NEW HAVEN — The city welcomed the U.S. Navy Band Thursday ahead of their scheduled performance at Yale's Woolsey Hall this weekend as part of a 23-city tour by the musical ensemble.
Band leaders and a select quintet were greeted at City Hall by U.S. Army veteran Frank Alvarado, who serves as co-chairman of the city's Veteran Affairs Advisory Committee, and Andy Wolf, the city's director of the Department of Arts, Culture and Tourism.
A brass quintet serenaded City Hall on Thursday with a rendition of "God Bless America," which was followed by applause by the nearly 50 people who attended the morning's welcoming press conference.
Alvarado thanked the band members and called their presence an "honor" for the city. He also gave the commanding officer, U.S. Navy Capt. Ken Collins, a city proclamation on behalf of Mayor Toni Harp, who was unable to attend.
"Today is a very special, musical, patriotic moment for New Haven," Alvarado said. "You can imagine our collective delight when the Navy Band decided to make New Haven one of its stops."
Saturday night's free concert is sold out, though Collins, who serves as the band's conductor, said the band will do its best to accommodate additional attendees. Throughout its 90-year history, the band has toured the country annually. This year's tour is taking them through five states in the Northeast.
Collins thanked the community for its "tremendous" welcome.
"I would ask you to keep in mind this: When you see us performing up there on Saturday night, understand that we are representing more than 300,000 sailors who are serving this country every day around the globe, and we are honored to do so," Collins said.
Saturday's performance will feature some special guests, as local high school students will perform alongside the sailors.
"Every performance we do, we offer this up to the local high schools or, wherever we are, the opportunity to play a march and sit in with the band," Collins said. "For them, for these young students, they're sitting in with some of the best performers in the world sitting right next to them."
The U.S. Navy has several bands, including the Sea Chanters, a chorus; the Cruisers, a rock group; Country Current, a country band; and the Commodores, a jazz group, Collins said.
Collins was a percussionist before serving as the band's conductor. He was commissioned an officer as bandmaster in 1998. He said people can expect a variety of musical styles this weekend, including traditional concert band music and Broadway numbers with vocals.
"They can expect to be very proud of the United States Navy," Collins said. "Very proud of all those sailors around the globe who are serving on a daily basis. That's what our job is. We communicate through music. Music is a very powerful language."
The concert starts at 7 p.m. Saturday at Woolsey Hall, 500 College St.