The Chester Chamber Singers Hail America’s Veterans

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The Chester Chamber Singers, the auditioned component of, the Chester River Chorale, will once again honor America’s military veterans at the Chestertown Tea Party with a variety of patriotic songs featuring the popular music of World War I in which the Yanks helped defeat imperial Germany 100 years ago this coming November.

The concert is traditionally a highlight of Chestertown’s Memorial Day celebration. It is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Saturday, May 26, in the Prince Theatre at the Garfield Center for the Arts. The concert is free, with donations gratefully accepted.

Chorale Artistic Director Douglas Cox has put together a program hailing American service members, beginning with the citizen soldiers fighting for the new nation’s independence from 1775 to 1783, and then concentrating on the doughboys fighting in the trenches and shell-pocked landscape of France in 1918 a century ago.

The concert opens with the Chorale’s signature Memorial Day medley, Independence Forever, which hails the Yankee Doodle Dandies that won freedom from Britain. A new medley, Doughboy Tribute, includes such popular music sung on the home front and in the trenches as Goodbye Broadway Hello France, How Ya Gonna Keep ’em Down on the Farm, Mademoiselle From Armentiers, and Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag.

The set “Women on the Home Front” features songs that were very popular during America’s participation in what was then called the “Great War.” America, Here’s My Boy speaks to the spirit of national pride that emerged after the enactment of the Selective Service Act in 1917. Countering that sentiment is I Didn’t Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier, a protest song of the time that is a response to the previous tune. Closing the set is a saucy cabaret song, If He Can Fight Like He Can Love, Then It’s Good Night Germany! that speaks humorously to the manliness of the American soldier, delivered from the perspective of a young woman.

Cox noted that the soldiers of World War I “will always be associated with the establishment of Veterans Day” which occurs on November 11 in remembrance of the day in 1918 when the guns fell silent at 11 a.m.—the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month—as the armistice that marked Germany’s surrender took effect.

“I think an accurate metaphor for Memorial Day and Veterans Day is that they are two sides of the same coin,” Cox said. “Both give us cause and opportunity to reflect on the service and sacrifice of American soldiers through centuries of defending freedom at home and abroad.”

Frank Buckles, who lied about his age and enlisted at 16 years old to drive an Army ambulance in France in 1918, was the last surviving veteran of the Great War when he died in 2011 at the age of 110.

“Sadly, in these years since the passing of the last veteran of World War I, we tend to overlook the contribution of those soldiers who gave so much in advancing freedom worldwide,” Cox said, adding, “They left all they knew to fight in a distant land for a cause they would not fully understand that would bring an end to multiple empires in Western Europe and the Near East.”

The Chester River Chorale is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization funded in part by Yerkes Construction Co., the Hedgelawn Foundation, the Kent County Arts Council and the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency dedicated to cultivating a vibrant cultural community where the arts thrive. The CRC’s Mission is to provide opportunity and inspiration for amateur singers to strive for artistic excellence. CRC performances entertain diverse audiences and enrich the cultural life of the community. For more information, visit www.chesterriverchorale.org; check out the Chorale on Facebook or call 410–928–5566.

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