The Soldiers’ Chorus Represents the Army at Ford’s Theatre

By Staff Sergeant Phillip Johnson
The U.S. Army Field Band

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Photo credit: Reflections Photography / Washington, DC
The Soldiers' Chorus recently had the distinct honor of participating in the 2010 Ford's Theatre Gala, an annual event sponsored by the Ford's Theatre Society. The Society's Lincoln Medal, honoring excellence in humanitarian work, was awarded this year to two South Africans, whose work in combating apartheid resulted in historic strides towards equal rights in that nation: the attorney and human rights advocate Albie Sachs, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Over the years, the gala has earned a reputation as one of the nation's most celebrated gatherings in anticipation of Independence Day. Government officials are welcomed to share in an evening of remembrance and entertainment that features a variety of well-known musical guests. Hosted by Ty Burrell, star of TV's Modern Family, this year's gala featured performances by American Idol's Kelly Clarkson, performing legend Dick Van Dyke, comedian George Lopez, R&B star Lionel Richie, and world-famous soprano Renée Fleming. The Soldiers' Chorus thrilled the audience with a cappella arrangements of "My Country 'Tis of Thee" and a soulful rendition of "America the Beautiful," the latter featuring Master Sergeant Victor Cenales. The Soldiers' Chorus then joined Ms. Fleming for the musical finale in a stirring rendition of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," accompanied by Oscar-winning composer and conductor Bill Conti (Rocky) and his fine orchestra.

The sacrifices made for our nation's enduring freedom were acknowledged by former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell, who honored the men and women of America's military with a brief presentation recognizing five Medal of Honor recipients. Seated front row center, President and Mrs. Obama enjoyed the evening along with many government dignitaries and members of the Ford's Theatre board and supporters. The performance was later broadcast on the evening of July 2nd to a national audience on ABC television. At the White House earlier that evening, President Obama reflected on the special role music plays when we celebrate the birth of our nation and those who have sacrificed for our freedom: "In many ways, it's impossible to separate the history of America from the history of its music...Soldiers have sung as they marched to war, and raised their voices again while laying a brother to rest." The Soldiers' Chorus took this extraordinary opportunity to offer a patriotic musical tribute to the American people and the Soldiers who devote themselves to the defense of liberty.

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