Community band to perform at USS Somerset reception

By Frank Sojak Tribune-Democrat

SOMERSET — The Somerset County Community Band is scheduled to perform at a banquet that is one of the events being planned for the commissioning of the USS Somerset at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia later this winter.

The band will perform Feb. 28 at a reception before the banquet. The commissioning is set March 1.

Among the songs the band will play will be the one it commissioned to honor the heroes of Flight 93, “Flight of Valor.”

“It’s an honor to be representing the county in this event,” said Dave Breen, band president.

Breen said the band’s offer to perform at the event was accepted by the organizer.

A total of 35 members of the 50-man band will make the trip and will be joined by some members of the Jeannette Community Band from Westmoreland County, he said.

Breen said they have performed “Flight of Valor” as much as possible in the community, including having done so at fundraisers for the Flight 93 Memorial.

“It is my understanding that the song has become one of the best selling pieces of music that the publisher has,” he said. “The music has been purchased and performed by bands around the world,” he said.

Composer James Swearingen of Columbus, Ohio, was commissioned by the band in 2002 to write the song. The Somerset Eagles Aerie 1801 and its ladies auxiliary helped to make the project possible, Breen said. The piece premiered on the first anniversary of 9/11.

The song tells the story of Flight 93 through music, Breen said.

It starts off very light with the composer’s thought being that passengers were boarding the plane for a routine flight, he said.

During the course of events, the passengers became citizen soldiers, he said.

When the flight was taken over by the terrorists, the tension of the music builds, he said.

When the passengers start calling family members to tell them what was happening, a lull in the music takes place before another crescendo builds as the passengers overtake the terrorists, he said.

As the music builds again, there is a grand pause, signaling that the plane crashed, he said.

“It’s incredibly powerful because it (music) builds and builds and then there is silence,” he said. The original light melody then picks up again, he said.

John Vatavuk, chairman of the Somerset County commissioners who will speak at the commissioning itself, is pleased that the band is performing in Philadelphia.

“I think it’s a great honor for them to play at the pre-commissioning dinner,” said Vatavuk, who is planning to attend that dinner. “I’m sure it’s going to be something that will make the county proud.”

Twenty-two tons of steel from a giant crane near the Flight 93 crash site was used to construct the Somerset. The ship is the final of three Navy San Antonio-class amphibious transport docks to honor the 9/11 crash sites, joining the USS Arlington and the USS New York.

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