Concert gets celebration off to strong start

By on June 27, 2012

By: JANET SCOUTEN Record Express Correspondent, Staff Writer

Photo by Angela Gregg
The Air National Guard Band set the patriotic tone for this year's Independence Day.

As a preamble to one of the oldest continuing Fourth of July celebrations in the United States, the Lititz Springs Park Board hosted a free concert Sunday evening by the Air National Guard Band of the Mid-Atlantic as a "thank you" to the community for its support of the park.

Kicking off the well-attended concert with toe-tapping marches and patriotic favorites, the band fulfilled its stated mission to "instill patriotism, maintain tradition and represent the militia heritage at its finest." The posting of the colors and the patriotic musical pageantry served as a fitting start to the Lititz community’s 195th Independence Day celebration.

With patriotic sentiment running high, the Air National Guard Band then turned the show over to its contemporary ensemble, "High Altitude." This group, which specializes in a wide range of popular music including rock, country and jazz, belted out hits like the B-52s’ "Love Shack," Lynyrd Skynyrd’s "Sweet Home Alabama" and recent chart-topper "Stereo Hearts" by Gym Class Heroes. The ensemble even treated the audience to the unusual spectacle of a guardsman in uniform rapping like GCH frontman Travie McCoy.

In performing its mission, the Air National Guard Band of the Mid-Atlantic is in great demand throughout the region and around the globe. The band’s annual concert tours have included performances at New York’s Chautauqua Institution, Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and Philadelphia’s Avenue of the Arts. Additionally, the band has been a centerpiece of civic events such as the governor’s inauguration and the Philadelphia Independence Day Celebration Parade. A recent deployment even included performing for American troops in Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Afghanistan.

All musicians with the band are members of the Air National Guard under the Pennsylvania National Guard, serving one weekend a month and performing an annual concert tour consisting of two weeks of active duty over the summer, which included their stop in Lititz. As part of a traditional Air National Guard Squadron, band members can be called upon to assist other National Guard units with civil defense duties and disaster relief efforts. The squadron’s ranks include people from all walks of life, including musicians, educators, students, administrators, salesman, builders and other professionals.

Technical Sergeant Myron Charowsky on saxophone said he was enjoying the small-town charm of Lititz. Hailing originally from Minersville in Schuykill County with just over 4,500 people, Sgt. Charowsky smiled as he surveyed the assembled audience of Lititzians: "Oh, I love small towns. In fact, I grew up in a Pennsylvania town even smaller than this."

Commander and conductor Captain Joseph Denti, originally from Bethel Park, PA, currently serves as a music educator in Virginia’s Fairfax County Public School system. As a doctoral candidate for a degree in instrumental conducting from George Mason University, Captain Denti brings a wealth of knowledge to his role as conductor of the band.

Captain Denti and his fellow band members, Senior Master Sergeants John Christ and Donald Naumann in their leadership roles as superintendent and manager respectively, work to insure that each performance maintains the Air National Guard Band’s history of excellence and patriotism.

In previous years, the band has awarded both the Lititz Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Lititz American Legion with plaques, but this year, the plaque was presented to Karen Harnly, member and treasurer of the Lititz Springs Park Board of Trustees and Director of the Lititz Welcome Center, who coordinated this year’s band performance.

"They provide such a service to our armed forces overseas, some of whom are in such terrible conditions," said Harnly. "If they play for them anything like they played here in Lititz, what a ray of sunshine they must bring to our servicemen and women."

In what has become a delicious tradition for the past five years, the Lititz Springs VFW and the Lititz American Legion joined forces to host and feed the band a post-performance dinner that included hot turkey, buttered noodles, stuffing with strawberry shortcake for dessert.

"We know how to treat our servicemen and women," said Harnly. "They love Lititz. They’re coming back next year. In fact, if you liked this year’s performance, be sure to come back next year because the band has something even more special planned for us." More CONCERT, page A14

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