The Soldiers’ Chorus and the Atlanta Symphony

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

News story photo
Photo credit: Master Sergeant Robert McIver
Each year, the four performing components of The United States Army Field Band tour America and present concerts for the American people. The two largest of these components are the Concert Band and the Soldiers’ Chorus. Ordinarily they tour together, but these groups also find opportunities to perform independently (or with other musical organizations) outside of their seasonal tours. This summer, the Soldiers’ Chorus appeared with the Atlanta Symphony for a sensational performance in the symphony’s summer home, the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Encore Park.

One of the finest orchestras in the nation, the Atlanta Symphony is well known for their stellar recordings, excellent live performances, and their fine work with the Atlanta Symphony Chorus. Like many American orchestras, the Atlanta Symphony features a patriotic show each year commemorating our nation’s Independence. This year, they wanted to involve the U.S. military. Days before July 4th, the Soldiers’ Chorus departed for Atlanta while the Concert Band continued their tour of Ohio and Pennsylvania. The chorus and the orchestra had only two rehearsals to put the concert together, which included Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, Copland’s Lincoln Portrait, and the music of George Gershwin.

Another aspect of the performance that left an impression on the chorus was the way the symphony incorporated multimedia elements into the concert. In the first half of the program, the audience was encouraged to send questions via text messaging for members of the Soldiers’ Chorus. At intermission, Staff Sergeant Mark Huseth and Soldiers’ Chorus director Captain Leonel Peña were interviewed with questions posed by the audience, and the interview was broadcast live on the jumbotron overhead. It was a creative way to involve the audience, and to help them get to know the members of the Army Field Band and understand their mission.

Staff Sergeant Rachel Farber, one of the newest members of the Soldiers’ Chorus, spent time getting to know some of the musicians behind the scenes. “I really enjoyed talking with the musicians from the symphony. Some of them have been there for more than 40 years, and they’re still inspired to play, still excited about music. That made it really special for me.”

More than 5000 people attended this historic concert. The people of the Atlanta Symphony and Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre were terrific hosts, and the Soldier-Musicians of The U.S. Army Field Band are already looking forward to the next collaboration.

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