Soldiers in dress blues played a line of snare drums, tenor drums and a clashing cymbal Thursday night for a nearly full sanctuary at First Baptist Church of Augusta.
The U.S. Army Signal Corps Band, comprised of about 40 instrumentalists and vocalists, performed its annual free holiday concert. Songs included favorites such as Jingle Bells and the more contemporary All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey.
Marilyn and Stephen Russ have made the concert part of their holiday routine for years. They attended with an out-of-town friend, Carol Schmitz, of Iowa.
“It’s always a wonderful concert,” Marilyn Russ said. “Gets us in the spirit of Christmas.”
The band, based at Fort Gordon, traces its roots to 1943, when a band of 40 soldiers was organized at Fort Devens, Mass. During World War II, it moved to Florida and the Philippines.
After a few years in Japan, the band disassembled until it began to play again in 1955 at Fort Gordon, then called Camp Gordon. It travels the country playing military ceremonies, formal concerts and official events.
The concert included a tribute to overseas troops and band members that had fought in Afghanistan and Iraq with a medley of songs including I’ll Be Home for Christmas.
Ruby Roach, who works with veterans at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center, attended the concert for the first time.
“A live band is always great,” she said. “Of all the Christmas caroling in Augusta, this is the best one.”