By Joe Edd Morris
In Tupelo on Saturday night at the Link Centre and in New Albany at the Magnolia Civic Center on Sunday, the Tupelo Symphony Orchestra honored our men and women in uniform. Amid packed houses, maestro Steven Byess directed a full orchestra and America’s Pavoratti, tenor Steve Amerson, belted out one tune after another that kept the energy flowing. Songs included some of Amerson’s favorites, “Into the Fire” and “Bring Him Home” and national favorites such as “America the Beautiful,” “God Bless the USA,” “Shenandoah,” and “God Bless America.” A moving segment of the presentation occurred during an armed services medley. Amerson asked those who served in the various branches – Air Force, Army, Marines, Coast Guard, Navy – to stand as their song was sung.
Most of the songs were not about war and “bombs bursting in battle.” They were about hearts peaceful and calm, climbing mountains and never walking alone. They were about dreaming impossible dreams and running where the brave dare not go. They were about what I can do for my country and helping the less fortunate. They were songs beyond the patriotic that touched the universal concerns of all people everywhere. They were lyrics that spoke of peace in the hopes that our veterans have not fought or died in vain. They were about the ultimate goal of peace on earth and goodwill toward all humans. They were about honor and duty and valor, the virtues that make this country great.
Within the spirit of those values, this review of the Tupelo Symphony Orchestra is presented in memory of, and dedicated to, Brenda Byess. Brenda, the sister of Steven Byess, died of an extended illness this past February.