Ft. Lauderdale began Veteran's Day in style with a performance by the famed West Point Glee Club at the Broward Center. They were joined in concert by the Symphony of the Americas under the dual baton of James Brooks-Bruzzese and Constance Chase, director of the Glee Club.
The cadets are a dedicated bunch. One told me in an interview that they spend 2 hours a day, four days a week, on their vocal duties. The average length of time spent in the Club by any individual member is three years, and its composition of 50/50 male and female. This is in contrast to the overall enrolment at West Point, which is about 6 to 1 male.
Chase gave a pre-concert talk about the program, which began with a piece by Beethoven, Consecration of the House Overture. The Symphony gave it a suitably strident rendition.
The Glee Club then sang two solemn selections, Who Are the Brave by Joseph Martin and Last Words of David by Randall Thompson. Chase said Martin, who has written many solo piano and choral works, visits Ft. Lauderdale quite often. Who Are the Brave "sounds like a series of statements, but it's not," she explained. Interrogatives form a major element of the work. The last line really answers the question about who is brave: "Those who serve all mankind: these are the brave." Brave veterans from all the branches of the military stood up at the Broward Center to be acknowledged during the Armed Forces Medley. The vocal projection of the Glee Club was hampered a bit by the acoustics in the hall; they were placed at the very back of the stage, and it seemed much of their power went up instead of forward, an issue that sound baffles in the ceiling should help to address.
The Martin composition will be part of a 15-minute CD being produced that will serve as a calling card for the Glee Club. Chase related that "When we performed it in front of a portable half-size version of the Vietnam Wall, a rainbow appeared over the Hudson River." The Thompson composition shows a pronounced sensitivity to the text, and just before it ends with Amen the tenor voices seem suspended in mid-air.
Two European compositions ended the first part of the concert: Finlandia by Sibelius, and The Moldau, a homage to Prague and the Czech homeland by Smetana. Both are quite evocative of their countries of origin, the first often mistaken for the national anthem of Finland; the other being only the second of six epic tone poems that convincingly captures the swirling eddies of the Moldau river in a rich, sweeping melody done with finesse by the Symphony.
The concluding songs by the Glee Club, including Civil War favourites like Rally Round the Flag (sung spontaneously by a crowd after Lincoln's last speech), the Tenting song (banned by both sides in the Civil War as it gave away their position to the enemy), and the rousing Battle Hymn of the Republic served as a fitting tribute to America's Veterans Day, also known in Canada as Remembrance Day and in England as Armistice Day.
November 11, 1918. The day the Great War ended, 97 years ago today.
Photos by C. Cunningham
The next concert by the Symphony will be Dec. 8 at the Broward Center. Visit www.sota.org for details