U.S. Navy chorus will present concert

Posted: February 5, 2013

The Winchester Star

Sea Chanters

Winchester — The official chorus of the U.S. Navy is coming back to Winchester by popular demand.

The Sea Chanters will return for an afternoon of traditional chorus music, sea shanties and Broadway tunes when the group performs a free concert to honor local veterans, said John Lewandowski, founder of the Disabled Veterans Committee on Housing.

The concert will be held at 2 p.m. Feb. 17 in the Ohrstrom-Bryant Theatre at Shenandoah University. It is free but tickets should be reserved.

“You have to see it yourself in order to realize the magnitude of it and the way our military come out into the community and say thank you to veterans,” he said.

Admission is free, but donations will be accepted for the veterans service fund the Disabled Veterans Committee on Housing operates to help local veterans in need, he said.

This is a 501(c)(3) organization, providing new, affordable, accessible housing for disabled veterans throughout the Mid-Atlantic states, according to dvchvets.org.

The Sea Chanters is an ensemble within the U.S. Navy Band. The group is made up of 17 singers and three musicians — a drummer, pianist and bass player — who perform a variety of music to demonstrate the “versatility of vocal styles that our sailors bring within the unit,” Musician First Class Michael Webb said.

“Not surprisingly, we put a particular emphasis on American styles of music, whether it be classical, musical theater, pop or traditional choral repertoire,” he said.

The show the group is bringing to Winchester is the same one it will perform when it goes on tour from Feb. 24 to March 17, he said. Some of the musical numbers on the program include Dolly Parton’s “Color Me America,” choral pieces by Eric Whitacre, Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run,” “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and a medley of songs from Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

The trio of musicians also will perform selections of instrumental songs from the Irish dance show “Riverdance.”

“Basically, we play things that will make people very proud of the Navy, its musicians and the talent that our musicians can bring forward,” Webb said.

After the Sea Chanters performed last February in the Patsy Cline Theatre at Handley High School, Lewandowski said he immediately started receiving requests to have them back. The concert was a relaxed, fun event that also honored veterans and active military, he said.

For this year’s show, the keynote speaker will be Maj. Gen. Henry Hobgood, president of Randolph-Macon Academy in Front Royal, he said. Hobgood will retire July 1 after 16 years in the position. Before assuming the role of president, he served 32 years in the U.S. Air Force.

The concert will also feature members of the U.S. Air Force Color Guard, who will present the colors for the National Anthem.

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.

In the current group, all of the performers went to colleges or universities and earned degrees in music or voice performance and later auditioned for the chorus, Webb said.

The Sea Chanters were formed in 1956 after a group of singers from the Navy School of Music in Anacostia performed at the State of the Nation dinner. Then an all-male group, it expanded in 1980 to include women and perform a wider variety of music.

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


The U.S. Navy Sea Chanters will perform at 2 p.m. Feb. 17 in the Ohrstrom-Bryant Theatre at Shenandoah University. Admission is free. To reserve tickets, call 540-665-4569.

— Contact Laura McFarland at lmcfarland@winchesterstar.com