Friday, December 6, 2013

Joy of Man's Desire

I write a lot of stuff about the history of flight and the United States Air Force, but something I never get to write about is the United States Air Force Band and their vocal accompanists, the Singing Sargeants.

Back in the 1970's I used to live near Ridgefield, Connecticut, which had the nickname of "BandTown, USA" Ridgefield had an amazing music program in its school system, and produced an unimaginable number of talented musicians who went on to professional success. One of their most prolific paths into adult musicianship were their Junior ROTC programs. So many alumni headed into the US military bands, the bands themselves came to town and performed on stage at the high school every year. Even Professor Harold Hill would be impressed.

Due to the town's proximity, I had the chance to hear every United States military band in my high school years. My favorite was, and remains, the Air Force Band. Although all the bands are the cream of the nation's band talent, the Air Force Band was the most wide-ranging in its musical presentations. Everything from John Phillip Sousa to the Bee Gees was fair game, and the talent displayed in performances was a complete knockout. Their vocal troupe, the Singing Sargeants (as the name implies, every member is an OR-5 or greater) could do everything from Gregorian chants to a capella bebop tunes. I think if they handed out application forms at the end of performances, they could sign up the entire audience for basic training the next week.

Seeing the Air Force Band in any location is impressive, but seeing them combined with Air Force history is an inspiring match. What better place could they sing but in a place such as, oh, the Milestones of Flight Hall in the National Air & Space Museum in Washington?

So of course, they did just that.

The US Air Force Band is going to be playing at the NASM through much of December. If you're in the DC area, it's an event not to be missed. Check it out - you don't often get to hear an orchestra performing under an X-15.