This morning the Army Chorus performed in the Capitol Rotunda for the unveiling of a new statue of Ronald Reagan. Many political heavy-hitters (particularly republicans, of course) were in attendance, including John McCain and Michael Steele. Nancy Pelosi was the host, as is customary for a Congressional event.
Performing for the Nation’s leaders is a big deal and an enormous privilege and responsibility, but it’s amazing how commonplace it seems. I’ve been to the Rotunda four or five times with the Chorus now (see, I’ve already lost count), and I figured this event would be like the others. For some reason, however, this turned out to be a particularly moving event.
We knew we were in for something special when Nancy Reagan came in the room and received a generous, warm round of applause (from everyone regardless of party affiliation). The colors were presented, we sang the National Anthem, and the speeches began. Republican and Democratic leaders praised Reagan and spoke eloquently about the America he loved and worked for. Sure, there was some politicking in there, but the tone was respectful, and when it was time for us to sing I think it’s fair to say that the room was feeling especially patriotic.
So then we sang America the Beautiful. And it was stupendous; a perfect, emotionally-charged, musical performance.
I often say that the job of military musicians is not to make great music, but to represent the excellence and professionalism of the military. Which we do by making great music. An added responsibility I have is to use what we have to offer to appropriately support the events we attend. There are times when we should be center stage and others when we should allow the spotlight to focus on others. This was an event I just felt great about afterwards because we sang the perfect song at the perfect time, and to try to elbow our way in further would be to make it less effective. We came, we sang, we said “goodnight everybody.”
When the entire event goes well, then all parties involved look like heroes. We received some terrific kudos from bloggers and the press:
Peggy Noonan: “The U.S. Army chorus sang the national anthem so beautifully, with such harmonic precision and depth, that some dry eyes turned moist, including those of the crusty journalist to my right.”
Paul Kengor: “…the crowning touch came before Nancy spoke, and before the statue unveiling. It was the sole musical selection for the program: the U.S. Army Chorus singing, a cappella, “America, the Beautiful. This love-song for the nation captivated the room. It was beautiful. I caught a camerawoman struggling to hold up her long-lens as she wiped tears flowing down her face. But what struck me was the perfect choice of that patriotic hymn, unwittingly tying together not only the thoughts of Rev. Black and others, but the origins, ends, and legacy that was Ronald Reagan’s career.”
Michael Doyle: “The 87-year-old presidential widow spoke briefly, declaring the statue sculpted by North Carolina resident Chas Fagan to be ‘a wonderful likeness of Ronnie’ and praising the ‘lovely, lovely singing’ of the U.S. Army Chorus.”