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D-Day 75th Anniversary Commemoration Tour

featuring the Concordia Wind Orchestra and Dr. Tom Mueller, organ


In June 2019, the Concordia Wind Orchestra toured to France and the Netherlands to participate in the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

June 4 - Paris

With the grand backdrop of the Eiffel Tower, the Concordia Wind Orchestra anchored the 220-piece D-Day Memorial Wind Band, under the baton of World War II hero, Colonel Arnald Gabriel. The concert featured patriotic and pops selections.

June 5 - Normandy American Cemetery

On this day, thousands descended on this hallowed ground to pay respects. Masses of people moved silently through the grounds, although clumps of people would gather around any WWII veteran passing through to shake hands, have pictures taken, say thank you, and to hear stories. This experience was uniquely heartwarming. Under one of the towering American flags, the Concordia Wind Orchestra played solemn ceremonial music as part of a wreath-laying ceremony.

Order of Ceremony:

  1. French National Anthem
  2. U.S. National Anthem
  3. Eternal Father Strong to Save (arr. Robert W. Smith)
  4. Apotheosis: The Army Goes Rolling Along (arr. Christian Guebert)
  5. Moment of silence
  6. Taps - (played by Alan Ochai, OC Concert Band)
  7. Wreath-laying
  8. My Country Tis of Thee (arr. Jeff Held/Richard Williams/Jeff King)
  9. America the Beautiful (arr. Carmen Dragon)

Our music carried over the grounds of the cemetery. Near the end, we sang “Let music swell the breeze, and ring from all the trees sweet freedom’s song” as a lone trumpet intoned a descant.


June 6 - Omaha Beach

Our day began with lunch on a grassy hill overlooking Omaha Beach as jets and WWII aircraft did flyovers to close the D-Day Ceremonies attended by heads of state just down the shore from us. Then, we walked in a parade spanning one mile of Omaha Beach between Vierville and Saint Laurent, ending at the Omaha Beach Memorial. The 350-member Florida State Marching Band anchored the parade, and Col. Gabriel served as parade marshal. At the Omaha Beach Memorial, a large crowd gathered for a concert by the D-Day Memorial Wind Band. Most attendees stood for the entire concert, fully surrounding the band, which was again conducted by Col. Gabriel.

June 8 - 10

The second part of our tour featured the CWO with University Organist, Dr. Tom Mueller, for a special concert: “D-Day 75: A Concert of Music and Silence Dedicated to Those Who Served for the Sake of Freedom.” This solemn concert was performed three times. Most of the music came from composers affected by WWII. It featured some very unique programming that fully utilized cathedral spaces and acoustics.

  1. Milhaud - Suite Francaise (mvt. 1,3,5) (CWO)
  2. Purcell/Stucky - Funeral Sentences (CWO, preceded by dramatic timpani drum roll)
  3. Alain - Litanies (organ)
  4. Messiaen - The Abyss of the Birds (2 clarinets in dialogue from back corners of cathedral, entering seamlessly from the final chord of the organ solo)
  5. Obrecht - Kyrie from Missa L’homme arme (choral work transcribed for instruments: organ with trumpet intoning “L’homme arme”, middle verse played by oboe-trumpet-trombone-bass clarinet quartet)
  6. Sparke - Out of the Darkness, Into the Light (CWO)
  7. Distler - Langsame from 30 Spielst√ľke for Kleinorgel (organ, while musicians come forward into choral formation)
  8. Distler - “Friend, Fighting is Not Enough” from Tontentanz (sung in German)
  9. Langlais - Mors et resurrectio (organ, with instruments intoning Gregorian chant paraphrases and balcony trumpets)
  10. arr. Robert W. Smith - Eternal Father, Strong to Save (CWO, with wave drums sounding from balcony)
  11. John Williams - Hymn to the Fallen (CWO, including sung choral parts and organ)
  12. Widor - Salvum fac populum tuum (CWO and organ)

This sequence was performed without applause or commentary. Upon completion, we received extremely warm ovations from our audiences and followed with encores of folk music from the Netherlands and U.S., and closed with Sousa’s Hands Across the Sea, performed antiphonally between the CWO and the organ. Read the full concert program, with program notes.


June 8: Laurenskerk, Rotterdam
This church dates to the 15th century, and was frequented by Erasmus, one of the most influential theologians of the Reformation era. In WWII, the entire city center of Rotterdam was flattened by a Nazi blitzkrieg. Only the wall of the Laurenskerk remained standing. Since then, the church has been reconstructed to new glory, including the largest pipe organ in the Netherlands. It was an outstanding venue for the expansive sounds of the wind orchestra, solo voices, and of course the magnificent organ.

June 9: St. Nicholas and St. Antony’s Catholic Church, Monnickendam
One of the two main churches in this medieval fishing village.

June 10: St. Nicholas Basilica, Amsterdam
We closed our tour at the Basilica, one of Amsterdam’s most recognizable landmarks. This spectacular church continues to utilize its 19th century Sauer organ - one of the most admired organs in the world. It was very moving to perform in this space, particularly since the pews were packed with audience members.

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