MUC Christopher Sala, Dr. Kevin McDonald, Wellesley High band director Steve Scott and Captain Kenneth Collins of the U.S. Navy Band. (Lisa Moore/Hometown Weekly)
By Lisa Moore
Hometown Weekly Correspondent
The United States Navy Concert Band, the premier wind ensemble of the U.S. Navy, put on a wonderful performance Monday night, playing for an audience of over 1,300 people at Wellesley High.
Hosted by Wellesley POPS, the free event required reserving a ticket and was sold out weeks ahead of Monday night’s performance, with long lines of people hoping to get in on a wait list. Originally scheduled to take place in the Katherine L. Babson Auditorium at Wellesley High, which seats 700 people, the event was moved to the gymnasium to accommodate a much larger crowd.
Wellesley was chosen for the honor of hosting this prestigious band due to the reputation of excellence in its performing arts department and connections Wellesley High Director of Choral of Activities Dr. Kevin McDonald has with Chief Musician Christopher Sala, a member of the Navy band.
McDonald greeted the audience at the start of the performance and spoke about “the power of music and friendships made through music.” He talked about how he and Sala have been friends for over 30 years, and it was through a shared passion for music that their friendship started.
Growing up in neighboring towns in Massachusetts the two men met while performing in the Springfield Young Persons Symphony where Sala played the trumpet and McDonald played the euphonium. Through a shared love of music their friendship grew, and the two remained friends through college, serving in each other’s wedding party and even having children at the same time, their wives giving birth hours apart of each other.
Coming back to the region near where he grew up, Sala was excited for the opportunity to perform for a home crowd.
“I am a featured soloist on this tour and it is a nice opportunity for my friends to see me perform,” he said. Performing “Fantasie Brillante” by Jean-Baptiste Arban, Sala wowed the audience with his skilled performance of the very complex piece of music, earning a standing ovation from the audience.
In addition to the naval performers, 11 of Wellesley High’ top musicians had the honor of playing a number with the Navy Concert Band. Valerie Collins, Sabrina Chen, Shannon Duffy, Briana Zhuang, Jeff Pinsker-Smith, Nadine Richardson, Matthew Hornung, Raul Zaorski, Will Griffin, Michael Manning and Matt Preston performed “Washington Post” by John Philip Sousa alongside the Navy Concert Band.
Prior to the performance, the students were both nervous and excited for the unique opportunity. After the performance, they were all smiles. Collins had this to say about the experience, “It was amazing! They are at such a high level of experience and playing with them, it makes you understand that this is what music is supposed to sound like.”
There were many veteran service men and woman in attendance, proudly displaying symbols of their respective branches of service. Physical Education teacher Ken Johnson served in the Navy from 1986-1990. This was his third time seeing the Navy Concert Band perform.
“It is an honor to see them again,” he said. “They were outstanding. Hearing them perform brings me right back to my days serving in the Navy.”
Near the end of the concert, the band performed “Armed Forces on Parade” by Richard Hayman, and as each branch of service was recognized in the music, attendees from the respective branch were asked to stand in acknowledgement of their service to our country. The finale of the show was a stirring rendition of “God Bless America” by Irvin Berlin with a choral accompanist, Musician First Class Sarah Tietsort, who performs with the Navy choral group The Sea Chanters.
For a list of future Navy performances visit www.navyband.navy.mil.
Lisa Moore is a Correspondent at Hometown Weekly. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.