Army band to perform diverse hits, patriotic tunes

Demetrius Freeman | Daily file photo
The U.S. Army Field Band & Soldiers’ Chorus perform in the Amphitheater in 2012.

The U.S. Army Field Band & Soldiers’ Chorus has been coming to Chautauqua Institution for years. But last year, they were noticeably absent.

Sequestration prevented the band and chorus from performing last year, said Col. Timothy Holton, the band’s commander and conductor. Now, the band and chorus, which were created with the sole purpose of traveling and performing in order to connect the U.S. Army with the American people, are making their return 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Amphitheater.

The return follows a decision from the Department of Defense at the beginning of this fiscal year, when it deemed outreach mechanisms, such as tours, a necessity.

“We know what we’re doing again and we’re playing tours again,”  said Holton, who has conducted since 2011. “It’s great fun for us.”

The Army Field Band was created in 1946, and the Soldiers’ Chorus came along in 1957, in order to communicate with lyrics the messages of patriotic music in a meaningful way to audiences. Together, they make up one of three of the Army’s touring elements — the Jazz Ambassadors, a big band, and the Volunteers, a rock group, also tour and perform for audiences.

Holton said light, fun and diverse pieces will comprise the repertoire — with a distinctly patriotic tone. Most of the works, which range from West Side Story excerpts to a piece from “Indiana Jones” to John Philip Sousa marches, are “very much Americana,” he said.

“We have a lighter focus in the summer with our music, and the theme is really one of variety,” Holtan said. “We try to get a wide smattering of music and styles and genres so that we have a little bit of something to appeal to everybody.”

An Armed Forces Salute signals the transition to the most patriotic portion of the evening, near the end of the performance, Holtan said.

The group spends about 100 days each year on the road, performing everywhere from colleges and universities to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

The band and chorus are made up of active-duty military members; Holtan is wrapping up his 26th year in the Army.

The Army advertises vacancies in the band and choir, and members must be qualified both for the musical component as well as for the Army. Members go to basic training and then head to the band.

“We ostensibly represent all the other soldiers that aren’t necessarily present in the other areas of the country where we perform,” Holtan said. “I hope that the excellence found across America’s army is evidence here tonight in the music of these amazing soldiers.”