Every year over Memorial Day weekend, members of “The President’s Own” pay tribute to the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice while bravely serving in the United States armed forces. Marine Band members have sounded “Taps” at cemeteries and remembrance ceremonies, performed at the National Memorial Day Observance at Arlington National Cemetery, and even helped dedicate the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. But one of the band’s other traditions on this important holiday—Summer Blast Off!—is a Memorial Day weekend concert at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts’ Filene Center in Vienna, Va. This annual event is an entertaining evening of fun and patriotic music followed by a thrilling fireworks display; it is free and open to the public and will take place at 8 p.m., Sunday, May 24.
“This concert program always represents a cross-section of our great American music and works that have long been associated with our cherished holidays,” said Marine Band Director Lt. Col. Jason K. Fettig. “The concert allows us another opportunity to celebrate our national heritage and pay tribute to those who have sacrificed so much in service to our country.”
The program includes inspirational and patriotic works such as John Philip Sousa’s march “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” Frank Ticheli’s moving arrangement of Amazing Grace, Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America,” Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s monumental 1812 Overture, and John Williams’ Hymn to the Fallen from Saving Private Ryan and “Summon the Heroes.”
The program will also salute the men and women of our “Greatest Generation,” especially those who fought in World War II, a war that ended 70 years ago this year. Marine Band vocalists baritone Master Sgt. Kevin Bennear and mezzo-soprano Gunnery Sgt. Sara Dell’Omo will celebrate the legacy of the hard fought victory of World War II by singing Marine Band staff arranger Staff Sgt. Scott Ninmer’s new arrangement of A Journey Through South Pacific, a medley of songs by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II from their classic Broadway musical South Pacific.
“South Pacific conjures up images of World War II, both with the story and the style of the music. Such nostalgia and emotion swells up from its beautiful melodies,” said Dell’Omo. “It’s a privilege to recognize those who served in the Great War, like my grandfather who served in the Navy on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific Ocean. This concert gives us a chance to offer a musical tribute to those who bravely served and made such great sacrifices.”
For Bennear, performing the music from South Pacific reminds him of his own service in the Marine Corps.
“The Memorial Day concert at Wolf Trap was the very first concert I sang as a member of ‘The President’s Own,’” Bennear said. The date was May 24, 2000, and Bennear, the band’s third featured concert moderator since 1955, still remembers it vividly.
“I’ve never forgotten that performance,” he continued. “For that concert, I sang ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ from South Pacific, so that song is very dear to me because it was the first piece I sang in my Marine Corps uniform. I felt so proud. And now here I am, 15 years later, singing it again and still in uniform, still serving my country, and still very proud. I couldn’t be more excited because it has such a special place in my heart.”
The medley, A Journey Through South Pacific, is, according to Ninmer, “aptly titled as the characters are physically journeying through the South Pacific and going through life changes. The country is dealing with a tumultuous conflict, and, most obviously, the audience is on a journey in listening to the music.”
He continued: “I’ve always enjoyed the music, and I think the plot is engaging and deals with several social issues with which we still grapple today. I think it still speaks to the audience because of that.”
So on Memorial Day weekend, the Marine Band will convey a heartfelt appreciation for those who have served and continue to serve their country. Whether through a Sousa march, a great work of musical theater, or a medley of our prized military service songs, the band salutes the nation’s service men and women, both past and present.
Gates will open at 6:30 p.m. and will close when the park reaches maximum capacity. A fireworks viewing area will open at approximately 9:30 p.m., following the Marine Band’s performance, with the display set to start at 9:45 p.m. The Filene Center is located at 1551 Trap Road in Vienna. Patrons are welcome to bring blankets or lawn chairs for seating in the lawn area. For more information call (703) 255-1900 or visit wolf-trap.org.
Complete Program and Program Notes
Directions and Parking Information