‘Letters from the Front’ celebrates service members deployed during the holidays

By Matt Decker

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Dec. 6, 2018) — The holidays are a special time for many, but the meaning and symbolism behind them often take on an added significance when celebrated by service members in the field.

With their upcoming concert series, “Letters from the Front,” the 399th Army Band celebrates the holiday experiences of deployed Soldiers throughout the nation’s history.

The band will perform the first of three concerts at 7 p.m. Dec. 13 at Baker Theater, followed by a performance at 7 p.m. Dec. 14 at the Gillioz Theatre in Springfield, Missouri, and at 7 p.m. Dec. 17 at the Cowan Civic Center in Lebanon. All three concerts are free and open to the public.

“Listeners are in for an exciting concert,” said 1st Sgt. John Addington, 399th Army Band commander.

Spc. Jeffrey Spenner, who will serve as the conductor during the concerts, said audiences can expect a variety of music spanning several different eras, starting with the Revolutionary War and continuing through the present day.

“Our musical selections of various styles represent the different eras and will be accompanied by readings from letters written home by American service members,” Spenner said.

Highlights of the show include multimedia presentations, a celebration of the American Jewish Soldier during World War II, a performance by the band’s vocalists inspired by 1950s-era USO shows and several traditional holiday songs.

“We also have a letter definitively answering the question, ‘Is there a Santa Claus?’ Spoiler alert: Yes, there is,” Spenner said.

Preparations for the concert series began during the summer, with all 36 band members pitching in — not only by helping make musical selections, but also planning and executing all the different elements that go into making a successful show.

That’s all in a day’s work for 399th personnel, according to Addington, who notes the band supports up to 350 missions each year.

“Everyone in the band not only plays an instrument, but performs some type of support function, like supply, human resources and other (duties),” Addington said. “To say the average member of the 399th wears at least three hats — that’s normal for us.”

Rehearsals have been underway since late October.

“When you take into account all the individual practice time, ensemble rehearsals, multi-media production and planning, many hours have gone into each minute’s worth of music,” Spenner said.

“It is an honor to serve our country and represent Fort Leonard Wood as Soldier-musicians in the 399th Army Band,” he added. “As a military music organization, we serve not only the Army but also the American public, and it’s a delight to be able to bring this concert series to the communities that support us.”

For more information about the concerts, the 399th Army Band and other events, visit the unit’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/399thArmyBand.

The 399th Army Band plays “Let It Snow” during a rehearsal for their upcoming holiday concert series “Letters from the Front.” The band will perform the first of three concerts at 7 p.m. Dec. 13 in Baker Theater on post. Future performances are scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 14 at the Gillioz Theatre in Springfield, Mo., and at 7 p.m. Dec. 17 at the Cowan Civic Center Theater in Lebanon. Photo by Matt Decker.