Field Band blends tradition with style

By Lisa R. Rhodes

News story photo
Photo credit: Kitty R. Charlton
Santa Claus directs musicians at the Meade High School auditorium Dec. 9 as the U.S. Army Field Band performs "Sleighride," its final song at the annual performance, "Sound the Bells: A Holiday Celebration 2010."
The annual holiday concert presented by the U.S. Army Field Band and Soldiers' Chorus was "a big, holiday variety show," said Col. Thomas Palmatier, commander and conductor of the band.

More than 750 people attended the Dec. 9 concert at Meade High School's auditorium to enjoy a one-hour show of traditional Christmas songs, Spanish holiday songs and signature tunes from each military branch.

"It was a beautiful performance," said Ann Gallagher, a Pasadena resident who has attended the annual concert consecutively for about seven years. "I always like the traditional Christmas carols best."

The concert, entitled "Sound the Bells: A Holiday Celebration 2010," began with a composition of the same name by renowned composer and arranger John Williams, followed by "The Star Spangled Banner" and a festive arrangement of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen."

Vocalists Sgt. 1st Class Mark Huseth and Staff Sgt. Teresa Alzadon then followed with "Peace To The World," a call to remember the good will of humanity.

To salute the diversity of the country and of the Army, Sgt. 1st Class Mario Garcia Jr. sang "La Peregrinacion -The Pilgrimage" and "El Nacimiento Songs de Jesus - The Nativity," two Spanish selections picked with the event in mind.

A highlight of the evening was a video featuring retired Sgt. Maj. Ray Moran, affectionately known as Fort Meade's "Old Soldier," along with his wife of more than 50 years, Barbara, and their grandson Sgt. Christopher Peer.

In the video, Moran shared why it was an easy choice for him to dedicate his life to service. The auditorium was hushed as Moran and his wife each gave the account of how they met and what the Army has meant to them over the years.

Moran first came to Fort Meade in 1951 after serving in Korea, and had been back and forth to the installation over the span of his nearly 60-year military career. The bulk of his service has been dedicated to recruiting, a capacity in which he has served as the honorary command sergeant major of the 1st Recruiting Brigade, Baltimore Recruiting Battalion.

After the video presentation, Palmatier invited the crowd to welcome Moran as he stood to be recognized.

Moran's story is indicative of the band's mission "to remind the audience of the American Soldier, to take the story of the American Soldier to the grassroots," Palmatier said before the program.

The band then followed with "Silent Night," "Winter Wonderland" and a stirring performance of "O Holy Night" featuring Staff Sgt. Rachel Rose Farber, a vocalist and violinist, and Staff Sgt. Jeremy Cady, a vocalist.

A surprise visit by Santa Claus, who briefly conducted the band, garnered cheers and applause from the audience as he danced around the stage.
"It was an awesome mix of music," said Brenda Kourpias, who visited the show as an adult Cub Scout leader joined by a group of Cub Scout members.

The music evoked an emotional connection for Pasadena resident Connie Cook, whose son is working in Afghanistan.

"'O Holy Night' " brought tears to my eyes," she said.

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