The U.S. Air Force Band's "Wizard of Oz" Cast
Katherine Kohler plays the clarinet
By the Queen of Free
Although he is 70 and his voice quavered a little, Charley Pride can still put on a heckuva show. Combine his talents with the U.S. Air Force Symphony Orchestra in a free performance at DAR’s Constitution Hall and you’ve got a magnificent Sunday afternoon of splendid music.
He was a little stiff physically and his voice, not as strong as when the Country Music Hall of Fame selected him Male Vocalist in 1971 and 1972, and Entertainer of the Year in 1970, but Charley, who wore a shimmering metallic jacket in rainbow colors, can still carry a tune in a hearty manner, dance on stage, carry on a conversation with the audience, and seem to love his work.
With the backup of the Singing Sergeants, he delighted the mostly senior citizens for more than an hour with his big hits including: “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone,” "For the Good Times," “He'll Have to Go,” and “Mountain of Love." Until Sunday I had not realized the reggae flavor of his music.
The keyboard accompanist was especially strong and the violins were exquisite. The percussion section at times was too powerful.
The Hall’s acoustics complement the artistry. And two jumbotrons added to the pleasure of the listeners who tapped feet to keep up with all the lost loves (who writes his music?) and romantic ballads Charley sang. He talked to the crowd, which filled about 90 percent of the seats, about his mother who died at 47 and the advice she gave her children. He sang a song “for the ladies” specifically selected by his wife of 52 years.
The first half of the Sunday show featured the Air Force Concert Band and costumed band members who sang an energetic, professional medley of “Wizard of Oz” tunes which the audience adored.
The winner of the Col. George Howard Young Artist Competition, Katherine Kohler, an astonishing high school clarinetist from Napierville, performed an outrageously unbelievable piece with the orchestra.
Throughout the afternoon the musicians' precision, sound and clarity led by Col. Dennis Layendecker left a listener shaking her head that the quality and enjoyment are available at no cost. Only in Washington, D.C. Guest emcee was Bernie Lucas from 98.7 WMZQ.
Next up: Keiko Matsui, jazz pianist, March 22 at 3 p.m. at the Hall.