A salute to concert music

Posted: Thursday, May 06, 2004

Kenai Peninsula residents will have a rare opportunity to experience the varied talents of the U.S. Army firsthand Saturday, without having to enlist.

The U.S. Army Field Band and Soldiers' Chorus, known as the musical ambassadors of the Army, will perform at Renee C. Henderson Auditorium at Kenai Central High School at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

" I think this is going to be the most awesome experience," said Debbie Sounart, band director at KCHS. "... I've sees these groups on network TV play for July 4th celebrations, but I've never seen the soldier chorus and band in person before."

The prestigious group travels throughout the United States and the world performing a varied program of marches, overtures, popular music, patriotic selections and instrumental and vocal solos. Its performances are meant to keep "the will of the American people behind the members of the armed forces and (support) diplomatic efforts around the world," according to information from the group.

The Field Band was formed in 1946. Since then it has performed in all 50 states and more than 30 countries. The Soldier's Chorus was added in 1957. Together, the group has performed at the World War II 50th anniversary commemorations in the United States and Europe, the rededication of the Statue of Liberty, presidential inaugural parades, the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and for nationally televised broadcasts on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

Not all of the U.S. Army Field Band and Soldiers' Chorus' performances are in famous concert halls or for world leaders, however. The group also performs in school gymnasiums and community auditoriums as part of its effort to reach smaller towns that don't normally have access to this kind performance group.


Field Band and Soldier's Chorus

Chorus and band members perform in unison.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army

Sounart, who is coordinating the event along with Cherie Curry and Mary Kennedy, said this is the first time the group has performed on the peninsula. The group also is giving a concert in Anchorage and added Kenai as a stop on its Northwest spring tour after a group of organizers visited town and approved the auditorium as a suitable facility.

"We're pretty excited because we get several military groups every year a lot your smaller ensembles but we've never had the full concert groups from Washington, D.C., before," Sounart said. "And I've been teaching here for 10 years and I've never seen anything this huge."

The group has a repertoire of songs it chooses from in each performance, including "Ala ska's Flag," the overture to "Candide," by Leonard Bernstein, "Caprice Italien," by P.I. Tchaikovsky, "A Billy Joel Songbook," by Billy Joel, "The Stars and Stripes Forever," by John Philip Sousa, and "National Emblem," by E.E. Bagley.

The approximately 65-member Field Band and 25-member Soldiers' Chorus will get some assistance from Kenai-area musicians when they perform the "National Emblem" march. Sounart said the group asked her to pick 12 area performers to play with the Field Band for the piece.

"So I had the choice of choosing KCHS band members and I thought it would be neat to include some of the community performers who have performed in the pit orchestra for the last several musicals," she said.

Sounart chose seven KCHS band members and four community performers for the task.

"I'm so excited," said KCHS sophomore trumpet player Melissa Shaginoff, who was one of the seven band members chosen. "It's just really cool because you see all these bands on TV and just hear about them, but now they're coming here."

"I remember Ms. Sounart telling us the first or second day of school that they were going to come and showed us a picture of them. Just their uniforms and how big they are, I think everyone in band was looking forward to see if they were going to be the one playing with them."

Sounart, who plays trumpet, didn't want to miss the chance to participate, either.

"I did not decline, I took a slot," she said. "This (is) just a dream to be able to play with them."

Though the area musicians won't have a chance to practice with the Field Band before the performance, Sounart has been rehearsing the march with the KCHS band and doesn't think there will be any problems.

"I think it will be fine," she said. "All of us who have played in band our whole life have heard it and played through it."

Shaginoff said the piece is challenging in its rhythms, especially in trying to picture how the music will sound when played by the 65-piece Field Band.

"Our little band is probably nothing compared to them," she said.

Though she's looking forward to the opportunity to play with the professional group, she's a little apprehensive at the same time especially since her band teacher will be playing next to her.

"I'm really nervous," she said. "I'm definitely making sure I have it all right."

With the experience and professionalism the U.S. Army Field Band and Soldiers' Chorus brings to its performances, it's a sure bet the concert will be a high note for anyone who attends.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for our Kenai Peninsula residents to have this group coming through," Sounart said. "It's all a military band and our taxes pay and support this . ... I take pride in the fact that, as a country, this is one of our performance groups that we support. In a sense, musically and culturally, they represent us."

Admission is free, but tickets are required for admission. Tickets are available at the KCHS office, at KRSM and by contacting Sounart. Ticket holders will be seated at 7:15 p.m. prior to the performance. Any remaining seats will be released to people without tickets at 7:30 p.m.

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