'It was 1967 that saw the launch of the era of the musicals during which General John Gowans (Ret.) and I wrote ten full-length musicals, the last being The Meeting in 1990.
John and I have always been astonished at the impact the musicals made, and at the way they crossed geographic, language and even ecumenical boundaries. It is pleasing to know that they are still being performed in this country and abroad.
However, many have said to us that they would love to re-live the inspiration of the original era, but can’t because the LPs and cassette tapes of the musicals made during those years are no longer playable on today’s equipment.
Arising from this I am in the process of recording a series of CDs under the generic title of John Larsson plays that will feature piano arrangements of the main songs from all of the musicals. Most of the discs will include songs from two musicals. Each CD will come accompanied by a booklet containing the incomparable song lyrics by John Gowans.
With a quality Yamaha digital piano linked to an external computer recording programme I am able to explore the marvels of modern recording techniques. These include the addition of other instrumental voices – even four-handed playing – which I do from time to time. The tracks are then mastered by World of Sound.
"John Larsson plays Take-over Bid and Hosea" is the first in the series of CDs. Listening to the songs included while following the words in the 32-page booklet will be for many a trip down memory lane. But hopefully it will also bring inspiration to those who never knew the era of the musicals – for most of these songs are timeless and have something to say to us today.'
The names of Gowans and Larsson roll of most Salvationists tongues as easily and naturally as do Gilbert and Sullivan for the connoisseur of opera and Rodgers and Hammerstein for the fans of Broadway and beyond.
In the mid sixties, when popular music was undergoing a dramatic revolution in the west, two Salvation Army Captains, John Gowans and John Larsson, both of whom were destined to become General, were asked to write a musical to mark the Army’s Youth Year to be celebrated internationally in 1968. They gave us ‘Take Over Bid’. It was an instant success.
No one could have foreseen the revolutionary impact that the brilliantly crafted lyrics of John Gowans and the refreshingly different ‘touch the soul’ music of John Larsson would have on the creative Gospel ministries of the Army around the world.
Now, after more than 40 years comes a CD featuring many of the songs from ‘Take Over Bid’ and its successor ‘Hosea’. This is the first in a series of digital piano recordings of songs from the ten full-length Gowans and Larsson musicals.
When music is played by its composer, you get more than sound and rhythm – you also get heart and soul. On this CD, the energies that birthed the music burst into new life as it is performed by its creator. The composer, who also did the recording, plays arrangements of these familiar songs with passion, precision and expertise. The mood varies throughout from the enthusiastic ‘Wonders begin’ to the plaintive ‘What shall I ask for you?’; from the humorously nostalgic ‘Army cup of tea’ to the gentle ‘Someone cares’.
If you were involved in a production of one or both of the first two Gowans and Larsson musicals you will not want to lose time in adding ‘John Larsson Plays Take Over Bid and ‘Hosea’ to your CD collection. It will stir memories. The lyrics will quickly come to mind as you listen to the familiar tunes and you will soon be singing along! But if you can’t recall a line or two the lyrics are reproduced in the attractive booklet that comes with the CD.
If, for whatever reason, you are new to the Gowans and Larsson musicals, you will quickly discover why they have become favourites around the Army world and legendary in the Army’s music repertoire.
Johns Larsson’s music, wedded so perfectly to the words of John Gowans, has effectively communicated the message of the Gospel where other methods have failed. It has inspired people to follow Christ. When you listen you will know why.
This will be an ideal Christmas gift for family and friends, but also for anyone you know who was once involved with either of these musicals, but who no longer attends the Army or who has had a crisis of faith. It may well be the means of reawakening memories that will lead to renewal and recommitment to Christ – a ‘Take over Bid’ all over again.