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U.S. Army Europe Chorus Rocks Eagle Base, Bosnia

By Richelle Turner-Collins
Stars and Stripes, Bosnia Bureau

News story photo
January 7, 2000 - EAGLE BASE, Bosnia and Herzegovina – The audience swayed and a few raised hands in the air as Spc. Renita Kornegay sang her rendition of R. Kelly’s popular hit, "I Believe I Can Fly".

Some audience members cheered as she hit high notes and clapped when her soulful voice carried through several musical ranges. Each note she sang was met with cheers and praise.

But before she sang her first note, some audience members appeared a bit skeptical of Kornegay and her colleagues – the U.S. Army Europe Chorus, stationed in Heidelberg, Germany.

One soldier quietly whispered to a friend, “I hope she can sing.”

Sing, she did. Kornegay owned that song. In fact, the chorus made every song it sang its own. Singers captivated an audience of over 400 service members during their two-hour Broadway-style musical revue. By the end of the night, soldiers were dancing, clapping and singing along with the chorus.

“I was surprised soldiers were that talented,” said Sgt. 1st Class Morris Taylor after the performance.

“I thought it was awesome,” echoed Spc. Erica Gottberg. “I think they put a lot of effort into it.”

The musical performance included rock ‘n’ roll, pop, rhythm and blues, country, show tunes, gospel, and patriotic selections. They sang songs by James Brown, Elvis, Aretha Franklin, the Supremes and Brooks and Dunn.

The performance also included audience participation, as singers pulled soldiers up to the stage to dance. And the group’s choreographed routines rivaled that of groups such as the Four Tops, especially when it sang that groups hit, "I Can’t Help Myself".

It was the dancing that drew Gottberg, 22 assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the 10th Mountain Division, into the show.

She also liked that the chorus closed its act with patriotic songs, such as Lee Greenwood’s "God Bless the USA".

The group’s musical message reminded Gottberg that her peacekeeping duties in Bosnia have purpose and reason.

“They really made you think about why you are here,” said Gottberg, who stood in the Eagle Base theater as the performance ended. “It makes you feel good to know you are doing it for a good cause.”

And that’s just the reaction the chorus hoped to have on soldiers as it tours the Balkans to perform before U.S. and NATO service members this month.

“I wanted to sing the song to everyone,” Kornegay, 25, said of her performance. “I wanted them to know they have us and God with them at all times.”

Kornegay, who’s been with the chorus for 18 months, is one of the 19 members who are performing for soldiers in the Balkans.

The group has already performed in Hungary, then came to Bosnia’s Camp McGovern, Camp Dobol, and Butmir-Ilidza in Sarajevo. Other stops for the group include Camps Demi and Comanche.

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