Army Chorus celebrates 55 years with alumni, concerts
August 16, 2011
On Aug. 5, The U.S. Army Chorus capped off a series of concerts commemorating its 55th anniversary with a stunning performance by current and alumni members before an enthusiastic audience in Vienna, Va.
The anniversary celebration began Aug. 3, at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage as part of the performing arts center's regular 6 p.m. concert series, and continued Aug. 4 at First Presbyterian Church in Arlington with solo performances by alumni members. Several founding members of the chorus, many of whom have gone on to significant careers in opera and musical theater, showed they've lost none of the luster and power in their voices. They impressed the audience with their virtuosity.
Friday's performance, held at Vienna Presbyterian Church, featured active duty members of the chorus led by the current Officer in Charge Maj. Dwayne Milburn. One of the nation's few professional men's choruses, the group displayed excellent ensemble singing, with a tremendous dynamic range, solid rhythmic intensity, and a warm, rich tone throughout the program. Several of Milburn's own arrangements were featured in the first half, including a tribute to the Beatles that contained some tightly-wound harmonies handled with ease and sincerity by the members of the ensemble.
For the remainder of the program, past leaders of the chorus - including two previous commanders of "Pershing's Own" - led a combined choir of current and alumni members. Nearly 80 voices strong, the sound emanating from the stage was impressive. Retired Maj. Allen Crowell, retired Col. L. Bryan Shelburne, and retired Col. Gary Lamb conducted the group in some of the chorus's most popular repertoire. Despite the sheer size of the group, each conductor was able to carve a delicate sound from the ensemble when the music required it, especially in the performance of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Music of the Night" from the Broadway musical "The Phantom of the Opera."
Former leaders of the chorus who continue their active duty roles as conductors within the Army Band program also stepped in front of the group, including Capt. T. Curtis Kinzey.
Kinzey, a former enlisted member of chorus, currently serves as OIC of the Soldiers' Chorus at The U.S. Army Field Band, Ft. Meade, Md., and will soon take over as the next conductor of the vocal element of "Pershing's Own."
Conductors and singers were not the only alumni to return to the stage. A pair of accomplished pianists, retired Master Sgt. Joseph Holt and Martin Katz returned to serve as accompanists for the group. Currently serving as professor of collaborative piano at the University of Michigan School of Music, Katz is considered one of the foremost performers in the world of chamber music. Katz's influence is still felt by the members of the chorus, as he has passed on the mantle to his former student and current accompanist of The U.S. Army Chorus, Staff Sgt. Joel Ayau. Katz and Ayau were featured together in a piano sonata for four hands by the French composer Francis Poulenc. The two players sat side by side at the keyboard as their arms intertwined, trading passages back and forth.
The evening concluded with an enthusiastic performance of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," conducted by Kinzey.
The group met one more time over the weekend in a banquet honoring alumni members in Arlington.
The Army Chorus returned to the stage on August 16 with the Army Concert Band and Herald Trumpets in the annual "Overture 1812" concert held at the Sylvan Theater, on the Washington Monument grounds.
Check www.usarmyband.com for more information on the performance, or other upcoming concerts.