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Joy and Hope Spread Virtually Around the Globe

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Ani Berberian
  • The United States Air Force Band

Get ready for some much needed holiday cheer! The U.S. Air Force Concert Band and Singing Sergeants present their special virtual concert, “Season of Hope,” premiering on December 12th at 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on the U.S. Air Force Band’s Facebook Page. This concert is presented in proud partnership with MGM National Harbor, located in Oxon Hill, Maryland.

This multi-dimensional presentation features a number of guest artists from the Broadway and Hip-Hop realms. Broadway star, Megan Hilty, is best known for her prominent role as Glinda, the Good Witch in the musical, “Wicked.” She has also starred as Doralee Rhodes in “9 to 5:  The Musical,” and off-Broadway productions of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” and the Kennedy Center’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors.”

“Season of Hope” also features Christopher Jackson, who is a Tony Award-nominated actor, as well as a Grammy and Emmy Award-winning songwriter and composer. He is best known for his role as George Washington in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s critically acclaimed, award-winning Broadway musical, “Hamilton.”

Last, but not least, local sensation, Christylez Bacon is a Grammy-nominated Progressive Hip-Hop artist and multi-instrumentalist from southeast Washington, D.C. As a performer, he is well-versed on various instruments such as the West African djembe drum, acoustic guitar, and the human beat box.

In holiday concerts and flash mobs of years past, The U.S. Air Force Band has also incorporated dancers from established ballet and swing dance companies. This year was no exception. For this particular production, a number of dance companies performed alongside the world-renowned ensemble, such as The Washington Ballet, The Washington School of Ballet-Professional Training Division, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Virginia Ballet Company & School, the Westmoreland Ballet Company, Buffa’s Dance Studio, Ltd., The C and C Dance Company and Just Dance!

The production preparation for “Season of Hope” was a long time in the making. Chief Audio Engineer, Senior Master Sgt. Chad Randolph, states, “The Flight Chief of Production, Chief Master Sgt. Dennis Hoffmann, and myself began speaking with a design team in late August to design the plan for the production. The final product was the sum of hundreds of man-hours from the production shop and contractors to include staging, lighting, sound and video designs, prepping of equipment and rehearsals.”

Live recorded performances during the age of COVID-19 presented a number of challenges for the U.S. Air Force Band Production Team. However, they rose to the challenge with precision and excellence in keeping everyone safe.

“All performers and staff answered a questionnaire daily at the door and had their temperature taken. Then, they were each given a colored wristband to show that they had been cleared. The performers were distanced by a minimum of 6 feet, with some as much as 10 feet, depending on the instrument they played. Each performer was separated from the row in front of them by plexiglass, provided their own HEPA filter, microphone and monitor. During rehearsals, the ensemble took a break for 20 minutes after every 40 minutes and left the hall so the air could be exchanged by industrial size HEPA filters, as well as opening doors and ceiling vents to assist the air exchange.  All vocal microphones were sanitized daily and only handled by the performer or a masked and gloved individual,” explains Senior Master Sgt. Randolph. 

According to Sgt. Randolph, not only were 58 HEPA filters used, but also 76 monitor speakers,  a 100-foot wide by 140-foot deep stage, and 106 microphones. 

U.S. Air Force Concert Band Oboist, Master Sgt. Kaitlin Hartley, felt the safety setup for the Band was outstanding. She states, “Huge kudos to the production team for their vision, not only artistically, but for their coordination with the medical group to ensure we carried out the mission as safely as possible. I truly felt that this project was carried out as safely and responsibly as possible within the constraints of the pandemic.” 

The Theatre at the MGM National Harbor was the perfect location for safety, along with other considerations. Assistant Producer Master Sgt. Brooke Emery reveals, “General Ricky Rupp, Commander of the Air Force District of Washington, expressed interest in our organization partnering with The Theatre at MGM National Harbor, primarily as a tool to build goodwill and connection between the military and civilian citizens of Prince George's County, as those two communities are intertwined in so many critical ways. We at the Air Force Band were thrilled at the suggestion, as The Theatre at the MGM National Harbor is a state-of-the art facility with a world-class staff.”

According to Sgt. Emery, the collaboration between the U.S. Air Force Band and the MGM National Harbor was fruitful and sets the stage for future unions. She explains, “The partnership between the Band and the MGM was a huge success! All the staff, from the director of the theatre to the security staff, could not have been more helpful in making the process successful.”

This year has been incredibly difficult for all Americans and citizens of the world, and the U.S. Air Force Band knew from the beginning of this process that they wanted to share something special with its endearing public. Sgt. Emery divulges, “The Commander and Conductor of The U.S. Air Force Band, Col. Donald Schofield, and the production team wanted the tone of this performance to be one of joy and hope, which are two things that 2020 has been lacking in for so many of our nation's citizens. “Season of Hope” seemed an apt title given that we all embrace the holidays this year with an eye toward the future where we might be able to live and work together with ease.”

Joy and hope was also experienced by many members of the U.S. Air Force Band during concert recording. Sgt. Hartley exclaims, “I was so thankful to perform with my colleagues in the Concert Band and Singing Sergeants! I was amazed and inspired by the way the ensembles came together to make a product to share with the public during these unprecedented times.” 

Sgt. Hartley wishes joy and hope for the general public as well.

“My hope is that this video will be an uplifting and joy-filled occasion for families to enjoy together safely from the comfort of their homes. I am thankful that the U.S. Air Force Band has been able to continue sharing the gift of music and connect with our communities and audiences around the globe during COVID-19,” states Sgt. Hartley.

Be sure to tune into the “Season of Hope” premiere on the U.S. Air Force Band’s Facebook Page or YouTube here on December 12th at 4:00 p.m. EST.