included the presentation of two new Triumphonic instruments - a bass trombone and a tenor horn, making a total of 24 new instruments secured during his five year leadership.

The citadel was filled to capacity on Monday evening for the retirement and farewell service in which the British Commissioner, himself a former Salvation Army Bandmaster, presented the retirement certificate. An illuminated address, to which bandsmen and soldiers of the corps had subscribed, was also presented, and Bandsman Harold Walker paid a stirring tribute on behalf of the Band.

Even today Bandmaster Mountain is remembered by congregations for his interpretation of hymn tunes, and his ability to make them come alive and by bandsmen for the discerning ear capable of instantly finding the perpetrator of any wrong note.

Although short in stature, the Bandmaster had been great in influence, as stated by Lt. Col. Wellman (DC).

He is a Salvation Army Bandmaster of the highest degree, a musician of considerable merit, and first and foremost a great Salvationist, his name is engraved in Salvation Army history.

Other Pages