Fort Sam's Own rocks the Rite to kick off Holidays

By Staff Sgt. Keith Anderson
ARNORTH Public Affairs

News story photo
Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Kieth Anderson
Staff Sgt. Tony Cooper, 323rd Army Band, the emcee for the night, offers advice to Command Sgt. Maj. Hu Rhodes and Lt. Gen. William Caldwell IV, commanding general, Army North, and senior commander, Fort Sam Houston and Camp Bullis, on how to get an audience fired up before the start of "A Holiday Celebration" at the Scottish Rite Auditorium.
SAN ANTONIO - Community members joined the San Antonio military community to start the holiday season Dec. 8 with a rocking performance by "Fort Sam's Own" 323rd Army Band at the Scottish Rite Auditorium.

During the 75-minute performance, guests heard a wide variety of music, including solo performances, rock versions of traditional Christmas music, special renditions of "Los Peces en el Rio," and "O Hanukah," and jazz substitutions, in addition to traditional music from the concert band.

"There is no better community for celebrating America's military than San Antonio," said Command Sgt. Maj. Hu Rhodes, U.S. Army North, to the audience before the performance. "It's a perfect place to be, at a perfect time, for us to come together and celebrate the holidays."

Lt. Gen. William Caldwell IV, commanding general, U.S. Army North, and senior commander, Fort Sam Houston and Camp Bullis, welcomed community members to the concert, and the concert band began the night's performances with a Christmas Intrada and a performance of "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year."

Soloists, 1st Sgt. James Kruczek, his wife, Sgt. 1st Class Dion Kruczek, along with Staff Sgt. Tony Cooper and Spc. Andre Badeaux, performed a stirring version of "Hallelujah," by Leonard Cohen.

"Epic Flood," the rock band of the 323rd Army Band, performed renditions of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "I Just Love You."

The 323rd Army Band's award-winning "Biohazard Brass Band" performed arrangements of "Deck the Halls," and "Jolly Old St. Nicholas," and, on cue, Santa made an appearance and passed out candy canes to the children in the auditorium.

The concert ended after an encore performance of "Christmas Eve at Sarajevo," and the audience gave the hard-working Army musicians a standing ovation.

"It was wonderful," said Martha Alvarado. "This is the second time I've been. No one should miss this, it's something without words."

Alvarado, and her friend, Mary Guerrero, whose sons both serve in the Navy, said they enjoyed the whole show, though one performance really wowed them.

"My favorite part was the rock version of 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,'" said Guerrero.

The performance included 18 songs, with choreography and video, and good pacing, said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Doug Paarmann, band director, 323rd Army Band.

"What amazes me is the variety of talent within the band," said Paarmann. "People definitely got their money's worth."

The Army's senior commander in San Antonio payed a special tribute to the band after the performance.

"You all knocked it out of the park," Caldwell told Paarmann. "The musical performances, the soloists, the choreography, the music selection -- it was just phenomenal."

For the bandmembers, the chance to perform for the community was a treat.

"It's an honor for the band to perform for such a military friendly community," said 1st Sgt. Kruckzek. "The holidays are a difficult time for some, when families are separated, so we hope to bring a little joy and holiday spirit."

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