by Bruce Strand, Arts editor
A grand musical tribute to servicemen and women past and present was offered by Elk River High School Bands with help from the North Suburban Chorale on Friday, Nov. 11.
The fifth annual Veterans Concert, better than ever this year with several new wrinkles, was enjoyed by about 700 persons as Zabee Theatre. The facility was almost full, as 450 programs were printed and they ran out, and about 250 musicians in five groups were also watching when not playing.
The crowd included about 35 veterans who were applauded during the Armed Forces Salute portion of the program, each standing when his/her own service’s anthem was played by the ERHS Wind Symphony — The Caisson Song (Army), Semper Paratus (Coast Guard), The Marines Hymm, Wild Blue Yonder (Air Force) and Anchors Aweigh (Navy).
“We were pretty happy with the way it went,” said ERHS band teacher John Rosner, the master of ceremonies and primary director. “We always see this as a special event for the community and it was good to see that many people.”
The program got off to a rousing start with a Drum and Fife Ensemble in colonial dress playing “Yankee Doodle Dandy” followed by the Mass Band belting out “Stars and Stripes Forever” and the audience rising to pour out “The Star Spangled
Banner” while a military honor guard presented the colors.
The ERHS Concert Band played “God Bless America” “The Great Locomotive Chase” and, “Sweet Home Alabama.”
The Black Elk Jazz Band performed “American Patrol” and “America, the Beautiful” — with Kristin Rokke delivering a stirring vocal solo of the latter.
An emotional tribute to fallen soldiers was offered with a one-two punch of “Taps” by trumpeters Jayde Krauth and Eric Riesberg (who was offstage, echoing) and then “Amazing Grace” by bagpiper Mark Barnier of Elk River. To marvelous effect, bagpipe music started to fill the auditorium before Barnier entered the stage from the side.
The North Surburban Choir, 90 strong, inspired a standing ovation with its rendition of “Battle Hymm of the Republic” accompanied by the Wind Sympony. When their director Duayne Malewicki turned toward the audience for the final chorus to coax them to join in, the people readily did so.
Midway though, an ERHS student, Derek Cross, read his composition “A Soldier’s Life” about the hardships and sacrifices of our active military personnel, including his uncle. Rosner said he was looking for some kind of oral tribute and heard about Cross’s piece written for AP English.
That was new this year, along with the vocal solo, the bagpipes, and the adult chorale. The North Suburban Chorale, mostly older citizens, usually has just one event per year, the Andover Christmas Concert, where Rosner directs the North Suburban Concert Band. The group accepted his invitation to add the veterans concert this year. “I’m glad they did,” said Rosner.
He also recruited Barnier, a piano tuner who has served the school in that capacity for years. Barnier’s bagpipe skills, unique in this area, are regularly sought for memorial events, and he graciously consented to make another appearance for veterans.
The ERHS Bands, who also present a popular Halloween concert, have one more gig on the upcoming schedule, the Winter Spectacular on Dec. 15.