I imagine that through the years many of us have had occasion to see Veteran’s Day newscasts of holiday parades or ceremonies, while thinking we should have done more ourselves to honor those who serve in our nation’s military. Well let me tell you there was no shortage of recognition last Thursday night when the Cavalier Choir of The Woodlands College Park High School sponsored a memorable evening of “Military Salute.” The performance was part concert (musical directors, Ms. Erin Norvelle & Mr. Landon Gilmore, with accompanist, Ellen Klavan), and part talent show, and would be a splendid tribute to the nation’s past and present veterans. The lobby areas greeted visitors with wonderful wall displays of student posters recognizing family and friends who have served, or are serving, in America’s military. Tables displayed beautiful sheet cakes, each with the seal of one branch of the armed forces. (At intermission time the audience was treated to the tasty cakes, along with Starbucks coffee). Yet another lovely table was beautifully set for dining, and reserved in honor of the MIA’s and POW’s of our American military.
First on the bill, the Cavalier Mixed Choir performed an absolutely elegant “Star-Spangled Banner,” followed by the sprightly spiritual, “I Hear America Singing.” Next, Gage Mullis, Tori Sumrall & Megan Townsend sang the poignant “Letters from War.” A quintet of Rachel Flores, Tate Gutzmerson, Brooke Woodgate, Betsy Jarvis & Arianna Bauersfeld sang a song familiar to fans of broadcaster Sean Hannity: “Independence Day.” Kelsey Kopankiewitz showed she could really strut her stuff as she sang “Walkin’ on Sunshine.” Cole Thompson gave a high-energy performance of “Only the Good Die Young.” Brett Heinrich, Peter McKinney & Josh Smith joined forces for a heartfelt, “Hallelujah.” Brittany Nolan brought an atmosphere of longing and calm to “Come Home Soon.” The Cavalier Women’s Choir provided a touching moment as senior class members placed roses in an onstage vase, (one flower for each active duty service member known to the students) as the names were read aloud. With exquisite sweetness the choir then honored those military absentees with “Song for the Unknown Hero,” and the audience was invited to join in for the “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” segment.
As the program continued, Amy Mayo & Brett Heinrich gave it their all with “If I Can Dream.” Then, in an especially skillful performance, tall and slender Josh Smith gave a rich rendition of “This Nearly Was Mine.” Jordan Schweyer & Chris Barnes made a fine couple as they delivered an enthusiastic, “Don’t Stop Believin’,” that featured some cute light choreography. With a very winning smile, handsome Doug Gibbs seemed to have great fun as a good ole country boy singing, “Would You Go With Me?” Michelle Buzz and Chris Beadle served up a sassy, “Raise It Up,” and clear-voiced and lovely Jaelyn Maggart delivered a sweet, “Soldier Boy.” Ms. Buzz returned to join Allie Johnson for the joyful and rhythmic, “Victory,” featuring a talented (and uncredited) trio of back-up performers on guitars and percussion. One of our areas well-known talents, Aaron Boudreaux, chose to perform the difficult, “Why God, Why?” from Miss Saigon, and proceeded to astonish the audience with his stunning delivery of that powerful song. Then the Cavalier Men’s Choir did patriotic justice to an arrangement of “Fly High, You Grand Old Flag.”
The second part of the program began with sweet delicacy as the Cavalier Treble Choir sang “For the Beauty of the Earth.” While only two performers sang the song, the printed program credited Noel Braun, Lexi Bruehl & Kennedy Wilson for the next number, “Just a Dream.” Then Allison Acompañado & Deion Galindo sang a “Keep Holding On,” that could be an anthem for our troops. There was a quintet of sweet harmonies from Dana Steiner, Grace Tucker, Sarah Shaw, Ragen Breath & Scout Gutzmerson for, “Traveling Soldier,” and Elise Bunce sang a song that has long been my sentimental favorite: “I’ll Be Seeing You.” With guitar in hand, Miss Kopankiewitz returned to join Jenna Crowell & Ashley Dutton for the uphill battles of, “The Climb,” and Aanchal Saraf accompanied herself on piano while singing, “Don’t Stop Me Now.”
For an upbeat mood there was a snappy arrangement of “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” from the formally dressed Rhythm-n-Blue group, and it featured snappy choreography as well. Megan Townsend sang a vibrant, “Change,” that reminded one of what it means to make a difference. Then there was a fun-filled, “Gee, I Wish I Was Back in the Army,” from Naomi Faltin & Taylor Messinger. A highlight of the evening followed when a confident and poised Abbey Moss stepped forward to deliver an electrifying, “I’m Feeling Good” that was nothing short of amazing. A final solo came from Emily Agrella with “I’m Holding Out For A Hero.” The combined Cavalier Choirs then joined forces for a sublime “America, The Beautiful,” before the veterans in the audience were invited to proudly stand as the choirs sang the traditional, “Salute to the Armed Forces Medley.” There were tears in many eyes as the program closed with slide show scenes of the nation while more than a hundred talented young Americans sang, “God Bless the U.S.A.”
It seems that sometimes we Americans really do “get it” with regard to the sacrifices of America’s military and their families. On such a poignant night as this, one could not escape reflecting first on what it means to live in a land so free, and finally on the immense debt of gratitude we owe to the nation’s defenders of liberty. May God bless them, every one!