Meet the worship leaders from
Vasakåren Sverige / Vasa Corps Sweden
I love how the Salvation Army community can connect. I had the privilege of spending some time with the corps officers and music ministry leaders from the Vasa corps in Stockholm, Sweden. They have a long history of music ministry. Their band has been in service since the late 1800’s! For decades, the Vasa corps have used string bands or worship teams. Captain Anne-Li Marthinussen, worship leader and corps officer at Vasa corps, remembers that early on, they had people writing songs for the music ministry groups in newer styles.
“Vasa corps is a place that wants to go forward. It has always been like that. We have inherited that spirit to go and to move forward.”
In the 1990’s, Anne-Li and others from the corps went to a Gospel Festival.
She says, “Some of us went to that festival and got hooked and saved by the music, the rhythms, and the lyrics that tied everything together. This took the message of Jesus from a Sunday school understanding to a grown-up expression of faith.”
This inspired them to form the Vasa Gospel Choir in 1994. This choir is not like your regular corps songster brigade. They are a contemporary gospel music choir who have toured the world and have been a vibrant part of the corps’ outreach ministry.
Captain Jon-Anders Marthinussen estimates that 90% of newcomers and converts at the corps have come from contact with the gospel choir.
One of these newcomers is Jennie Dahlquist, who is now the worship team leader at the corps.
Jennie was invited
by her high school friends at the time to hear the choir sing. “I’d never heard anything like that before.
I hadn’t heard contemporary gospel music at that time. It was all new to me. After the summer,
I was invited to come and join the choir. It was at that time I was saved. It wasn’t a particular moment;
it was over time.”
Jennie Dahlquist - Worship Leader
Mikaela Häger - Gospel Choir Leader
The choir is part of the worship service regularly at the corps. Mikaela Häger is the current leader. “I really want to connect the choir with the congregation so that even if we are not part of the service as regularly as the band or worship team, I want to feel like it is not a concert and we are part of worship. I feel like the choir has a really strong connection with the congregation. They pray for us and I feel like we are very well connected.”
Andreas Holmlund is the bandmaster and works as a professional musician. He has written music for the Swedish Royalty and has used his skills to develop the band’s ministry. “Since I have been the bandmaster, we have always tried to develop the band so that it can be used in many different styles and circumstances. We tried to use arrangements to accompany worship but it didn’t seem to suit our circumstances at Vasa corps.
The music was either too simple or the format of the song was too complicated. I started to arrange some songs and came up with a simple structure that enabled the band to support the worship team, instead of the singers just singing along to our accompaniment. We join together.”
It’s always a challenge to put a completely notated group like the brass band with a more flexible group like a worship team. Jon-Anders calls the system that Andreas developed “the Swedish method.”
Andreas says it is scored like a tune book arrangement, but the layout of the music allows him to give simple signals to the band to let them know which section of the song to play next.
Jennie says, “In the beginning, there was a learning period of how to communicate with the band. Once we worked out how to show which section of the song we were going to next, I felt very calm because they know what they are doing. I never have to think about the band. I love it because you can have worship in so many ways. It can be just the band or just the worship team or all of us together. I feel like I can just be in connection with God and the rest works itself out.”
Andreas adds, “When I am conducting the band, I am following Jennie. The worship leader will give all the signs. When I am not conducting the band, I still follow her.
As a corps officer, Jon-Anders says he can see that unity from the platform is spilling over into the congregation. “Suddenly you have this traditional brass band where you know the sound, you know it from the song book songs, but it is supporting a modern worship song and of course you are blessed. It is a special feeling.”
The three groups often work together in worship services and
concerts. Anne-Li says, “When the choir leads a service, they
join the band and the worship team. We try to build a worship
community by using the band, the worship team, and the choir.
It is a way of living and being a part of God’s family.”
Mikaela says that the Swedes have a saying: låga trösklar. It means
that when you step into a church, that the threshold to enter that
community is not a big step to take. This attitude of inclusiveness
and welcoming unity in worship is inspiring. The posture of each
music section at the corps is designed to welcome, include,
and bless people.
Major Anne-Li and Captain Jon-Anders Marthinussen
When asked what was next for the corps and its music ministries,
the resounding answer was that young people are a focus. Anne-Li is the leader of Vasa Soul Children’s Choir. They are giving kids, teens and young adults the opportunity to lead. The leaders of the corps want to be intentional about growing the next generation of leaders for their music ministry sections.