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Albany Marine Band wows crowd

By Marti Gatlin | | February 16, 2012

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Stirring melodies resounded through the Albany Municipal Auditorium Tuesday when the award-winning Albany Marine Band performed its final concert for Marines, civilian-Marines, families, friends and community members.

The Albany Marine Band was named the 2011 Band of the Year, 2011 U.S. Marine Corps Music Program’s Live Recording of the Year, 2010 Band of the Year and 2009 U.S. Marine Corps Music Program’s Live Recording of the Year.

During its program, “Thanks for the Memories,” current and past band members recounted several of the unit’s illustrious events through music, stories and videos. One such highlight was the band’s 2002 performance for the Queen of England at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

The young and young-at-heart, who filled the auditorium to capacity, spent Valentine’s Day communicating love to their beloved band through laughter, clapping, dancing, “oorahs” and standing ovations.

Maj. Gen. Charles L. Hudson, commanding general, Marine Corps Logistics Command, praised and thanked the 40-member band for its service.

“Thank you for joining the United States Marine Corps, the Marine Corps Logistics Command and the Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany as our band performs its final formal concert before these Marines displace themselves and move onto other locations inside the Marine Corps,” Hudson said. “(Over the years, the band has) served the masses for the Marine Corps, the masses for the Marine Corps Logistics Command, the masses for the base, and probably more importantly, for you all in Albany and surrounding counties as they have represented the Marine Corps at many events throughout the United States. Their accomplishments are many. Their achievements are many.”

Kenneth Cutts, district director for U.S. Rep. Sanford D. Bishop Jr., 2nd district of Georgia, read a brief portion of a Congressional Record before the band and its brass band, the Junkyard Devil Dogs, began its more than two-hour performance.

“I’m here tonight on behalf of Congressman Sanford Bishop,” Cutts said. “Congressman Bishop introduced today in the United States House of Representatives a Congressional Record in honor of the Albany Marine Band.”

Two guest conductors, retired Chief Warrant Officer 2 Timothy J. Smith and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael J. Smith, led the band through several songs as well as recalled stories of their service here with the band. Chief Warrant Officer 2 Smith was the first band officer in 1990 and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Smith was an enlisted Marine who served as a drummer under Chief Warrant Officer 2 Smith.

The performance celebrated the 22-year history of the Albany Marine Band’s relationship with the base and local communities, according to Chief Warrant Officer 3 Christian E. Flores, officer-in-charge and director, Albany Marine Band. The Albany Marine Band is being deactivated Feb. 24.

“The intent is we really go out in style,” he said, noting the band focused putting on a nice program not just for the Marines, the command and those who have served in the unit, but for the community at large to give them a last thank you for all the support over the years.

Flores also described playing in the historic Albany Municipal Auditorium as “humbling but quite an honor” and that the band’s history is now associated with the auditorium’s storied history.

“When you think of the culture of the community, we’ve been referred to by others as one of the pillars of musical culture in this town and obviously everyone knows of Ray Charles,” he said. “We have the symphony and Albany State (University) and Darton College both have good, strong music programs, but the Albany Marine Band was always considered one of those pillars of the arts in this region, not just this town.”

Flores added that he’s mindful of being one of those pillars every time the band puts together a program.

“We make sure we are representing not just the command but we are representing the Marine Corps and when we take our show on the road, if you will, we always make sure that we are telling a little bit of Southwest Georgia’s story,” he said. “I always say kind of tongue-in-cheek we take a little Georgia on our mind and we always try to play an appropriate tune, usually it is ‘Georgia.’ I endeavor to make sure if someone takes the time to come out and see us they leave with a feeling they were a little more fulfilled than when they got here and ultimately it would be nice to know it was more of an experience than just a good musical performance.”

Staff Sgt. Terri Kopetzki, clarinetist and public affairs representative, Albany Marine Band, who sang “There She Stands,” during the concert, described Tuesday’s program as “a bittersweet moment. Everything we (did) tonight is what we call the best of the Albany Marine Band. We have pieces we have done that are live recording of the year that we have performed in special places the Albany Marine Band has traveled to represent the City of Albany and Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany.”

Among the nearly 20 songs performed by the band was “Freedom’s Shield,” which portrays the various aspects of Logistics Command and the Marine Corps.

“To show appreciation for those who serve and support the warfighters; To gain freedom, it must be won; Honor cannot be gained, it can only be lost,” as personally inscribed on a note by the Emmy Award winning composer, Julie Ann Giroux, who helped write the music for “Freedom’s Shield.”

Melody and Joel Helm from Leesburg, Ga., attended the band’s final concert. “I love the Marine Corps and my husband is a retiree,” Melody said.

Established in 1990, the Albany Marine Band is one of only 12 bands throughout the Marine Corps and provided music for military ceremonies, community celebrations, recruiting programs and official events.

In 2011, the band traveled more than 20,000 miles for civilian and military performances for audiences of more than 5.6 million people.

“I’m very proud of the fact we’re leaving on a high (note),” Flores said. “The band has never been any better. For the small numbers we have we put out a big sound.”


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