Review: Honoring Our Veterans

Powerful salute to veterans in holiday concert

by: Henry Upper, for The Republic – 11/13/18 7:02 PM

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There could not have been a more fitting tribute honoring our veterans than the concert of the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic on Saturday in Judson Erne Auditorium. All veterans were honored — women and men who sacrificed their lives for our country, those who returned but whose lives were changed forever, those who returned to pursue a fulfilled life, and those serving now who will return to a peace and promise.

The Philharmonic was joined by about 250 singers and a capacity audience of more than 1,000 people for this celebration of those in our armed forces. Joining the orchestra were the Columbus Indiana Children’s Choir and the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic Chorus. The soloist of the evening was the versatile American soprano, Donata Cucinotta of Seymour, making her second guest appearance with the ensemble.

The concert occurred on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the first Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 1918. Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Mark Pillar made a poignant introduction and brought to the stage David Bowden, conductor of the orchestra and the chorus. One could feel as he made a few brief comments and approached the podium the fervor he felt for those who so nobly defended our country and our obligation to them to make a better life here and in the world.

Bowden, the son of a World War II veteran, put together music honoring the past and the future.

There were instrumental works. There were works that featured the remarkable combined children’s choruses. There were works that included the Philharmonic Chorus. There were works featuring the evening’s guest soloist. There were works that combined all the musical forces. The texts of the works were beautiful and filled with intense feelings for our service men and women and for our country. We know, however, that music enhances words taking us to the depth of our emotion and our souls. Saturday night, it did it.

“Colonel Bogey March” honoring the 135,000 Hoosiers serving in World War I began the musical evening. It is famous for a whistling chorus. The entire audience, filled with children, joined in, waving their many miniature American flags and whistling. The 150 or so children came marching down the aisles, arriving in the front to sing “The Star Spangled Banner” alone.

This was about children showing what could be their legacy, what is their responsibility to the past and to the future, and challenging them to treasure freedom and liberty to fulfill their dreams. This theme continued with stirring renditions of songs of the armed forces — the Army, Marines, Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force. A bit later, the audience was invited to join the choruses and orchestra in singing “America,” “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” and “God Bless America,” written 100 years ago by Irving Berlin.

The featured vocal soloist, however, was Cucinotta. She has a beautiful, operatic voice which has already taken her to significant career development. But she has more facets to her music-making which were apparent in her solo work and in her collaboration with the orchestra and choruses.

She has an inner feeling for the text, where time and again she showed her heart and her soul through the words. She also capably adapted her voice to the styles of the works. For example, in the intimate letter from Sullivan Ballou by Kander, she so quietly expressed the heartfelt words of a soldier to his wife. She is a superb talent whom we know we will hear from more.

There should be many thanks.

To Daniel Power, superb arranger for a number of works in the concert.

To Ruth Dwyer, immensely capable artistic director of the children’s choir.

And to David Bowden, music director of the Columbus Philharmonic and Philharmonic Chorus.

Bowden created the whole evening and developed this remarkable Columbus Philharmonic Orchestra. During this concert, its brass and piccolo particularly shine with support from the Philharmonic Chorus, and set the tone for a beautiful experience. After Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever,” his final words were “Freedom is not free.”

God bless our veterans.

Henry Upper is associate dean emeritus at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music.

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