By Heather Santos (The United States Army Field Band)June 27, 2009
FORT MEADE, Md. - Everything is bigger in Texas.
Hair, hats, and, yes, concerts.
On July 28, the Concert Band and SoldiersAca,!a,,c Chorus of The United States Army Field Band took the stage at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands and put on a Texas-sized performance.
Yet, one question remained.
If everything is so colossal in Texas, did the Army Field Band measure up'
Aca,!A"I thought it was outstanding, truly an outstanding event and a wonderful, patriotic forum to showcase our Soldiers. It was a very moving and enjoyable evening and made everyone proud to be an American,Aca,!A? noted Honorable Randy Pais, Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army.
Under the baton of Col. Thomas H. Palmatier, thousands of concert goers in the greater Houston area were entertained by the ArmyAca,!a,,cs premier musical organization with a powerful and diverse program of marches, overtures and patriotic selections, as well as instrumental and vocal solos.
But, the nightAca,!a,,cs program included something a little different, something new in the musical lineup for the summer tourAca,!"highlights from the Aca,!A"Mamma Mia!Aca,!A? movie soundtrackAca,!"something the band and chorus felt the audience could really get into.
They did, including Pais and his family who thought one of the key parts of the evening was the Aca,!A"Mamma Mia!Aca,!A? presentation.
Aca,!A"There were some beautiful voices, and my daughter and wife liked it the best,Aca,!A? Pais remarked.
Capt. Leonel PeAfA+-a, a native Texan who hails from Edinburgh, is the director of the SoldiersAca,!a,,c Chorus.
PeAfA+-a admitted, Aca,!A"When people learn that the Field Band is coming to town, they rarely think they will be exposed to popular, contemporary tunes.Aca,!A?
Aca,!A"I really enjoyed watching the audience members react to the package we put together. I loved seeing them smile and sing along,Aca,!A? he added.
The songs, based on the musical works of ABBA, a Swedish pop band celebrated in the Aca,!Eoe70s, were a big hit with the audience.
Backed by the phenomenal Concert Band, six soloists from the chorus belted out tunes, including Aca,!A"Take a Chance on Me,Aca,!A? Aca,!A"Knowing Me, Knowing You,Aca,!A? and, of course, the title song, Aca,!A"Mamma Mia!Aca,!A?
Native Houstonian, Staff Sgt. Tracy Labrecque, was one of the soloists. She was excited at the opportunity to perform in her home state, her home city, and she thoroughly engaged the audience with her performance of Aca,!A"Dancing Queen.Aca,!A?
Aca,!A"I was thrilled when I heard we were booked at the Woodlands pavilion. I remember going to my very first concert there with my dad to see Marc Anthony perform. The pavilion is huge, and I knew that our performance would have to be big, and, of course, it was!Aca,!A? she exclaimed.
Labrecque left Texas at the age of 15 to pursue her musical education and subsequent career with the Army Field Band. She visits Texas periodically, for her family still calls Houston home.
Adding to the concertAca,!a,,cs flair was Aca,!A"The Fantastic Fast-Fingered Fandango,Aca,!A? a musical number featuring Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Sarangoulis and Staff Sgt. Lauren Veronie, a Soldier-musician from nearby Willis, Texas.
The audience appreciated these two Soldier-musiciansAca,!a,,c ability to feverishly play their euphoniums, particularly in 90-degree weather. Their fingers, moving so fast as to be almost invisible, seemed to generate a cool breeze.
Holly Rollins, from The Woodlands, Texas, thought the eveningAca,!a,,cs program included Aca,!A"great selections featuring very talented musicians and singers Aca,!A| I particularly enjoyed how you featured unique instruments that arenAca,!a,,ct always heard (French horn, euphonium).Aca,!A?
Given the sizeable turnout, booking a performance for the Concert Band and SoldiersAca,!a,,c Chorus at The Woodlands Pavilion was definitely befitting.
Sgt. Maj. Mike McGhee, Army Field Band operations noncommissioned officer in charge, spearheaded the effort to book this popular venue.
McGhee, originally from Victoria, Texas, considered the site a good fit for the band and chorus.
"Just like Texans," said McGhee, "the Field Band has a great sense of pride. And, just like the state of Texas, we have our own unique history and culture. And, I would like to think that we, just like Texas, are considered symbols of America."
Texas has long been deemed a representation of true Americana. After all, the same colors that grace the American flag also adorn the flag of Texas.
But, it is more than mere colors that convey Texas spirit.
The Houston football teamAca,!"of the National Football LeagueAca,!"designated the Aca,!A"TexansAca,!A? as the teamAca,!a,,cs mascot. And, with adages that adorn many a bumper sticker, such as Aca,!A"American by birth, Texan by the grace of God,Aca,!A? the enthusiasm is evident.
That enthusiasm, that state pride, that American pride, infiltrates many facets of life, including military service.
Mr. William Grimes, public affairs officer for HoustonAca,!a,,cs recruiting battalion, translated those sentiments with statistics, Aca,!A"In fiscal year 2008 alone, 12.7 percent of all young men and women who joined the active Army came out of Texas. And, one in every 10 Soldiers in the Army claims Texas as home.Aca,!A?
Sgt. 1st Class Michelle Laska is one of many Soldiers who stand behind that statistic.
Laska, a noncommissioned officer with the Field Band, books events for the Concert Band and SoldiersAca,!a,,c Chorus. She moved to Texas when she was a toddler, and, though she only lived there for eight years, she, like so many others who have left, still considers Texas her home state.
Laska is proud to be a Texan, and she enjoys her role as a Soldier with The United States Army Field Band.
Aca,!A"We bring the Army to the grassroots of America and strengthen ties between the American people and Soldiers stationed all over the world,Aca,!A? she explained.
Aca,!A"In a way, we resurrect patriotism in our fellow Americans during our concerts. The Field Band receives hundreds of emails and letters from concert goers expressing how proud they are of their armed forces and how they leave the performances with their heads held high and their hearts filled with American pride. Reading these emails and letters affirms Aca,!A| we are accomplishing our mission.Aca,!A?
Mr. Buddy Grantham, director of HoustonAca,!a,,cs VeteransAca,!a,,c Affairs, is pleased that the Army has such an asset in the Field Band and was excited to learn that they were coming to Houston.
Aca,!A"I am thrilled that the citizens of Houston, including the over 200,000 veterans living here, had the opportunity to listen to and enjoy the music of these outstanding Soldiers. They make us all proud. I look forward to their return trip,Aca,!A? he said.
Army Reserve Ambassador for Texas Lawrence Holland, declared them truly The Musical Ambassadors of the Army, which is the Field BandAca,!a,,cs motto.
Aca,!A"The Band performance was great. They are so professional and great ambassadors for our Soldiers.Aca,!A?
And, with one single sentence, Holland remarked to the Field Band what so many Soldiers should hear, Aca,!A"Thanks for what you all do every day.Aca,!A?
About The United States Army Field Band:
The U.S. Army Field Band, The Musical Ambassadors of the Army, has performed for more than 100 million people worldwide for more than 50 years. As the premier touring musical representative for the United States Army, these Soldiers representing Soldiers tell the Army story through music and keep the will of the American people behind the members of our armed forces. This internationally-acclaimed military unit is comprised of noncommissioned officers who exemplify a true commitment to service to our Nation and illustrate why the secretary of the Army dedicated 2009 as the Year of the NCO.
Go to www.armyfieldband.com to learn more about The United States Army Field Band.