Swingin' in the rain

By Lisa R. Rhodes
Fort Meade Soundoff

News story photo
Photo credit: Jonathan E. Agee
Master Sgt. Michael Johnston, trumpet, performs a solo during the Aug. 6 Summer Concert Series at Constitution Park on Fort Meade.
A deluge of rain showers and thunderstorms shortened the United States Army Field Band's Jazz Ambassadors' annual summer concert from its traditional 75 minutes to barely a half-hour Saturday evening.
Devoted fans walked through soggy grass and sat under umbrellas at Constitution Park to hear "America's Big Band" perform a brief repertoire.

"I'm really happy they had a good showing," said Elena Johnson, wife of Sgt. 1st Class Philip Johnson, a trumpet player with the Field Band's Concert Band and Soldiers' Chorus. "It's good to see that they have a loyal following, despite the weather."

The band performed an acoustic concert. Electrical equipment could not be used due to the rain.

Music ranged from Frank Sinatra's "Come Fly With Me" to "Meridian Chaser," an original composition by Sgt. Maj. Darryl Brenzel, a former saxophonist with the group.

The concert was the first in the Field Band's free, annual Summer Concert Series. The Concert Band and Soldiers' Chorus will perform Saturday evening, followed by The Volunteers on Aug. 20. All four components of the Field Band will perform in a special 65th anniversary concert on Aug. 27 that celebrates the Army's premiere music organization.

Each of the summer concerts begin at 7 p.m. and are scheduled to be held at Constitution Park.

Garrison Commander Col. Edward C. Rothstein welcomed the audience to the Jazz Ambassadors' concert, but also asked for a moment of silence in remembrance of the 30 American service members and eight Afghans who were killed in Afghanistan on Saturday when insurgents reportedly shot down an American helicopter.

"I just came back from Afghanistan," said Rothstein, who deployed last year and served with the Headquarters, International Security Assistance Force. "It's still with me. We're still at war."

The colonel said the sacrifice of the service members is the reason why Americans have the freedom to gather at events like this.

"We're here as a result," Rothstein said. "We come back as a family, after unfortunate things like this happen."

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Gordon Kippola, director of the Jazz Ambassadors, thanked the audience for enduring the rain and promised "a show you will not want to miss."

The band then played a patriotic medley that included "The Army Song" and the National Anthem. The tempo then changed to the band's trademark swing with the songs "Just In Time," made popular by Tony Bennett, and the Duke Ellington tune "Old Man Blues," which included toe-tapping clarinet and trombone solos.

But the set came to an end moments later when showers began to fall.

Kippola led the band in its final song, "Sing, Sing, Sing," made famous by the Benny Goodman Orchestra in the late 1930s, before bidding the audience good night.

Janice Custis, wife of retired Air Force Tech Sgt. Harry Custis who died five years ago, said she attends the Field Band's concert series every summer.

"I enjoy the good music," said Custis, who lives in Laurel. "I will be here next week, too."

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