Celebrate this Valentine’s Day with a little patriotism and history.
The Irwin Meyer King’s County American Legion Headquarters Band will be playing a free service in honor of The Four Chaplains at the Fort Hamilton Post Chapel (219 Grimes Road) on Sunday, February 14, at 2pm. (While the celebration is usually on February 7, the date was pushed off because of Super Bowl Sunday.)
The Four Chaplains — also referred to as “The Dorchester Chaplains” or “The Immortal Chaplains” — were Rabbi Alexander Goode, Father John Washington and Reverend Clark Polling, and Reverend George Fox.
Forming something of a brotherhood during a time of crisis, these four men of the cloth comforted civilians and other military personnel before giving them their life jackets, linking arms and famously going down with the sinking U.S.A.T. Dorchester ship during World War II. The story of their act of valor has been told for three quarters of a century and the foursome are honored in every town in America during the month of February with celebrations and services.
“This is our 10th year honoring The Four Chaplains at this venue,” said band manager and lead percussionist Jim Buchanan, 70. “We are the last semi-military band in the entire city of New York. We go by all the rules of a military-style band.”
The set list for the evening consists of classic American tunes such as “Amazing Grace,” “The Original Thirteen” and “God Bless America” as well as a few surprises.
While he normally plays the sax, mainstay Sean King, 48 — who owns and operates In Performance Music Workshop on Quentin Road — will be taking on the mantle of conductor this year in place of Irwin Meyer, who tragically died in a car accident last summer.
“I’ve been in this band between nine and 10 years. I started (back when I was in college) in 1985 for about three or four years, went on my own, did all the stuff I did and now I’m back here. It’s a new venture. I’m a little nervous, a little excited – a little of everything if you want to put it that way. I’m working with great musicians so that makes it a lot easier. It’s a privilege and an honor to be conducting the band.”
“Right now he’s the conductor until we get (if we get) a new conductor,” Buchanan said. “We’re an all volunteer group. You don’t get many people volunteering anymore for anything and we’re so glad that Sean stepped up to the plate. He does enjoy playing (and he’d much rather be playing) but he’s been a savior for us.”
In honor of their fallen colleague, the band changed their name from the “King’s County American Legion Headquarters Band” to “The Irwin Meyer King’s County American Legion Headquarters Band” this year.
While a majority of the Legion’s players are seasoned as well as literal veterans, there are also a handful of youths sharpening their skills.
“I was brought here by Sean [King], my instructor, so I could touch up on my classical side,” says Baritone sax and longtime IMPW student Matthew Loaw, 16, who was 14 when he joined. “I’m pretty excited for this event. There’s a bunch of nice people here and having a concert is always uplifting.”
“This is music that you don’t hear anymore and everybody knows it,” Buchanan said. “We’ve become more patriotic during the rough times we’re in and we’re glad to give it to them.”
By the way, the band is looking to expand its horn section. Players of all ages are welcome (high school students will obtain community service credits). For any and all inquiries contact Buchanan at (718)376-2963 or Jbuc2000@yahoo.com.
Update: This event has been cancelled due to the weather.