National Memorial Day Festival Chorus

The National Memorial Day Festival Chorus and the U.S. Army Orchestra at dress rehearsal in the Kennedy Center.

The King of Glory (KOG) Lutheran Church Sanctuary Choir in Tempe, also represented by participants from Chicago, Eveleth, Minn., Yuma, Tucson, and Scottsdale joined together with six other choirs from across the nation to celebrate in the National Memorial Day Choral Festival in Washington D.C. May 25-28.

The 210 voice chorus performed on May 27 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, under the direction of former Mormon Tabernacle music director, Dr. Craig Jessop, and was accompanied by the United States Army Symphony Orchestra. The festival choir sang a number of patriotic pieces.

Not a dry eye was seen as those in the audience were asked to stand when their service song or that of their loved one was sung. King of Glory choir director Cyndee Chaffee was featured as the soloist in the three-piece tribute entitled “We the People” singing the song “The House I Live In.” This is an honor reserved only to a very few selected professional singers.

The KOG Tempe choir took off from Sky Harbor Airport last month with 22 World War II vets ranging from ages 80 to 105. These heroes were greeted as the flight taxied into the Baltimore airport with a “water salute” by fire truck hoses spraying water over the plane as the choir members on board sang “God Bless America.” The vets were then greeted with each uniformed military branch representative saluting them as they were escorted through a massive outpouring of onlookers assembled to honor their service.

Another highlight of the trip was when the Tempe KOG choir was given the honor to participate in the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of theUnknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. Four representatives from the Tempe group were selected to participate in this very solemn military ceremony, Karen Hernandez from Tempe, a nurse and minister of health at KOG, and her husband, Moe Hernandez, a retired history professor from Mesa Community College who served in the Vietnam War (their son is currently serving in Afghanistan), Carol Payant from Gilbert, a retired Tempe High School District special education instructor, and Bill Sanford from Scottsdale, a retired Air Force colonel who served in the Vietnam War and worked at the Pentagon.

To conclude this memorable tour, the choir had the great honor to sing the ‘National Anthem’ in a chapel at the Washington National Cathedral.

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