by BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
For the past several years, the talented musicians of the East River Mountain Town Band have performed their patriotic show in a variety of venues, but on Sunday the skills of the August Ensemble combined with the excellence of the Chuck Mathena Center Stage to create an incredible tribute to veterans.
Unchained by time, the town band under the direction of founding conductor Mel Saunders, presented a performance that traversed the 237-year history of the Republic with significant stops along the way including selections by the great march master, John Phillips Sousa (”Stars and Stripes Forever”), composer Irving Berlin (“God Bless America”) as well as Lee Greenwood (“God Bless the USA”).
Hundreds of people walked beneath a huge American flag suspended from the Princeton Fire Department’s ladder truck arch to enter the center for the free concert and to applaud through the recognition of the veterans.
“That’s one big flag,” Wayne Stonestreet said as he entered the center.
In Princeton, Julia Kade is highly respected for her work with young student musicians in the Princeton Senior High School Marching Band, but on Sunday she played alto saxophone with the town band. The band includes other band leaders like Suzy Fry (soprano clarinet) and others, with educators including Bryant Moxley (French horn) and even religious leaders like Father Russell Hatfield (Tuba) lending their talents to the cadre of volunteer musicians who combine their talents to the delight of audiences.
The musical artistry of the band caused goose bumps to march in unison with the transition between the melodies of “Oh, Shenandoah” to “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” in An American Spectacular, “A Musical History of the United States,” arranged by Chris Sharp.
“After we had the event here for 9-11, I thought there should be something here for our veterans,” Charlie Mathena said just prior to intermission at the show. “I’m so proud of this country and I am so proud of the freedoms we enjoy — not only in terms of religious freedom, although that means a lot to me personally, but also the freedom to gather together for events like this.
“We owe those freedoms to our veterans,” Mathena said.
Veterans were front and center in the house Sunday afternoon, and the crowd of several hundred people showed their appreciation after intermission.
— Contact Bill Archer at email@example.com