For the first time, in about 10 years, the United States Army Field Band is coming back to Sedalia and will perform Thursday evening to a full house at the Heckart Performing Arts Center.
Master Sgt. Erica Russo, alto section leader with the Soldiers’ Chorus, said by phone Friday that serving with the chorus is a great privilege.
“It’s a tremendous honor to be able to perform, first of all, with these amazing soldiers,” she noted. “To know that our mission is to represent all American soldiers and the excellence of all American soldiers. When we step out on stage, that’s exactly what we are trying to do. It’s a huge honor.
“I have several World War II veterans who are members of mine and my husband’s family,” she added. “It means so much to go out on stage and know that I’m representing people like that as well.”
Russo was here, 10 years ago, when the band came to Sedalia and remembers how welcoming the city was to her and the other members.
“It’s just such a treat,” she said. “It’s a treat to be coming back to Sedalia … I remember the warm welcoming audience we had at that time. It’s going to be so great to come back and hopefully see some of those folks again, and hopefully they will bring some grandkids or friends and we’ll get to meet some new audience members that night. That would be a great treat.”
Russo said the band travels a great majority of the year and has a mission and a story to tell.
“The mission of the band is to travel across the United States of America telling the story of the United States Army and its soldiers,” Russo said.
She said the band began touring in 1945 during World War II. It was officially “designated” in 1946.
“Its original purpose was to tell the Army’s story and to raise War Bonds,” Russo noted. “They were called the Million Dollar Band, because that was what their job was to do, was to pay off the war effort”
Russo said there are 65 members in the Concert Band who travels with a 28 member mixed chorus. Both of these groups will be performing on Thursday in Sedalia. The Concert Band and Soldiers’ Chorus presents approximately 150 performances a year. Russo said they travel between 100 to 120 days a year performing in three “major” tours spring, summer and fall.
“The unite as a whole performs between 500 and 600 concerts a year,” she said. “There are two other performing components, which we are not currently traveling with. We have a jazz band that’s on tour in California right now and then we have a rock/bluegrass group called The Six String Soldiers.”
The Six String Soldiers are recording an album at present, which may be released by the end of summer.
On Thursday the audience will be treated to professional musical performances by the band and the chorus that will range from an opera number to theatrical music.
“I think they will be blown away by the amount of talent on the stage, and by the professionalism of today’s Army that our soldiers represent,” Russo said. “There’s going to be a great variety of music that evening.
“We have an amazing operatic aria, and we’ve got selections from (the musical) ‘Oklahoma,’” she added. “We’ve also some very talented instrumental soloists, and the chorus that evening will singing a variety of a capella selections.”
Several patriotic selections will also be presented during the evening. Russo noted that the Concert Band is comprised of a large wind ensemble. There are no strings, but there is a large percussion section.
“We have a full woodwind section, a full brass component and a great battery of percussion,” she said. “
The total performance time should approximately one hour and 45 minutes.
Russo said she plans to continue serving with the Soldiers’ Chorus for many years.
“I’ve been with the Field Band for nearly 15 years,” she added. “So, I’ve made a career of it.”
The United States Army Field Band is sponsored by the Sedalia Democrat. Democrat Publisher Denny Koenders said on Monday he was impressed with the Sedalia community in their participation for wanting to see the United States Army Field Band performance.
“We are also proud to be the sponsors of the program along with Smith-Cotton High School who have donated the beautiful facilities and also the American Legion for taking care of the ushering and JROTC for handling the honor guard,” he noted.
Koenders added that the Democrat has been out of tickets for over three weeks. The event is free; all tickets have been claimed.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.