The National Capital and Virginia Division of the Salvation Army, based in Washington, DC, held its annual Community Christmas Carol Concert at the Westover Baptist Church in Arlington, Virginia, on 11 December 2005. The special guest for this year’s concert was Sara Dell’Omo, mezzo-soprano, vocal soloist from “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band. The concert also featured the National Capital Band (Bandmaster James Anderson), the Swansonettes (a girls’ choir from Swanson Middle School, directed by Elizabeth Gephardt), the Hughes Methodist Church Chancel Bell Choir (directed by Marie Bunting), the Metro DC Timbrelists (directed by Elsie Morris) and a young vocalist from the Fairfax Corps of the Salvation Army, Gerson Cruz.
The National Capital Band opened the concert with Kenneth Downie’s Intrada on “Regent Square”, then provided accompaniment as the audience sang O Come All Ye Faithful. Following an invocation by the band’s Executive Officer, Captain Kelly Igleheart, the band continued with a Christmas march, Season’s Greetings, composed by the bandmaster.
The Salvation Army corps in Fairfax, Virginia has a strong children’s musical program, and this year a representative of that program, Gerson Cruz, was chosen to sing Away in a Manger. Gerson, who is 7 years old, was also interviewed by Bandmaster Anderson. The band played again following his solo, this time presenting Peter Graham’s Christmas Calypso.
Sara Dell’Omo was next on the program. In May 2005, she was appointed vocal soloist of the United States Marine Band, the first time in the band’s history (over 200 years) that a female soloist has been featured. Accompanied by the National Capital Band, she began with Deck the Halls, arranged by Stephen Bulla, the NCB’s principal trombone. In addition to his skills as a brass band composer, Bulla has been Staff Arranger for the Marine Band for over twenty years. For Dell’Omo’s next item, he moved to the piano, to provide accompaniment for Rise Up Shepherds and Follow (arr. Mark Hayes). Following the vocal solos, the audience was again invited to participate in singing the carol Child in the Manger.
The Swanson Middle School is located directly across the street from the Westover Baptist Church, and the girls’ choir known as the Swansonettes has been featured several times at the annual Community Carol Concert. They sang two carols, Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella (arr. Strommen) and Pat-a-Pan (arr. Davis) under the direction of Elizabeth Gephardt. The band then played their “major” work for the evening, Robert Redhead’s selection The Joy of Christmas.
Bell choirs are unique musical groups because of the great degree of coordination and timing required to produce a satisfying result. The Chancel Bell Choir from Hughes United Methodist Church was next to perform, under the direction of Marie Bunting, presenting At the Manger (Michael Helman). Another carol for all followed, this time the well-loved German carol Silent Night.
The concert took a lighter tone as the DC Metro Timbrelists, led by Elsie Morris, were next up, performing a drill to Erik Leidzén’s classic Christmas march, Christmas Joy, enthusiastically played by the National Capital Band. The was followed by The Twelve Days of Christmas, with the audience participating as the band was put through its paces by Bandmaster Anderson.
The Swansonettes returned to sing White Christmas, after which the band presented two more items, the swing-style Kings of Orient (David Ayma) and a beautiful arrangement by Stephen Bulla of Gustav Holst’s carol Mid-Winter.
The special guest of the evening, Sara Dell’Omo, returned for two more items, the first being the Wexford Carol (arr. Stephen Bulla) accompanied by the band, and then a medley composed of The Christmas Song and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, accompanied by Stephen Bulla at the piano.
Following greetings from the Divisional Commander for the National Capital and Virginia Division, Lt.-Colonel William Crabson (a former Executive Officer of the National Capital Band), the festival concluded with a final carol for all, Hark the Herald Angels Sing.