Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Maryland Defense Force Band Pays Tribute to 60 Years of Baseball in Baltimore

By CPT (MDDF) Richard Barnes
Maryland Defense Force Public Affairs
4 May 2014

Step right up. Get your popcorn, peanuts and crackerjack. The big game is about to start! Well, actually, the big concert about the big game was about to start. On Sunday, May 4th, the Maryland Defense Force (MDDF) Band performed an afternoon concert of music honoring America’s great pastime – baseball! The band was led by its founding commander, Lt. Col. (MDDF) Jari Villanueva, who is an avid baseball fan himself.

After performing our National Anthem to start the program, the MDDF Band played a sprightly march by the Finnish composer Timo Forsström entitled Castle Park and the Festival Overture on the American National Air by Dudley Buck. The themes contained in this complex overture for wind band were taken from The Star Spangled Banner as we celebrate the 200th anniversary of its composition by Francis Scott Key this year.

At the Dundalk United Methodist Church, the MDDF Band then celebrated 60 years of baseball in Baltimore. Almost all of the music performed by the band was centered on the theme of baseball. The band played such memorable selections as Take Me out to the Ballgame. America’s “March King,” John Philip Sousa, wrote a march dedicated to baseball entitled, The National Game, which the band performed with great precision. “Guest musician” Master Sgt. (retired) Jan Holland, formerly with The U.S. Army Field Band at Fort Meade, MD, assisted the MDDF Band by performing the harp as the band played themes from the baseball movie, The Natural. Lt. Col. (MDDF) Villanueva, a noted music historian in his own right, unearthed a march dedicated to the early days of Baltimore’s baseball team entitled, Our Orioles. This march was written at a time when baseball “fans” were referred to as baseball “cranks.”

Music from the Band’s woodwind ensemble delighted the audience as they brought the feeling of summer to the concert with a medley of Gay Nineties favorites by Bill Holcombe. The performance by this quintet of woodwind players included several well-known melodies including: A Bicycle Built for Two, The Sidewalks of New York, In the Good Old Summertime and the Band Played On.

The highlight of the afternoon, however, was the narration of the dramatic essay Casey at the Bat, which was presented by Brig. Gen. (MDDF) Brian R. Kelm, the commanding general of the Maryland Defense Force, accompanied by the band. Gen. (MDDF) Kelm’s enthusiastic interpretation of this perennial favorite definitely knocked this one “out of the park!”

The concert ended with a stirring rendition of Irving Berlin’s God Bless America and the Maryland Defense Force’s state service song, Maryland, My Maryland.

Widely known as “Maryland’s Musical Ambassadors,” the MDDF Band is a ceremonial unit of the Maryland Defense Force. Members of the band include retired and former members of our nation’s military service bands, music educators and students from all over the state. The band provides musical and ceremonial support to the Maryland Military Department and the State of Maryland. There are 22 states (plus the commonwealth of Puerto Rico) that have State Defense Forces to provide additional uniformed volunteer support to the National Guard. Of that number, Maryland is only one of two states to have a State Defense Force band.

The summer schedule of the MDDF Band for this year includes a concert at the amphitheater of Hagerstown Community College on Sunday, June 22nd at 6:15 p.m., participation in the Independence Day parade on the Fourth of July at 3:00 p.m. in Catonsville, a concert at the Lurman Woodland Theater in Catonsville on Saturday, July 19th at 6:30 p.m. and a concert at the Chesapeake Arts Center in Brooklyn Park on Saturday, September 22 at 7:30 p.m. All MDDF Band concerts are free and open to the public.

For more information about the band’s performances, contact the MDDF Band’s Public Affairs Officer, Capt. (MDDF) Rick Barnes, at