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Home Reviews Music Reviews Soldiers, musicians, Army ambassadors: ‘The good time we have onstage is not exactly a covert operation’

Soldiers, musicians, Army ambassadors: ‘The good time we have onstage is not exactly a covert operation’

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Imagine being lucky enough to do the job you love while representing America’s armed services.

That’s the gig members of The Volunteers have on a daily basis. The Volunteers are part of the Army Field Band program that also includes a concert band, the jazz ambassadors and soldiers’ chorus.

The Volunteers are playing a free concert on the historic Hopkins County Courthouse square at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 17.

“When I was with the group, this component was just forming,” Star County Radio personality Dave Kirkpatrick said of his 22 years with the Army Field Band. “It was mainly country at that time but you’ve heard how they’ve expanded.  And those who saw performances by the Army Field Band and Soldiers Chorus and the Jazz Ambassadors when they performed in Sulphur Springs won’t be disappointed.”

Kirkpatrick is grateful that the band decided to come to Hopkins County.

“This band could have played anywhere in Texas on Saturday, but they chose Sulphur Springs. I’m grateful for that,” Kirkpatrick said. “The great response here during [past] performances at the Civic Center by the Concert Band, Chorus and Jazz Ambassadors probably contributed to their choosing Sulphur Springs to perform.”

Sergeant First Class April Boucher is the sole female in the band.

Boucher says she started singing at church.

“I sang my first solo in church on Mother’s Day,” she explained during a phone interview from Albuquerque, N.M., where the group was set to play at the city’s annual balloon festival. “I’ve been singing ever since.”

Boucher’s impressive resumé includes six years of private voice lessons and being a featured soloist at the film premiere of “Pearl Harbor.” Prior to joining The Volunteers three years ago, Boucher had an 11-year gig with the Navy, singing with the Pacific Fleet Band in Pearl Harbor and the Navy Band Southeast in Jacksonville, Fla.

When asked about her preferred music genres, Boucher says she gravitates to country, blues and rhythm and blues.

“I like country music because it tells a story,” Boucher said. “I like the soulfulness of the blues and R&B.”

Boucher says her vocal stylings are influenced by country chanteuse Martina McBride and soul singer Chaka Khan.

Boucher’s featured in two numbers on the group’s promotional CD. She’s light and breezy on “Love Song,” then turns sultry and really wails on “Sweet Thing,” doing justice to the R&B ballad. Let’s just hope that at least one of these tunes is on their Sulphur Springs set list.

Staff Sergeant Randy Wight wears three hats for The Volunteers. He plays drums, keyboard and provides strong, solid, soulful vocals. According to Wight, performing comes naturally.

“Both of my parents are working musicians,” he said in a phone interview. “I lived in a musically rich environment. I learned to talk and sing at the same time.”

Wight joined the Army in 2004 after an “extensive career as a solo performer and studio musician.”

Wight says his first performance was for his father.

“It was Christmas 1974,” he explains. “I was three years old and I sang Elvis’ ‘Walking in a Winter Wonderland.’”

Wight, who specializes in celebrity impersonations, including Billy Joel, Pink Floyd, Phil Collins and Celine Dion, promises to add a touch of Willie Nelson in their Hopkins County performance.

Traveling over 100 days a year has helped develop chemistry in the band, Wight says. Boucher and Wight believe their common passions for music, for being soldiers and for being a conduit to bring a message to the public is what binds them together.

In spite of playing together so often, the band is able to keep it fresh for every performance because, according to Wight, “We’re a comedic family. We’re never safe. We’re going to bust each other. There’s always a punch line just around the corner, and we have to stay on our toes. The good time we have on stage is not exactly a covert operation.”

The band usually plays a set that lasts from 90 to 120 minutes.

“We’re doing a marathon 2-hour set list tonight [in Albuquerque] - with no break,” he said. “But, that’s pretty typical for us.”

The group does a little country, a little smooth jazz and, of course, a wide range of patriotic tunes.

“People will hear a terrific and moving performance of our National Anthem – it’s done with respect and reverence to our country,” Kirkpatrick said. “And another thing – the Volunteers will do an Armed Forces salute  – playing the official service songs of not only the Army but the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.”

Kirkpatrick says The Volunteers are particularly effective at relating to their audiences.

“They like nothing better than talking with the audience, sharing about their experiences and their service to the United States Army,” he said. “They really do design their programs to appeal to everyone. I hope we can show them a full house when they appear on the square next Saturday afternoon.”

While satisfying their passion for music, being a member of The Volunteers offers more than just a chance to perform.

“We get to see places, bring people closer to their service members and make people feel good about being an American,” Boucher said.

Wight agrees, saying, “It’s our goal to provide our audiences with a different take on the Army – or the military. We close with a patriotic segment. We hope we can bring healing for everyone, but especially for those who have family members deployed or, in some cases, who have lost someone. That’s the time we feel like the mission has been accomplished.”

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Who: The Volunteers
What: Downton Block Party
When: Saturday, Oct. 17 - Concert begins at 2 p.m.
Where: Hopkins County Courthouse Square
How much: Free admission
Listen: To downloadable files and streaming audio on the U.S. Army Field Band web pages
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