The stage is set. Musicians are at the ready. The 77th Army Band has been hard at work preparing for this holiday season with two virtual concerts Dec. 14 and Dec. 21.“I know COVID-19 is on everyone’s minds and it should be, but it’s also important to recognize our holidays are here,” said Warrant Officer Richard Townes, 77th Army Band commander. “I think keeping these traditions alive, even in an altered form for the community, is important. So, that’s what we’re doing.”The first virtual concert is Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. on the band’s Facebook page. The 20-minute show features a woodwind quintet playing the “Nutcracker Suite.”The music choice came from Townes’ own family traditions.“Every year I take my kids to the ‘Nutcracker’ and this year we sat down and talked to them and said we just can’t do it, productions aren’t happening, it’s not the wisest thing to be in a crowd of people,” said Townes. “I thought, I bet there are a lot of people in a similar boat and why shouldn’t we deliver the ‘Nutcracker?’”Townes hopes families can sit down and enjoy that classic set, as well as enjoy the second holiday concert Dec. 21 at 7 p.m. It will also be livestreamed on the band’s Facebook page, this time featuring a brass quintet and drummer playing the holiday classics.Members of the band quickly rattled off their own favorite holiday tunes as they were setting the stage for the shows. The “Nutcracker Suite” will look like the band members are playing in a cozy living room complete with fireplace. In the second, bandmembers are surrounded by twinkling Christmas trees and artillery décor.The transition to a virtual concert was already in motion as the band performed for an online-only audience in November.“When the decision was made to go virtual for the Veterans Day program, I just couldn’t see the situation really improving all that much,” said Townes. “Rather than putting ourselves through two planning processes — a live program versus a virtual one — we said let’s make it a virtual holiday program.”Bandmembers have been playing with more than six feet between them on all sides to ensure their own safety while still delivering their skills to various audiences. This does change their norm as a chamber group typically plays closely together, but Townes said they have adjusted to new COVID-standards in in a determined effort to deliver a moment of respite for those in the Lawton-Fort Sill community.“They’re further apart now so the communication between the instrumentalists is more reliant on their eyes,” said Townes. "We’re definitely moving forward in a way that is safe and responsible."When asked what he wanted the online audience to get out of the holiday program, Townes said, ”I hope they can just tune in for 20 minutes or so and just enjoy themselves, you know forget about the cares of the world.”Watch the holiday programs, at 7 p.m. Dec. 14 and Dec. 21 on or on the 77th Army Band YouTube page.