Saturday, November 01, 2014

United States Army Field Band and Soldier’s Chorus review

The McMinn County High School came alive in Athens, Tennessee, with the melodic notes of the United States Army Field Band and Soldier’s Chorus. The concert was performed to a packed house on Saturday, October 25, 2014.

The crowd ranged from babies to older war veterans and all ages in-between. Working class and middle class were about equally represented. Dress ranged from very casual shorts to business casual and some were in dressier attire. The family crowd was relaxed and upbeat.

The United States Army Field Band and Soldier’s Chorus represents the best that the country has to offer. They travel across the United States and overseas to lift soldier’s spirits and carry a message of patriotism to all. It is a job that they did with excellence. The instrumental work was done by an orchestra of more than sixty musicians. The twenty-nine voice choir was simply outstanding.

It was a concert rich in polyphonic texture and complex dynamics. Instead of classical music, the concert leaned heavily on popular hits from the modern era and a few opera selections. The peppy Gershwin song of “I’ve Got Rhythm” was performed by soloists who were backed up by the Soldier’s Chorus choir. The minor tones of “Summertime” from the opera, Porgy and Bess proved to be a good contrast to the brighter melody of “Who Could Ask for Anything More” and the already mentioned “I’ve Got Rhythm”.

Also captivating the audience was the overture from “Dancer in the Dark”. Its suspenseful tones reverberated throughout the gym and held the audience spellbound. On its heels was the brighter “Allegro Vivace” from Concerto for Flute and orchestra. The complicated dynamics rendered a bending and shaping of notes that was as vibrant a flute solo as anyone could hope to hear. The song “Let Freedom Ring” was well received. “Carmina Burana” is another powerful part of the concert that kept people riveted in their seats.

However, what brought the house down was a medley of songs that represented each branch of the military. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard members (and families) stood up as the part from their branch of the military was played. The crowd clapped in rhythm to the music but then thundered raucous applause as the members of each branch stood.

Most of the audience clapped hands to keep time with the rhythmic beat of the “Stars and Stripes Forever” by John Phillips Sousa. Yet, to my dismay, seats in the upper balcony began to empty as the song was being played. The rude behavior that was exhibited by some wasn’t enough to dim the enjoyment felt by the rest of the audience.

Each of the selections were masterfully performed. However, the best part of the evening for me was getting to meet some of the performers. After the final bow, the performers headed out into the hallways with instruments in hand. They answered questions about the instruments they played, the song sections and life as a military musician. Those who left early missed out on the true spirit of the evening, and that was to shake hands with the individuals behind the music of the United States Army Field Band and Soldier’s Chorus.

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