The Concordia Wind Orchestra (CWO) at Concordia University Irvine will join the ceremonies marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy on June 5-6, 2019. The ensemble’s European tour begins at Champ de Mars in Paris, France as part of the D-Day Memorial Wind Band comprised of musicians from across America. The band will be conducted by 94-year old Col. Arnald Gabriel, a 36-year Armed Forces veteran who stormed Omaha Beach on D-Day in 1944. As a combat machine gunner with the U.S. Army’s famed 29th Infantry Division in Europe, Gabriel received two awards of the Bronze Star Medal, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and the French Croix de Guerre. On November 10, 2016, Gabriel was awarded Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, France's highest distinction. In his distinguished career following the war, he become one of the most accomplished military band conductors in U.S. history. Following this performance, the Concordia Wind Orchestra will perform at a solemn wreath-laying ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery, the resting place of 9,388 American heroes.
It is deeply meaningful to bring my students here to see and feel that WW II was not ancient history, but is living history—a very present reminder that freedom and liberty can be usurped.
Concordia Wind Orchestra performing at the D-Day 75 Home Concert in May 2019
On the actual 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings—the following day—Orchestra members will walk behind Col. Gabriel on a one-mile parade route leading from the 29th Infantry memorial to the main entrance of Omaha Beach. At Omaha Beach, the orchestra will join the D-Day Memorial Wind Band for a commemorative concert under the baton of Col. Gabriel.
"We are honored to be a part of this historic day, considered by many to be the last chance to walk side by side with the very men who saved the world," said Dr. Jeff Held, music professor and conductor of the CWO. "It is deeply meaningful to bring my students here to see and feel that WW II was not ancient history, but is living history—a very present reminder that freedom and liberty can be usurped. When it is, it takes sacrificial heroism to restore that freedom."
Dr. Tom Mueller playing the organ
Following the performances in Normandy, the Wind Orchestra will travel to the Netherlands for a series of three concerts themed "D-Day 75: A concert of music and silence dedicated to those who served for the sake of freedom." The concert is joined by Dr. Tom Mueller, Concordia music professor and university organist, and features a progression of musical notes, most of which were written around the time of the war. These include music by Jehan Alain, a French organist who died while single handedly fighting a group of Germans; Olivier Messiaen, who composed a monumental work while imprisoned in a German camp; and Hugo Distler, a German dissenter. "We have created a program specifically designed to reflect the time of the war, using the full realm of the cathedral acoustics by using solo clarinets in antiphonal balconies, ancient chant-inspired kyries, large but ethereal sounds, and memorial music by John Williams joined by the organ." One of these great cathedrals is the Laurenskerk, the only structure whose walls stood after the devastating blitzkrieg of German forces on Rotterdam. The other locations will be the grand St. Nicholas Basilica in the heart of Amsterdam, and a village church in the old fishing town of Monnickendam.
The Concordia Wind Orchestra, made up of 48 musicians associated with Concordia University Irvine, will be joined on the tour by over 40 friends of the university.