The “Music of World War I” Veterans Day observance, featuring professional performers and hosted by American Legion Dexter Allen Post 90, begins 10:30 a.m. Saturday in the Emma Kelly Theater.
This year Georgia Southern University’s Zach S. Henderson Library, the Averitt Center for the Arts, which owns the theater at 33 East Main St., and Joiner-Anderson Funeral Home are named as co-sponsors with the American Legion post. They are bringing nationally syndicated radio host and song historian Michael Lasser, vocalist Cindy Miller and pianist and cabaret singer Alan Jones to Statesboro to present a program of songs marking the centennial of the United States’ 1917 entry into what was then called the Great War.
Like the Veterans Day and Memorial Day programs American Legion Post 90 has hosted every year for more than a decade, this one is free to the public. But unlike the others, it will not have a keynote speaker, except for Lasser, whose narration and storytelling place the songs in historical context.
“I’ve had some great speakers in the past, but I’m excited over this,” said Post 90 Senior Vice Commander Dan Foglio, who organizes the twice-annual observances.
Lasser, Miller and Jones, all from the Rochester, New York area, have performed the same or a similar concert in venues in various states, including recently at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, Tennessee. The night before they appear here, they will be performing at the Morris Museum of Southern Art in Augusta.
They will perform about 15 popular songs from the World War I period of 1914-1918 and just after, illustrating changing American attitudes toward the war and the world, Lasser said in an interview. He hosts the weekly radio show, “Fascinatin’ Rhythm,” from WXXI-FM 91.5 in Rochester and syndicated to other public radio stations.
Lasser, Jones and Miller performed a different selection of historical music on the Georgia Southern campus in 2015 for a Civil War sesquicentennial program the Henderson Library sponsored. Dean of the Library Bede Mitchell, Ed.D., suggested the World War I program to Foglio, and the library is helping pay the performers’ expenses.
The lyrical selections will range from “I Didn’t Raise My Boy to be a Soldier” to “How Ya Gonna Keep 'em Down on the Farm (After They've Seen Paree)?” plus some love songs of the period.
But Saturday’s program will still feature a few traditional elements of the local Veterans Day observances, including the posting of the colors by the Knights of Columbus, Post 90 Commander Skip Campbell’s words of welcome, the Pledge of Allegiance, prayer and the National Anthem, Foglio said.
Also, even though “God Bless America” is not exactly a World War I song, these observances traditionally end with the crowd singing it.