10th Mountain Division Band members deliver musical holiday greetings with virtual concert
Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Dec. 9, 2020) – It takes a tremendous amount of planning, preparation and practice to stage a concert.
Members of the 10th Mountain Division Band have recently learned it takes even more effort to present one virtually.
But that’s what the band is prepared to do on Dec. 17 with “A North Country Carol: Postcards from Home,” a one-hour virtual concert that features a variety of holiday songs and styles with messages from Soldiers deployed overseas.
The concert will start at 7 p.m. at www.facebook.com/10thMtnDivBand/.
“This is the 10th Mountain Division Band’s musical dedication and offering to our brothers and sisters who are currently deployed in support of operations, as well as their families stationed here through the holidays,” said Warrant Officer Ryan Knight, band commander. “We also extend our musical dedication out to our North Country neighbors and friends.”
The 10th Mountain Division Band will present “A North Country Carol: Postcards from Home,” a one-hour virtual concert featuring a variety of holiday songs and styles with messages from Soldiers deployed overseas. The concert will begin at 7 p.m. Dec. 17 on the band’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/10thMtnDivBand/. (Courtesy photos from 10th Mountain Division Band)
Staff Sgt. Benjamin Garnett, band vocalist, said that all of the musicians have been excited about the concert, and they hope for a large “virtual” turnout. He said that one of the benefits of a streaming concert is that they can reach a broader audience – including Soldiers serving around the world and those unable to travel due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“The concert’s title, ‘Postcards from Home,’ says it all,” he said. “Our show is intended to provide a sense of home to both our Soldiers at Fort Drum and our 10th Mountain Division personnel currently deployed overseas. The distance between here and home has seemed a little greater than normal this year because of the pandemic, so we want to share our music with anyone who may be feeling a little more isolated than usual.”
Knight said that the band began using the title “A North Country Carol” with their holiday concert last year, and they had hoped to make it an annual event. The only way that was possible in a pandemic was virtually.
“This is going to be a dynamic and hope-filled concert, demonstrating the band’s popular music ensemble,” he said. “Each of the selections is meant to be a musical postcard for the troops. The postcards express emotions and messages of hope, longing, exultation, love, Christmas spirit, and togetherness.”
Knight said that the ensemble is basically a rock band with horns – five wind players, three vocalists, a rhythm section and an audio/visual staff. The program includes many of the traditional tunes one would expect at a holiday concert, but with some twists and surprise variations on the classics.
“Have you ever heard a Latin version of ‘You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch’? We have a lot of amazing musicians who put a lot of effort into both the arrangements and performance of this concert,” Garnett said.
Spc. Alexus Monroe, band vocalist, is looking forward to sharing one of her favorites, “Little Drummer Boy.”
“I think the energy in this song during the recording was really vibrant, and of course, I got to harmonize – which is one of my favorite things to do as a musician – with Sgt. Garnett,” she said.
Monroe said that if she had to choose her favorite in the playlist, it has to be “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” because they performed it with the original lyrics and used an arrangement by Adam Neely.
“This song is especially important to me because of the lyrics emphasizing that you should be grateful for what you have,” she said. “Being a Soldier, I look forward to visiting home several times a year, but with all of the restrictions in place that didn't happen this year. Spending Christmas with my family is going to be a lot different this year because I almost didn't see them. This song is a reminder that we should enjoy life and enjoy our loved ones.”
Plans for the concert began in July, without knowing whether it would be an in-person or online event. Regular rehearsals helped refine what songs resonated among the band members and which ones fell a little flat.
“We usually lock down our final set list around Halloween, and from there it’s practice, practice, practice,” Garnett said. “And that is in addition to our regular duties and support taskings.”
As a singer, Monroe said that it took some adjustment to rehearsing while wearing a face mask.
“I wouldn't remove my mask until right before it was time for me to sing in order to remain safe,” she said. “Because of the fact that we were really cautious of COVID, we also took frequent breaks to air out the area we were performing in and kept our distance on stage as much as possible.”
This concert, like most of their performances this year, is unlike anything the 10th Mountain Division Band has ever conducted because of the pandemic.
“COVID-19 has had a big effect on how we approach music performance,” Garnett said. “Everyone in the ensemble was able to adapt to the new requirements, and we’re all proud of the show you’re going to see.”
Knight said that planning and executing a professional music production such as this was challenging, both musically and logistically.
“These are professional musicians and they had no problem creating music,” he said. “The biggest challenge was the ever-changing, fluid COVID operational environment and its effect on the members of the group. We had to have several backup plans in the event a Soldier would be out due to quarantine.”
Sgt. 1st Class Jason Lane, bassist and ensemble leader for the holiday concert, agreed that presenting a concert in this fashion was new territory for them.
“I’m excited to have been a big part of breaking new ground for the 10th Mountain Division Band,” he said. “This required some innovation and, thanks to some quick action by our command team and Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, we were given the opportunity to mold a concept from the ground up and see it through to execution.”
Without having a live audience to perform in front of, Monroe said that she had to learn to play to the camera lens instead.
“I was more focused on how I sounded and what my facial expressions and body language conveyed,” she said. “I really wanted to make sure I provided people with a great experience. It was my first time doing something like this, and I think it's innovative and super cool.”
Lane said that the band is looking forward to playing in front of audiences again, but they are also confident that this experience has broadened their capabilities in multimedia performance.
“In the end we all learned a great deal and acquired new skills valuable to the 10th Mountain Division Band team,” he said.
“What I found most enjoyable was the fact that I got to take part in history,” Monroe said. “This is the 10th Mountain Division Band's first virtual streamed concert. It felt authentic to work with musicians to capture a moment in time for people to see from all over the United States, and potentially even the world. I hope when everyone sees what we created, they enjoy it. I hope that for the time that the show is broadcast, we forget about the troubles of the world and enjoy the music for what it is.”
Community members can let the band know they are planning to attend by going on the Events section at www.facebook.com/10thMtnDivBand to RSVP for the concert.