The music of military marches and popular songs from the era of both world wars was performed by the U.S. Army Field Band in its annual alumni concert on Saturday evening.
Commander and conductor Col. Jim R. Keene led the Concert Band and Soldiers’ Chorus in the 90-minute concert at Constitution Park.
The family, friends and alumni of the Field Band sat on lawn chairs and blankets as a cool evening breeze passed through the crowd.
“I try to catch up with [the Field Band] when they’re in town,” said Kate Hoursler, a Laurel resident.
Hoursler’s late husband, Greg Hoursler, was a master sergeant and trumpeter who performed with the group for 27 years before he retired in 1997.
“We come to listen to his friends,” Hoursler said.
Garrison Commander Col. Tom Rickard welcomed the audience and noted Fort Meade’s 100th anniversary this year. He then presented Keene with a plaque of appreciation and a commemorative tile from the roof of the garrison headquarters, one of the oldest buildings on the installation, in honor of the centennial.
“Thank you for bringing music and memories to us at Fort George G. Meade,” Rickard said.
The concert began with a musical prelude of “America the Beautiful,” the presentation of the colors by the U.S. Army Continental Color Guard and the national anthem.
Keene then led the Concert Band in a performance of “Thunder and Lightning Polka” composed by Johann Strauss II.
“We think we have one of the best jobs in the country,” said Staff Sgt. Derek Stults, the concert narrator, to the audience after the program began.
Stults said the Field Band’s mission is to tell the story of the Army and to connect the American public with the excellence and professionalism of its service members.
Retired Col. Thomas H. Palmatier, who commanded the Field Band from 2007 to 2011, led the Concert Band in a performance of “Chimes of Liberty,” a military march composed by Edwin Franko Goldman.
The concert continued with “Godspeed,” composed by Stephen Melillo, and “GarryOwen,” the military march of the 7th Calvary Regiment.
The Field Band also paid tribute to Fort Meade’s 100th anniversary with songs popular during World War I including “My Buddy,” composed by Walter Donaldson and Gus Kahn and performed through the years by Al Jolson, Bing Crosby and the Glenn Miller Orchestra.
Retired Col. Timothy Holtan, who commanded the Field Band from 2011-2014, led the musicians in “Light Calvary Overture,” composed by Franz von Suppe.
1st Lt. Alexandra Borza, the assistant bandmaster, conducted the Soldiers’ Chorus in a medley of songs honoring the veterans of World War II.
The chorus sang “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel,” composed by Paul Robeson, and “Soldier, Soldier Won’t You Marry Me?” a traditional blues folk song.
Borza acknowledged Sgt. Maj. William Gabbard, the longest-serving member of the Field Band, in Gabbard’s final performance with the group before retiring next year.
Gabbard, a vocalist with the Soldiers’ Chorus, stepped forward after the applause and conducted the chorus in “This Is My Country,” composed by Don Raye and Al Jacobs.
The concert began to draw to a close with performances of “Thunder and Blazes,” the musical theme of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and “Pennsylvania 6-5000,” a 1940 swing jazz and pop standard made popular by the Glenn Miller Orchestra.
“It is a true joy to be here at home,” Keene said. “It is a privilege to carry the story and the message [of the Army].”
Retired Col. Jack Grogan, who commanded the Field Band from 1991 to 1999, then led musicians in the traditional “Armed Forces Salute.”
Keene returned as the conductor for the concert’s highlight — Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.” The Concert Band followed with John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever.”
Gabbard closed the evening with a stirring solo vocal performance of “The House I Live In,” composed by Abel Meeropol and Earl Robinson and made popular by Frank Sinatra.
“It’s good to have family and friends here,” Gabbard said after the concert.
“You just don’t want to think about it, but you know it’s coming,” Gabbard said of his retirement. “Performing in front of a Fort Meade audience makes it special.”