Sea Chanters return for concert

Posted: November 19, 2013

The Winchester Star

Sea Chanters

Winchester — The official chorus of the U.S. Navy is going to have another go at a second concert in Winchester.

The Sea Chanters were expected to give a concert in February, but it was canceled due to inclement weather, said John Lewandowski, founder of the Disabled Veterans Committee on Housing, which is sponsoring the event.

The group will be back to try again at 2 p.m. Sunday with a concert of traditional chorus music, sea chanteys, Broadway tunes, and more in Armstrong Concert Hall at Shenandoah University.

“This is to thank the community and thank the veterans for all they have done for our country,” he said.

Admission is free on a first-come, first-served basis, but donations will be accepted for the Disabled Veterans Committee on Housing.

For this show, the nonprofit will bring attention to the Veterans Center that is being organized in Strasburg, he said.

The Sea Chanters is an ensemble within the U.S. Navy Band that started in 1956 after a group of singers from the Navy School of Music in Anacostia performed at the State of the Nation dinner, said Musician First Class Michael Webb, bass vocalist and the group’s narrator. Then an all-male group, it expanded in 1980 to include women and perform a wider variety of music.

The group’s performances tend to change depending on where it is playing, he said. Since its purpose is to represent the military to the public, there is always a good mix of patriotic songs.

When the singers do their salute to the military and ask the different services to stand up, members of the audience clap and sing along, Lewandowski said. “It is a great feeling when you have people sitting there singing ‘Anchors Away’ and ‘From the Halls of Montezuma.’”

The group also likes mixing it up and surprising people, Webb said. Sunday’s performance will include a medley of Motown songs such as “Can’t Help Myself,” “My Girl,” and “Tears of a Clown,”

“We like hearing that we are expanding people’s expectations,” he said. “One of the comments we love to hear is someone saying ‘I didn’t know what to expect but I didn’t expect a military chorus to sing all that.’”

Webb, who has been with the group 10 years, said he loves the fact that the group could sing a song from an opera one minute and then a pop tune the next. “It is very challenging in the different styles of music we are asked to perform.”

Usually, about 90 to 95 percent of Sea Chanters members are civilian musicians who audition and win a spot in the group, he said. The musicians go through boot camp before being assigned to the Navy Band and stationed in Washington, D.C.

Today, the group appears throughout the United States and often perform at the White House, the vice president’s home, and for other Washington dignitaries, he said.

The Sea Chanters first performed in Winchester in February 2012 in the Patsy Cline Theatre at Handley High School, Lewandowski said. It was one of the coldest days of the year, but “the theater was still almost full.”

He immediately started receiving requests to have them back. When the concert this February was canceled, about 300 people who hadn’t heard still braved the weather to try to see the group perform, he said. “That is how much they love and support the U.S. Navy Sea Chanters.”

Information

The U.S. Navy Sea Chanters will perform at 2 p.m. Sunday in Armstrong Concert Hall at Shenandoah University. Admission is free and open to the public. To reserve tickets, contact 540-665-4569 or boxoffice@su.edu.

— Contact Laura McFarland at lmcfarland@winchesterstar.com