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An unheard song to those who serve

as published in the Virginian Pilot Oct 5, 2017 by Daniel W. Boothe

· Orchestra,Symphonicity
Adolphus Cunningham Hailstork III is an internationally-known composer for operas and symphonies, among other forms, and has been recognized with many national and academic achievements. Virginia Beach is lucky to count him as a local while he spends time here serving as eminent scholar and professor of music at Old Dominion University.

Symphonicity commissioned him to write a 2017 season opener, a piece that has never been heard before, that reflects the attributes of our extraordinary region. The result is “To Those Who Serve,” a grandiose overture that pays a musical tribute to the largest single community within our community – our military.

Why the military? With every passing jet, the reason probably sounds abundantly clear. In addition to having the largest Naval base in the world, Hampton Roads marks the 250th Anniversary of the Norfolk Naval Shipyard this (2017) year.

Our entire region is woven with every branch of the U.S. military, both active duty and veteran members. We are a community of service through-and-through, and it seems fitting to fashion a piece of music about it.

But how does one write an orchestral piece of music to represent this?

For one, this piece has a military sound of drumbeat cadences and a fanfare of trumpets. This signature military music sound began in the days of Turkish military bands. Even France’s King Louis XIV used music in a similar way to intimidate the enemy.

You may even hear the Coast Guard through a manner of steady sweeping chords that pass by at the peripheral, keeping close watch of the orchestra’s harmonic borders.

Most of all, you will hear the U.S. Navy. First it is faint, with small bits of a tune you are certain is familiar, but which is never offered so familiar that you can recall its origin.

Finally, after a tense harmonic battle of pitches, you hear it emerge with unmistaken victory and clarity. Yes, that is the Navy hymn – “Eternal Father, Strong to Save!” – soaring over the flourishes, the drumbeats, the fanfares, and the clashes is this glorious hymn, presented in such perfect form that you can sing along with it. Before long you are swept up by the majestic orchestration and held suspensefully by the very end on a bright, patriotic chord that waves high in the air like Old Glory itself.

Having served as an officer with the U.S. Air Force before taking up my new post as Symphonicity’s music director, I’d say Dr. Hailstork accomplished his mission.