By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterDecember 20, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (December 20, 2013) -- Hundreds of people crammed the seats of the post theater Dec. 10 for a treat that only the 1st Aviation Brigade's 98th Army "Silver Wings" Band could provide with the Commanding General's Holiday Concert.
The concert featured dozens of all-time favorite holiday tunes with sing-alongs, skits, a reading and a visit from a couple very special guests who made their way through the audience.
Maj. Gen. Kevin W. Mangum, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, kicked off the concert with thanks and tidings for the holiday season.
"Thanks for spending a few minutes with us here at Fort Rucker and listening to our great 98th Army 'Silver Wings' Band as they perform what is always a great show," he said. "I know that this is a busy time of year with lots of festivities and things going on around town."
This year's concert was heavy on vocal performances, as well as instrumental performances, which included "Jingle Bells," "Let it Snow," "White Christmas," and crowd favorite, "Christmas Eve Sarajevo," made famous by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
"I thought the concert was absolutely amazing," said Jessica Jordan, military Family member. "My favorite performance had to be when they played ("Christmas Eve Sarajevo"). That really was an epic performance. I felt like we were in a concert hall and it gave me chill bumps -- I was really impressed."
Frank Johnston, retired military, was also amongst those who felt the holiday spirit through the concert.
"This (concert) really was something else," he said. "Hearing all of that music really brought about a nostalgic feeling of when you were a kid and the holidays come around.
"Living in the South, it's hard to come by that feeling because we don't get snow during this time of year -- the weather barely gets cold," he continued. "But having something like this reminds us of the season and really gets you into the holiday spirit."
"It's great to see that we can get some high-quality holiday entertainment here locally," she said. "You can tell that the performers up there really put their heart and soul into their performances."
According to CW5 Aaron Graff, commander and conductor of the band, that's just what they did. The band has been rehearsing and practicing for more than a month, and some members started working on their songs before that, he added.
"We had a lot of vocal tunes tonight, so we had to do all of our rehearsal recordings so that the vocalists could get their words down," said Graff. "Some of the songs were actually arranged by the band, and that process can take a little longer to do, so some of the folks were doing their homework prior (to rehearsals)."
Despite the exhaustive efforts of its members, the band gave a top-notch show that Graff said he could not be more proud of, but also admitted he was relieved it was done.
"It's always a relief to get done because you put so much into it and it's wonderful to feel all of that come to fruition," he said. "I feel like we got a great response from the audience and that's always a great feeling for us as performers."
Graff said his goal is to make people feel an emotional response when they hear the songs performed, and wanted to make sure that there was something for everyone in the performance.
"We tried to cover everyone from adults to the kids," he said. "I remember what it was like to be a 10-year-old boy and sit there bored, so we wanted to make sure that the children didn't feel left out."
The concert didn't fail to deliver as it catered to the hearts of all ages with special surprise guests that made their way through the audience. The first surprise of the night was when the Grinch showed up and tried to steal Christmas during a performance of "You're a Mean One, Mister Grinch."
The Grinch, clad in his makeshift Santa suit, made his way through the audience stealing people's candy, snacks and even potted plants, including the Charlie Brown Christmas tree that was featured during one of the performances.
There was also a special interpretation of the "12 Days of Christmas," during which Megan Emch, civilian vocalist, played a character who acted out her reaction to actually receiving each of the gifts recited in the song.
The comical twist on the traditional song had the audience laughing as well as feeling the holiday spirit.
"I thought the way they did the "12 Days of Christmas" was really clever," said Jordan. "I never really thought of it that way, but getting all of those different gifts on those different days would be pretty ridiculous -- it was really funny."
As the concert came to a close, the audience was in store for their final surprise -- a visit from the big man himself -- Santa Claus.
The band played their rendition of "Here Comes Santa Claus" as the jolly man in red made his way through the audience to hand out candy canes and visit with children, and as Santa made his departure and waved goodbye, Graff said he felt a sense that they'd accomplished what they set out to do.
"Everyone puts in the long hours every day and it's great to have that sense of relief at the end of the day" he said. "Those long hours compounded by the season when we're trying to get our Families together and get gifts ready, it's nice to be able to provide these folks with a little rest and relaxation -- even if it's only for 90 minutes."