By J.D. LeipoldDecember 3, 2012
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Dec. 4, 2012) -- The U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own" brought its annual American Holiday Festival to the nation's Capitol over the weekend, playing classics and modern updates to Christmas songs and medleys. The fun including a visit by Dr. Seuss's incorrigible green Grinch.
"Pershing's Own" gave four performances at DAR Constitution Hall before more than 10,000 people in total Nov. 30-Dec. 2. Though free to the public, each performance was "sold out" days in advance of the holiday extravaganza that's been running since 1991.
Army Korean War veteran Tom Fortkort and his wife Linda haven't missed the Christmas show in 10 years and expect to keep up their attendance for another 10 and beyond.
"What I liked most was how the songs just flowed, one number to the next without any intermission and that kept the spirit going," Fortkort said. "It was beautifully arranged; the orchestra was great and the singers are very well trained."
Mo Turner and her sister Joanne Beck echoed Fortkort's thoughts, agreeing that the show was simply fantastic as it's always been.
"I loved their selections," said Turner. "Each year it's a little different in what songs the band presents us, but as Tom said, it always flows so beautifully."
"This is part of our Christmas season and we're always delighted to be here for such a fantastic performance," said Beck. "We passed the word about this show -- we get here early because it's so phenomenal!"
And, while the audience is dazzled by the multicolored strobes, lights and sounds, these Soldier-musicians are having nothing short of a good time cheered on by their audiences.
For violinist and 14-year Army band veteran Sgt. 1st Class Krista Smith, putting on the show is about seeing so many families, so many kids and the faithful audiences that turn out year after year.
A favorite part of the show for her comes when the band performs the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force service medleys. Before the medley begins, former and current service members are asked to stand and be recognized when they hear their service's song.
"For me the service medley is special because my husband was in the Navy and my three boys like to stand up when they hear the Navy song, so that's a fun thing for my family. I love how people respond to that."
Master Sgt. Gregory S. Lowery, who narrates the Dr. Seuss classic, "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" said he "absolutely looks forward to the show every year because it never gets boring, even after performing in it for the past 20 years.
"I love 'O Holy Night,' and the big group numbers where we're all out together featuring one of our fantastic soloists, and then we transition to 'Joy to the World, that's my favorite part personally,'" he said.
"When you take incredible Soldiers like these who are as talented as they are, and have this show in this amazing historic hall that's packed full of people who are there to hear you play, it's not hard to have a good time," said conductor and band leader Col. Thomas H. Palmatier, who added that some of his Soldier musicians will be at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center performing for hospitalized service members.
"What makes this show extra special for us, and I think you could hear the way the audience felt about it, is when we reminded them that those ordinary, average, everyday American Soldiers do extraordinary things year round," he said. "We never, ever forget that we're Soldiers representing our fellow Soldiers."