Red Bull Band Remembers the 70th Anniversary of D-Day

By SPC Shawn Nelson
34th Infantry Division Band

News story photo
Photo credit: SGT Benjamin Hanson
The 34th Infantry Division "Red Bull" Band joined the Great River Chorale and the East Central Minnesota Chorale to perform Thompson's "Testament to Freedom" and "Hymn to the Fallen" at the Paramount Theater in St. Cloud, MN.
Seventy years ago on June 6th, 1944, also known as D-Day, the United States forces faced one of the largest amphibious military assaults in history. With over 50 miles worth of heavily fortified coast, the U.S faced heavy resistance at Omaha Beach with nearly 6,603 American casualties- 1,465 soldiers killed. Though loses were great, that did not stop the courage behind the 156,000 Allied troops who pushed forward to successfully take over Normandy’s beaches.

In commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the men and women who sacrificed their lives in D-Day, the 34th Infantry Division “Red Bull” Band was privileged to partake in Salute to Freedom, a joint concert with the Great River Chorale and East Central Minnesota Chorale for a musical tribute to America’s “Greatest Generation”. The 34th ID Band started off the concert by playing popular tunes like Travis Weller’s American Vision, Henry Mancini’s Swing March (from the movie What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?) and ending the bands set with Shufflin’ Down to Memphis by Bob Turner. Though patriotic music and WWII-era popular songs were played throughout the program by both choirs, Mary Kay Geston, the artistic director and conductor of the Great River Chorale, arranged the concert towards the centerpiece: The Testament of Freedom by American composer Randall Thompson, an inspirational setting of Thomas Jefferson’s words extolling liberty.

“… With hearts fortified with these animating reflections, we most solemnly, before God and the world, declare that, exerting the utmost energy of those powers which our beneficent Creator hath graciously bestowed upon us, the arms we have been compelled by our enemies to assume we will, in defiance of every hazard, with unabating firmness and perseverance, employ for the preservation of our liberties; being with one mind resolved to die for freemen rather than to live slaves.” - Thomas Jefferson (Declaration of Causes and Necessity of Taking up Arm)

With both professional choirs combined, there were over a hundred adult voices, who combined with the 34th ID Band, had blown away the audience with Randall Thompson’s four movements of The Testament of Freedom, the final piece to end the night. Conducted by both Chief Warrant Officer David Stordalen and Dr. Mary Kay Geston, The Testament of Freedom, like the Hymn to the Fallen (from the movie Saving Private Ryan), were songs that brought tears to fellow veterans and families who have lost their loved ones in war.

This was an extraordinary night, filled with both flashbacks of excitement and of grief towards lost loved ones and friends, in remembrance that our “Freedom isn’t free.” Lieutenant Colonel’s Edward C. Dunn and John F. Rhoades both from 4th Calvary, wrote to the brave men of the 4th Calvary Reconnaissance Squadron, the first who were put ashore on D-Day:

“We have seen deeds of high courage. We have watched our brothers in arms go down. We have camped in the ruins of great cities and in lovely valleys unmarked by war. We have made long night marches half asleep…. One memory we shall cherish above all others: the steadfastness of the men with whom we served.”

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