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US Air Force Band leaves first-class impression

October 13, 2003|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

Some of the U.S. Air Force's finest musicians brought more than their instruments to The Maryland Theatre Sunday - they showed up with plenty of amusing banter, respect for those who have served in the past and an interest in up-and-coming musicians.

Maj. Larry H. Lang, the band's conductor, and a 45-piece incarnation of the U.S. Air Force Heritage of America Band played for nearly two hours Sunday afternoon at the theater before an enthusiastic audience. The musicians played spirited versions of songs from "Hamlet" and "West Side Story" and also put together a lengthy medley commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first powered/controlled flight.

"It was one of the best concerts I've seen in a long time," city resident Bob Lochbaum said. "It's nice to have something like this in Hagerstown. This theater was perfect for it."

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During one high point early in the second set, the band paused to give an ovation to audience members who have served in the U.S. military. Lang said the "youngsters on stage" wanted to pay respect to those who came before them.

Another crowd favorite during the second set was the performance of John Philip Sousa's "Fairest of the Fair."

The introduction was one of several comedic interludes offered by the emcees.

"I know he (Sousa) made more than $35 on this one," Lang joked of the well-known song.

The rendition also included five student musicians from North Hagerstown High School and three students from South Hagerstown High School.

"I really appreciated the fact they had all these young musicians up there," Brooklyn, N.Y., resident Coriene Jackson said. "I thought it was great."

The military band, which includes 61 musicians, plays a range of styles from jazz to Celtic to troop-rousing rock 'n' roll. That includes Sunday's concert band, the Blue Aces ensemble, the Rhythm in Blue Jazz Ensemble, the Heritage Brass Quintet, the Tradewinds woodwind quintet, the Langley Winds woodwind quintet, the American Clarinet Quartet and the Heritage of America Dixie Players.

The orchestra, created in 1941, is headquartered in Langley, Va., and is on the road about eight months a year, traveling up and down the East Coast. They are playing a four-night stand in the Roanoke, Va., area later this week, according to Lang.

Lang said the band hopes to continue playing at the theater approximately once every two years because of the friendly acoustics and people.

"It's a nice little hall and a wonderful audience," Lang said. "A lot of fine vets were in the audience today. We enjoy honoring them."

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