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A celebration of veterans, set to music
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‘The Last Full Measure of Devotion'
Northwinds Symphonic Band
When: 7:30 p.m. Monday
Where: First Baptist Church, 751 Green St. NW, Gainesville
How much: Free

A musical tribute to our veterans on Monday will incorporate patriotic music, guest narrators and a piece of choral music specially rewritten for the orchestra.

"The Last Full Measure of Devotion," the annual Memorial Day concert by the Northwinds Symphonic Band at 7:30 p.m. Monday, gets its title from a piece of music originally performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Northwinds. Board member Nelson Payne transcribed the choral piece into an orchestral piece, and it makes its debut as the third selection in the concert.

"I think it's wonderful; I think it's brilliant," said Greg Cantrell, a euphonium player and band director at East Hall High School who has been playing with the group for about 10 years.

Other selections include well-known tunes like "Amazing Grace," "America the Beautiful" and "The Star-Spangled Banner." There are also a couple of selections with guest narrators the Rev. Bill Coates from First Baptist Church in Gainesville and Reuben Black, along with vocal soloists and a violin solo.

Guest conductor Ernie Phillips will lead "Amazing Grace," while associate conductor Mercer Crook will conduct "American Pageant."

"Each year the concert we give for Memorial Day is to honor the veterans and those who honor our country," Crook said. "We will feature a harpist with our group for several of the selections, a piece from ‘Schindler's List' and a guest soloist on violin for that. and some of the standards you would think are suitable for Memorial Day."

Northwinds comprises between 85 and 100 musicians who are not only area band directors and professional musicians, but also doctors, insurance agents and Realtors. The idea, Crook said, is to allow people an outlet to continue to make music, no matter where their professional career took them.

"It's for everybody who still enjoys making music," said Crook, who is also the conductor of the symphonic band at Gainesville State College.

Cantrell agreed.

"It's something that we preach in our schools, that music is a lifelong activity," he said. "We have all ages coming into our ensemble to play. Anyone from band directors to doctors to accountants and construction workers - you name it."

Mark McDonald is one such member. He's a communications engineer from Clermont who plays the tuba. He's been playing with Northwinds for about 12 years, he said, and enjoys the opportunity to communicate musically.

"It's always a challenge to play because that's part of the fun of playing," said McDonald, who played in the U.S. Army band and served during the Vietnam war. "No matter how hard you play, you can always find a way to improve. Being a veteran myself, it's important that we honor the people who have served for us, especially the ones that never came home."