Veterans, current service members and their family members stood for the Armed Forces Salute, as audience members clapped along in the packed auditorium on Friday, thanking those who served for their sacrifice.
The Army Field Band and Soldiers’ Chorus paid a visit to Duxbury and played to a nearly full house at the Performing Arts Center. The band was invited to Duxbury by the American Legion Post 223 in Duxbury and entertained those in attendance for two hours with full concert pieces, performances spotlighting individual singers, and several choral pieces.
The night started off with the presentation of the col- ors by the American Legion’s color guard and moved on to several patriotic pieces in a “Patriotic Prologue.” A piece from The Impresario, by W.A. Mozart, entitled “I am the Prima Donna,” featured Staff Sergeants Teresa Alzadon, Daniel Erbe and Rachel Rose Farber as vocal soloists who sang about their love triangle.
The first half of the performance ended with a symphonic version of dances from West Side Story, which had audience members clapping and laughing along as the instrumentalist captured the rise and fall of the movement from the film and play versions of the story.
The second half of the concert opened with several choral selections featuring the Soldiers’ Chorus. The Chorus traveled the world as they per- formed a quick Irish song and a slower Scottish one, round- ing out their world tour with a rendition of “America the Beautiful” that filled the entire auditorium.
Staff Sergeant Tracy Labrecque, soloist, and Sergeant First Class Carmen Russo, trombone, performed “Viva Brasilia,” accompanied by the entire Army Field Band.
Members of Duxbury’s Wind Ensemble and Cham- ber Singers were invited on stage to perform a piece with the band, including clarinet players Maren Lloyd and Em- ily Thomas, bassoon player Angela Connors, French horn player Maya Lee, horn player Christian Down and trombone player Kevin Coakley.
Master Sergeant Erica Russo, a singer in the chorus, said performing with the band and chorus is an incredible op- portunity.
“It’s the most rewarding thing I could ever get to do,” she said. “It’s such a tremendous opportunity to have this as my full-time job.”
Russo, who has been performing with the band for nearly 13 years, said the process to become a member of the band or chorus is rigorous. When a position on the band or chorus opens up, it is formally posted and applications are accepted. The positions are open only to qualified professional musicians. A handful of applicants are selected and invited to come in for an in-person au- dition. If they “win” the audition, they go to their recruiter, sign the papers and head off to basic combat training. Upon graduation from basic training, they report directly to the band and chorus unit.
“That is your full-time position with the Army,” Russo said.
All of the current band and chorus members have completed at least a bachelor’s degree in music, many have master’s degrees and several even have doctorates.
Staff Sergeant Sarah Schram-Borg, who has been a member of the band as an oboe player for two and a half years, said the rehearsal schedule is extensive. Players and singers arrive at rehearsal at 9 a.m., and rehearse as an entire ensemble until about noon, when they split off into individual practices and small group rehearsals. Some members also have extra duties, such as working on the production team to design programs and educational outreach DVDs.
On the 38-day tour that hits about 30 cities, both Russo and Schram-Borg said they often lose track of the days while on the road.
“The other day I was convinced for several hours that it was Tuesday and eventually someone told me it was actually Sunday,” Russo said. “I am often looking at my room key and saying the room number out loud so I don’t forget where I am.”
For the performers, one of the most rewarding aspects of performing with the band and chorus is at the end, when the band plays the Armed Forces Salute, honoring all branches of the Armed Forces. Veterans, current service members and family members of those who have served stand for their respective songs, clapping and saluting as the band plays. For the performers, they realize its much more than just cheering for the quality of the performance.
“Sometimes you have a veteran and their service song starts and it might take them the whole song to stand up but they are bound and determined to stand,” she said. “It’s so amazing to know that you are touching those people.”
As the crowd got on their feet during the Battle Hymn of the Republic, the last song of the evening, Schram-Borg said the cheering and support from the audience members shows how the band and chorus are able to represent the Armed Forces in a unique way.
“There’s nothing better than that,” she said. “We are doing what we love, and are also serving a higher purpose by representing our heroes and honoring our veterans. I find that so fulfilling.”