Erik, Emil, Eric, Phil & Ray . . . a perspective

B/M Robert Getz (R)

         Erik Leidzen, Emil Soderstrom, Eric Ball, Philip Catelinet and Ray Allen dominated Salvation Army music for much of the 20th century, world-wide.  All five were celebrated professional composers (Ray being the only professional within the SA, and a generation younger). Being old enough to have observed them each, firsthand (in and out of The Salvation Army), I feel compelled to offer some observations and comparisons.  One might expect a strong prejudice for Emil, as I am his biographer, but one may be surprised.  I do have prejudices, but they are based in experience and not on thoughtless biases.  The five gentlemen were friends, with Erik, Eric, Phil and Ray being generously supportive of the others, and Emil giving lip-service to such things while resenting the fame of the others . . . though nodding in genuine respect toward Eric from time to time.

         I detest using last names, but with two names as similar as Erik and Eric, I will surrender to convenience.

        The easiest and least dangerous observation would be that they were all but one (relatively) diminutive in physical stature (Allen being the tallest).  However, there they were also different in this respect.  All five were "sons of the regiment" in The Salvation Army, though Leidzen never knew his father, who died months before Erik was born.  Soderstrom had a very stern and hard (former criminal and sometimes cruel) father.  Though Ball's father had been labeled "a holy terror" in early life, later Eric referred to him as, "a fine old saint". Catelinet and his father, Arthur, played in the original SP&S Salvation Army Band where Phil was on euphonium and Arthur on bass. I know nothing of Allen's father.

 

        All of them were prolific, with Soderstrom writing by far the most music (over 100,000 pages!) and Allen likely with the most published music (approximately 400 pieces).  Interestingly, the man closest to my own age, Allen, I know the least about personally, though we are good friends.

        

        Erik William Gustav Leidzen was the first born of the group.  Among other things, he studied trumpet, piano and organ.  He was very health-conscious, a runner and vegetarian . . . and though fit and vigorous in life, he died the youngest of all at 68: March 25, 1894 - December 20, 1962.  There was great love, openly expressed, between Erik and his wife Maria.

 

        Emil Otto Edward Soderstrom, was as rough of manner/persona as Leidzen, Ball, Catelinet and Allen were refined.  However, when he felt compelled to be gracious, he exceeded the others in grace, if somewhat transparently feigned. He was powerfully built and paid little heed to nutrition or fitness; he just took them for granted.  He was fond of taking his food off of his plate and eating from a tabletop, just to prove he had no fear of germs. He played euphonium and a rough but fantastic piano. He died at 72: May 31, 1900 - August 14, 1972.  While Emil told coarse jokes at Florence's expense, in public, the relationship between them seemed one of poking fun and seemingly affected affection, though one could see evidence of the real thing from time to time.  

 

         Eric Walter John Ball was always frail of health and stature. Phil Catelinet referred to Eric as "a leaning chair that never broke".  Like Leidzen, Ball was a vegetarian.  He was an accomplished euphonium player and brilliant pianist.  Eric and Olive were one-being in love and in Christ such as is seldom seen in the human experience.  He died the oldest but one at almost 87: October 31, 1903 - October 1, 1989.  The frailest in life lived longer than his contemporaries.

 

        With the next two Salvation Army musical giants, the pattern remains in some ways and not in others (Catelinet has only one middle name).

 

        Philip Bramwell Catelinet, though not tall, was of a larger frame than the other four (he loved his wife's cooking!), was quite robust of nature, and had quite serious sight issues and thick glasses.  He was self-taught on euphonium and tuba, but went on to world-fame because of his premier of the Vaughan Williams tuba concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra. He was a virtuoso pianist by any measure. Phil had a phenomenal sense of humor. He and Rosalind were 24/7-fun and of loving, good humor. He almost made 85 years:  December 3, 1910 - November 21, 1995

 

       Raymond Victor Steadman-Allen (Dr., Lt.-Colonel, R, OF) is clearly a thoughtful intellectual. A taller man than the rest, vitality and gentlemanly kindness are hallmarks. He played trombone, but is more known as a superb pianist. Like Ball and Catelinet, he gained good experience as a youth in the International Music Editorial Department of The Salvation Army (a Department with which Leidzen and Soderstrom often found themselves at odds!)  He and Joy are one in life and Christ.  Ray was born September 18, 1922.

        Leidzen graduated from the Royal Music Academy (Stockholm); Soderstrom from the Royal Danish Music Conservatory and the University of Bonn (PhD), and studied with Carl Nielsen (and others). Ball was self-taught and intuitive, something he regretted and which drove his humility right until he died (this, needless from a substantive standpoint!)  Eric was a voracious student throughout life, devouring the scores of the masters and observing techniques that succeeded for others, analyzing them, and adapting them to his own use - both in composition and in conducting - he was FAR from "unschooled"! Catelinet had a scholarship to Tobias Matthay Pianoforte School, and graduated from the Royal Academy of Music, Trinity College of Music, and the Incorporated London Academy of Music.  Allen's first music credentials were awarded by none other than Sir Granville Bantock, who encouraged him greatly.  Allen went on to receive numerous honorary awards and finally a PhD (and The Salvation Army's Order of the Founder). 

        Leidzen taught at the University Of Michigan and the Ernest Williams Music School.  Soderstrom had a working relationship with the University of Chicago (details of which I do not know).  Ball didn't teach in higher education, but his works are used in teaching at the university level today. Ball was a strong candidate for conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and was inducted into the Order of The British Empire by Her Magesty, Queen Elizabeth.  Catelinet taught, among other places, at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, was an officer of the National Association of Brass Band Conductors, and tuba for the London Symphony Orchestra.  Allen served as president of the National College of Music, Vice President of the National Association of Brass Band Conductors, and patron of the London Musicological Research Society.  

        Leidzen and Soderstrom forcefully assumed that they were musically (and perhaps otherwise) superior to anyone present.  This maybe seems a bit harsh, but I did see both in the presence of persons at least their equals and found it always so. Ball was genuinely humble and deferred to even lesser beings, treating them as his equal.  However, he could discuss the intricacies of Beethoven, Bach or even some Bartok and at truly scholarly levels.  Catelinet compelled one to do well by good humor, and a persona that was impossible to dislike. Allen, though affable enough, draws respect like a magnet. Leidzen and Soderstrom had to "announce" their dominance; Ball, Catelinet and Allen earned it unassumingly, gently and with good humor.  In terms of knowledge of music, they could all only be considered equals.   

 

        All five men were fine pianists.  Soderstrom was rough in this as he was in life and style.  Leidzen was only a little more adept than Ball in the classics, with Ball holding a little edge in improvisation.  Allen can play anything beautifully. Catelinet can only be described as a virtuoso's virtuoso, who possessed phenomenal technique and finesse.

 

        As conductors, there was no "good" comparison.  Leidzen and Soderstrom led by intimidation, tirades and ranting, lacking sufficient stick-technique to communicate much more than the tempo.  Anyone who gets results by these means does so because of a lack of conducting skill (most of the brass band world).  Ball, Catelinet and Allen, on the other hand, had good conducting technique - intuitive or not - it seemed straight from the Nicolai Malco school of thought (the gold-standard in the field).  Ball was gentle and genteel in rehearsal and one performed for him out of love and respect rather than fear.  His subtlety of nuance was far more musically convincing than Leidzen's or Soderstrom's.  With Catelinet and Allen one simply knew what they wanted and would rather die than disappoint them.

 

        As composers and arrangers, they all had facile technique and more than sufficient creative impulse.  Leidzen and Ball bowed to Soderstrom as their superior, but one felt it was aimed at making up for the slights that Soderstrrom felt he'd endured.  Leidzen was, more than the others, very aware that if the Christian message of The Salvation Army were to be successful, the prospective penitent must know the songs.  "The Call" comes to mind as a spiritual/musical masterpiece unmatched in the literature. His role in the creation of the USA Eastern Territory "Music For Evangelism" underscores this passion. Ball, Catelinet and Allen used Salvation Army songs more often than not (not exclusively) and more than the two Scandinavians, which parochial Salvation Army nature of the songs makes them unsatisfactory for evangelism (at least outside The Salvation Army).  Soderstrom was very familiar with the hymns of the broader church. Not always the stuff of The Salvation Army.  The SA was quite guilty for much of the 20th century of being musically/spiritually insular in this respect).   Soderstrom's professional custom-music company mirrored Leidzen's passion: "Evangelistic Specialties". 

 

        Ball was an incredibly thoughtful composer, weighing every note.  Leidzen was a little more impulsive, but skillful enough to pull off anything he undertook.  Soderstrom was all impulse (scoffing at inspiration) and wrote at a frantic pace, with never a wrong note, but frequent lapses in concept.  With Catelinet one is aware of a trained professional, especially in use of creative forms and devices - his music works and "sounds".   Allen is the most challenging and diverse of the group, often pushing the sound-envelope.  And yet many of his pieces are traditional and elegant in their simplicity. In a separate treatise I have averred that Eric Ball was the first authentic genius in Salvation Army music; this, based on consistency, content, technique, timelessness and other issues.  I would have to opine that Allen was the second (chronologically).

 

        Leidzen's music has a stamp of personal style that is unmistakable, as does Soderstrom's and Ball's.  Elegance dominates Leidzen's and Ball's music.  Soderstrom sometimes (not always) leaves a sharp edge on things, but exudes confidence. Catelinet is a little less style-watermarked, but his music is dominated by a consistently happy heart. Allen is by far the most diverse in style and far-ranging in content.  All have light-hearted "fun" gems as well as massive pieces of substance: Leidzen from A Happy Day to The Cross; Soderstrom from California to Low In The Grave He Lay; Ball from Star Lake to Resurgam; Catelinet from Cheer Up! to A Sunbeam; Allen from Exaltation! to The Holy War. And these only consider their brass band output.  All were prolific in writing for voice, piano and other mediums as well.

 

        As Christians they were all fervent, and all knew the Bible intimately and were able to quote Scripture perfectly at the drop of a hat.  Leidzen and Soderstrom tended to parse more than Ball, Catelinet or Allen.  Ball was substantially a student of Christian Spirituality, constantly seeking to know; this went FAR deeper than might be obvious in any encounter where he was compelled to follow the party-line (especially within the SA).  Catelinet and Allen, though very well-read and thoughtful in Scripture could be considered somewhat traditionalists. Catelinet read the Bible, cover to cover, two years in succession.

 

        Soderstrom was a rascal, and would "use" anything to make a point, get noticed, be "clever" or impose his superiority.  When there was little chance of intimidation, Leidzen was the perfect gentleman. With Staff Bands or camp faculty-bands Leidzen behaved pretty well, but Soderstrom still sought to intimidate, belittle and shock (e.g. telling the International Staff Band bass section that they sounded like "cow farts!")  With youngsters at music camp (for example), both were almost invariably relentless tyrants. (Having said that, many, if not most brass band directors seem to believe that intimidation and ranting are the only way to behave and get results!) Ball was consistent in his persona and his musicality, always "Christ-first", gentle, humble and effective.  Catelinet and Allen, though not having the ethereal persona of Ball, delivered great music with the same kind of aplomb as Ball and by similar means.

 

        Having taken Leidzen, Soderstrom and much of the brass band world to the woodshed regarding conducting-deficits, I must offer a perspective of fairness.  Such celebrated conductors as Toscanini and Reiner ruled by fear and tantrums, along with many others of that day.  They were VERY musical, to which their legacy of recordings will testify . . . just unskilled with the baton. The codification of effective conducting, so that common gestures could be universally understood, absent the spoken word, is a relatively new development (1950's).  Having said that, there is no excuse for the wide-spread continuation of tyranny in music-making.  There are great resources available to instruct someone interested in knowing what to do other than shouting.  Music cannot be about fear, only about love.

 

        There is yet another similarity suffered by these five composers who reserved their best work for The Salvation Army - life-long.  All five were subjected to what can only be called imperious, shameful administrative arrogance.  As Leidzen put it, he "got the sack" because he would not accede to Evangeline Booth's "command" that he have his brass ensemble "chord along" for a congregational song. He knew, as a musician, that it would be a disaster, and held his ground.  Ball, at the height of his career, and the darling of The Salvation Army world, was forced to resign his officer- commission over what can only be called an ignorant misunderstanding and an absurd doubting of his Christ-centeredness.  This, at a time when baby boys by the score were being named after him all over the world!  Soderstrom, a corps bandmaster, euphonium player in The Chicago Staff Band and professional composer for NBC, felt called to be a Salvation Army officer. He was told, by the Chief Secretary in Chicago, not to bother as he was "feeble minded"!  These three remained loyal to the SA while being banned from SA events.  All three were eventually reconciled to the SA by wiser persons in power later.  None of the three wore the SA uniform again.  Catelinet apparently got crosswise with the brass at SP&S and he and Rosalind ended up resigning as officers. It should be mentioned here that , at about this time, Phil and Rosie lost all of their children to a WW II concussion-bomb, but I never heard a word of bitterness from either. Allen's "authority-interactions" were neither so public nor dramatic as the other four. And, as he is alive, they are best left for another time. He & Joy did resign as SA officers for a brief time.

 

        By now there is a clear portrait of: one man who knew how to behave but seldom did - Soderstrom; one man who knew how to behave and did so when it counted - Leidzen; and three men who almost always behaved - Ball, Catelinet and Allen.  There is a cost in knowing anyone.  With Soderstrom it was very costly in abrasion, with Leidzen it was occasionally very pricy as well, and with Ball it was totally free. With Catelinet, the price was laughter, and with Allen it was turning on your grey-matter. However, each of the five oversubscribed his divine-account using the coinage of the sacred-muse!

 

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