LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas —
The annual Air Force Band of the West's Holiday in Blue free concert series kicks off before a sold out audience Dec. 12 at Trinity University's Laurie Auditorium.
The capacity crowd of 2,479 will be treated not only to the band, but also to the vocals of the first Joint Service all volunteer holiday chorus.
"It's been a long time since we've had a chorus with the band for these concerts," said Staff Sgt. John Marsh, marketing specialist and a trombonist for the Air Force Band of the West. "(The volunteer chorus) is a great way to incorporate more of the San Antonio military into the concert."
The chorus will be featured on several selections in each half of this year's Christmas musical concerts, including the grand finale. Chorus members are made up of 47 active-duty, Reserve, Guard, civilian employees, retirees and adult dependents who were chosen from auditions at Lackland, Randolph and Fort Sam Houston.
"I'm very excited about it," said Staff Sgt. Leia Bernhard, Air Reserve technician, 433rd Airlift Wing. "When I got the notification e-mail (for selection), I was telling everybody. I posted it on my Facebook, and called my family and friends.
"I was so excited and I'm looking forward to the concerts."
Sergeant Bernhard said it was her love of Christmas music that inspired her to audition for the chorus.
"Christmas is one of my favorite holidays," she said. "I haven't been singing for a while and missed it. I wanted to bring music back into my life."
And that she did, along with the other volunteer choral members.
An a cappella audition of "White Christmas" began each volunteer's journey.
Upon selection, it continued with a mandatory three of four two-hour Monday night practices over the past month.
A nearly day-long dress and technical rehearsal Dec. 11 and the three concerts conclude what started almost two months ago.
"The chorus sounds absolutely amazing," Sergeant Bernhard said. "After just one rehearsal it sounded like we had been singing together for a long time. I think it will be a great show."
One Airman overcame his nerves to earn a spot in the chorus, and said it was a good opportunity to volunteer for both a military and community project.
"I was definitely nervous," said Airman 1st Class Blake Shoen, air traffic controller, 802nd Operations Support Squadron. He was one of 75 to try out for the chorus.
"(For the auditions), you go into a room and stand in front of three judges who listen to you sing and test your vocal range," Airman Shoen said. "It's kind of like American Idol."
So all you needed were Ryan Seacrest, television cameras and 20 million viewers?
"Exactly," Airman Shoen laughingly replied. "Then they said we'll get back to you, so I was a little nervous."
He said singing had been a hobby for a long time, adding, "I'm excited about it, and it's going to be a great concert."
Evening performances at Laurie Auditorium on Dec. 13 and 14 complete the series. Those shows both begin at 7 p.m.
For seating availability, contact the San Antonio USO office at 227-9373.