U.S. Army band plays Collingswood on way to Fourth of July concert with Boston Pops

The U.S. Army Field Band is now on a 10-city tour of the Northeast, heading toward Massachusetts to play a Fourth of July concert with the Boston Pops.

Last week, the 40-piece orchestra started its summer tour in Collingswood, New Jersey, playing Wednesday in Knight Park to an audience of about 2,000. Most brought along their own lawn furniture and deli sandwiches, and a nearby Mister Softee ice cream truck did brisk business.

“It’s that time of year to celebrate freedom and independence,” said Darlene Horvarth of Audubon, New Jersey. “It’s a beautiful night, we get to listen to these wonderfully talented people, and enjoy it with family.”

The U.S. Army Field Band’s concert ensemble was joined by its Soldiers Chorus for an hourlong program of patriotic music, pop songs, big-band swing and marches. With the help of a pair of narrators, the program traced the history of the U.S. Army, from the Revolutionary War, through the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Korean and Vietnam wars, and current anti-terrorism actions.

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Collingswood has a regular summer concert series in the park, but landing the U.S. Army Field Band was a coup.

“This is the biggest. This is our big one,” said Collingswood Mayor Jim Maley. “We’ve been trying for a few years to get them.”

The U.S. Army Field Band and its many smaller ensembles (including a jazz band and a bluegrass quartet) perform about 100 gigs a year around the country. It formed in the wake of World War II with the mission of connecting the American citizenry with its soldiers.

The ensemble was conducted by its commander, Col. Jim Keene. At the end of the concert, he urged the audience to contact their elected officials to express the importance of the concert.

“I’m thrilled to pieces they came here,” said Annette Dickel, who came with her Army veteran husband, Paul. They have seen the band perform in other cities before, but never in their home town.

“It shows support, and they need all the support they can get in these times,” she said. “It shows people care, and we’re proud of our military. I am.”

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