COLUMBUS, Ga. (Dec. 17, 2018) - Capt. Aaron Morris, the Maneuver Center of Excellence Band director and commander, turned to the audience, who had stood to clap. He held up his index finger following "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," which the band had played as an encore, to ask the audience to indulge in one more song.

The MCoE Band, as their second encore, played a short, up-tempo "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," thus finishing a holiday performance Dec. 15 for a packed house at the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts in downtown Columbus, Georgia.

The band played a variety of holiday music, from traditional tunes like "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing," to 19th century repertoire with selections from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker, to 20th century classics like "Let It Snow," and many more.

After the band played a holiday medley as an introduction, Brig. Gen. David A. Lesperance, the U.S. Army Armor School commandant, welcomed the community members in attendance.

"It is my distinct honor to welcome you to the annual Fort Benning holiday concert," said Brig. Gen. David A. Lesperance, the U.S. Army Armor School commandant. "Thanks for coming this evening."

After Lesperance's introduction, Morris invited children from the audience on stage to gather around a prop hearth. The band's keyboardist played a tune as the children took their half-lotus seats on stage. Michelle Brito, wife of MCoE and Fort Benning commanding general Maj. Gen. Gary M. Brito, read the classic Christmas poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" by Clement Clarke Moore. The band punctuated the couplets of the poem with appropriate musical cues. The band accompanied the line "Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse" by softly playing woodwinds and chimes. The band answered "While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads" with a quotation of Tchaikovsky's "The Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairies."

During subsequent numbers, different members of the band had the opportunity to shine. Staff Sgt. Richard Scarlett provided the solo vocal work throughout the night. Spc. Brandon Dickson blared out a solo on trumpet during "O Holy Night" and at other points during the concert. Spc. Aubrey Ault took the spotlight during her saxophone solos. Staff Sgt. Brendan Owen played solo electric guitar, and Spc. Jaehong Chung played solo on keyboard in addition to their accompaniment work throughout the concert.

Other specialized instrumental work included a percussion ensemble, who performed the Kwanzaa song "Umoja," and the band's woodwind ensemble, who performed José Feliciano's 1970 hit "Feliz Navidad."

As Scarlett sang Theodore "Dr. Seuss" Geisel's "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," the Grinch himself showed up on stage dressed in red coat with white trim, flung several presents into a drab canvas sack, kicked a poinsettia off stage, and sauntered through the audience. His crowd work consisted of taking selfies with audience members, in which he covered the face of the photographer, and offering a high five to a child, only to slyly slip his furry green hand away. After he retook the stage to act the ham, both Scarlett and Morris dismissed the fictional creature and his trolling antics.

Before a performance of blues musician Charles Brown's "Please Come Home for Christmas," Morris turned to the audience and asked service members from both the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade and Task Force 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry, who had recently redeployed, if they would stand and be recognized. The audience applauded the Soldiers.

For a performance of the traditional song "The Twelve Days of Christmas," choir students from Dexter Elementary School at Fort Benning took the stage. They stayed on stage for an audience sing-along medley that followed.

Scarlett sang "Go Tell it on the Mountain," which was then followed by the encore performances of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."

Morris met with audience members in the lobby after the performance to greet them and wish them a happy holiday.

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