A Night for Patriotism, Music Appreciation - 1,200 attend rousing performance of Army Field Band

By Reprinted with permission
The Foxboro Reporter

News story photo
Photo credit: Martin Gavin, The Foxboro Reporter
Harpist SFC Melissa Dunne during a concert at Foxboro High School
Patriotism and music appreciation were both on display last Thursday night, as an estimated 1,200 people packed the Foxboro High School gymnasium for a rare appearance of the U.S. Army's top musical unit -- the U.S. Army Field Band & Soldiers' Chorus.

Introduced by FHS music director Stephen Massey as the "best band in the world," the Army Field Band performed selections from a range of genres -- from classical and opera to show tunes and Beatles songs -- before concluding with a rousing medley of military tunes that paid tribute to veterans in attendance.

The 7 p.m. show commenced with a color guard presentation by members of American Legion Post #93 and VFW Post #2626.

The band was under the direction of Col. Thomas Palmatier of Ballston Spa. N.Y., who established a comfortable rapport with the audience from the moment he stepped onto the conductor's platform.

"Could they get any more people in here?" Palmatier asked with a smile, glancing around the packed gymnasium.

While many in the audience appeared to be eagerly anticipating a program consisting largely of marches and other patriotic pageantry, the band's selections also featured selected instrumental and vocal soloists.

For local families in attendance, one of many highlights was a rendition of the Washington Bicentennial March by John Philip Sousa, which featured a dozen members of the Foxboro High School band performing with the military unit.

But arguably the most poignant moment occurred during the finale -- a medley of anthems from different branches of the armed forces. While introducing that number, Palmatier urged veterans in the audience to stand and be recognized during their respective anthems, then as the musicians played and spirits soared he turned to face the proud vets and personally saluted them in a gesture of respect.

Billed as "the musical ambassadors of the Army," the field band's appearance in Foxboro was sponsored by The Foxboro Reporter and The Sun Chronicle, and was incorporated into the band's spring 2009 tour of northeastern states. The U.S. Army Field Band tours nationally and internationally, completing a touring circuit of the entire nation every 2-1/2 half years.

Founded in 1946 and stationed at Ft. Meade, Md., the band appears in a variety of settings each year, from world-famous concert halls, such as the Berlin Philharmonie and Carnegie Hall, to state fairgrounds and local venues like the Foxboro High School gym.

Helping coordinate the local performance was Harry Davis of Beach Street, who performed with the Army Field Band in the late 1950s and early '60s. Aware of the band's 2009 spring tour, Davis last fall solicited both Massey and the newspaper, suggesting that an appearance in Foxboro would be a tremendous community event.

On hand in the FHS gym last Thursday night, Davis was recognized by Massey and later by Palmatier for his efforts.

The concert was taped by Foxboro Cable Access volunteers and is scheduled for broadcast beginning Friday, March 20 on cable Channel 8. Weekend rebroadcasts are scheduled for Saturday at 2 p.m. and 10 p.m.

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