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Monday, May 16, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesNavy Band Showcases Music and Life of V.I. Native Son

Navy Band Showcases Music and Life of V.I. Native Son

U.S.Navy Band members conclude their performance at Antilles School's Prior-Jolleck Hall (Photo Molly Morris).Prior-Jolleck Hall at Antilles School was filled with music, poetry and history Monday morning as students got a glimpse of the power and reach of local musical legend Alton Adams Sr., as portrayed by members of the U.S. Navy Band.

With music running the gamut from George Gershwin, Negro spirituals and Langston Hughes to a spirited French clarinet solo and, of course, Adams, the youngsters also got an idea of the scope of the U.S. Navy Band.

The band is on island this week in honor of the 120th anniversary of Adams’ birth, giving recitals and workshops to local schools and culminating with a recital Thursday at the Bertha C. Boschulte Jr. High School.

Opening with a brief saxophone solo, Senior Chief Musician Mike Bayes then shared some history with the students as black-and-white photographs flashed on a screen behind him depicting Adams’ early bands and winding up with the band’s current performances in Washington, D.C. events, including one with President Obama.

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Bayes spoke of Adams’ invaluable contributions, putting in context Adams’ courage in accepting his appointment as the first black U.S. Navy Bandmaster. "He had never even been to the United States," Bayes said. "This was in the day when blacks and whites even had separate water fountains."

He said, "With Bandmaster Adams’ entrance into the Navy, a new professionalism toward Navy music began. He felt the time had come that bands should be elevated to a status equal to that of the top orchestras of the day. That sentiment became the impetus to the famed American Bandmasters Association."

Chief musician Edward Daryl Duff set the spirit for the morning with a deep and serious rendition of "America the Beautiful," followed by an arrangement of Adams’ "Sweet Virgin Isles," while throughout the performance Bayes introduced the musicians, asking each to speak a bit personally about their musical backgrounds.

Duff, who’s tall, handsome and somewhat imposing with his erect posture, confessed he fell into singing after he failed as a trombonist. "That is to say, in college after they heard me sing, it was suggested I pursue a career in voice," he said.

The students – from Antilles, Montessori Academy and Wesleyan Academy – were immediately taken by a steel pan solo by percussionist Leon Alexander, who played a tune he had written especially for the island, "Montevideo in St. Thomas."

"Wow, how did you learn to play pan?" one student asked, clearly mystified. Turns out it was no less than the Ellie Mannette, the Trinidadian known as the father of steel pan.

Petite bassoonist Tia Wortham showed her vocal talents Monday with the moving slave song "Wade the Water." Bayes mentioned Wortham is retiring next month, for which she got a rousing hand from the students who were deep into every aspect of the performance.

As a fitting end to the morning, Duff and Wortham sang James Weldon Johnson’s "Lift Every Voice and Sing," frequently referred to as the "African-American National Anthem."

Bayes then encouraged the student to ask questions after the performance. After a brief pause, the questions bounding in – everything from how to finger a French horn, to how to become a band member.

Although the youngsters were way too young for that ambition, Bayes told them to write to him on the band’s website where they also can learn all about the 175-member band — its history, its jazz ensemble, Sea Chanters, along with its bluegrass band and string quartets.

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U.S.Navy Band members conclude their performance at Antilles School's Prior-Jolleck Hall (Photo Molly Morris).Prior-Jolleck Hall at Antilles School was filled with music, poetry and history Monday morning as students got a glimpse of the power and reach of local musical legend Alton Adams Sr., as portrayed by members of the U.S. Navy Band.

With music running the gamut from George Gershwin, Negro spirituals and Langston Hughes to a spirited French clarinet solo and, of course, Adams, the youngsters also got an idea of the scope of the U.S. Navy Band.

The band is on island this week in honor of the 120th anniversary of Adams’ birth, giving recitals and workshops to local schools and culminating with a recital Thursday at the Bertha C. Boschulte Jr. High School.

Opening with a brief saxophone solo, Senior Chief Musician Mike Bayes then shared some history with the students as black-and-white photographs flashed on a screen behind him depicting Adams' early bands and winding up with the band's current performances in Washington, D.C. events, including one with President Obama.

Bayes spoke of Adams' invaluable contributions, putting in context Adams' courage in accepting his appointment as the first black U.S. Navy Bandmaster. "He had never even been to the United States," Bayes said. "This was in the day when blacks and whites even had separate water fountains."

He said, "With Bandmaster Adams’ entrance into the Navy, a new professionalism toward Navy music began. He felt the time had come that bands should be elevated to a status equal to that of the top orchestras of the day. That sentiment became the impetus to the famed American Bandmasters Association."

Chief musician Edward Daryl Duff set the spirit for the morning with a deep and serious rendition of "America the Beautiful," followed by an arrangement of Adams’ "Sweet Virgin Isles," while throughout the performance Bayes introduced the musicians, asking each to speak a bit personally about their musical backgrounds.

Duff, who’s tall, handsome and somewhat imposing with his erect posture, confessed he fell into singing after he failed as a trombonist. "That is to say, in college after they heard me sing, it was suggested I pursue a career in voice," he said.

The students – from Antilles, Montessori Academy and Wesleyan Academy – were immediately taken by a steel pan solo by percussionist Leon Alexander, who played a tune he had written especially for the island, "Montevideo in St. Thomas."

"Wow, how did you learn to play pan?" one student asked, clearly mystified. Turns out it was no less than the Ellie Mannette, the Trinidadian known as the father of steel pan.

Petite bassoonist Tia Wortham showed her vocal talents Monday with the moving slave song "Wade the Water." Bayes mentioned Wortham is retiring next month, for which she got a rousing hand from the students who were deep into every aspect of the performance.

As a fitting end to the morning, Duff and Wortham sang James Weldon Johnson's "Lift Every Voice and Sing," frequently referred to as the "African-American National Anthem."

Bayes then encouraged the student to ask questions after the performance. After a brief pause, the questions bounding in – everything from how to finger a French horn, to how to become a band member.

Although the youngsters were way too young for that ambition, Bayes told them to write to him on the band's website where they also can learn all about the 175-member band -- its history, its jazz ensemble, Sea Chanters, along with its bluegrass band and string quartets.