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Sgt. Kristofer Hutsell, foreground, and Cpl. Carl Michael help in the dramatic ending of a rocking rendition of the Christmas classic “Carol of the Bells” during III Marine Expeditionary Force Band practice Friday on Camp Foster, Okinawa.
Sgt. Kristofer Hutsell, foreground, and Cpl. Carl Michael help in the dramatic ending of a rocking rendition of the Christmas classic “Carol of the Bells” during III Marine Expeditionary Force Band practice Friday on Camp Foster, Okinawa. (Fred Zimmerman / S&S)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — If the sunny skies and somewhat warm days of Okinawa make it hard to get into the holiday mood, the III Marine Expeditionary Force Band may have just the ticket to kick-start your Christmas spirit.

The band will perform its annual Christmas concerts at the Butler Theater on Camp Foster at 7 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday, according to Gunnery Sgt. Steven Palinosky, III MEF band master. He said each show should run about 90 minutes, including an intermission with free snacks and drinks.

The shows’ first half will feature the full band and more “traditional” music, Palinosky said.

“It’s Christmas music you hear every year … you may not know the names, but you’ll know them,” he said. New music the band is to play includes pieces from the “Polar Express” and Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” The second half of each show will have the jazz combo, show band, big band and party band entertaining the audience.

Palinosky said the shows’ second half will allow the Marines to let down what hair they have.

“The intent is for this to be a fun concert … more family fun,” he said. “We’re going to play many different styles [of music] to keep the audience entertained.”

Palinosky said he and several other band members arranged some of the pieces of music the band will be playing. One, trumpet player Cpl. Phil Gartrell, arranged a rocking rendition of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s arrangement of “Carol of the Bells.”

“The Trans-Siberian Orchestra has been one of my favorite groups and [the song] has always been a Christmas favorite, so I figured why not arrange it for a full band and bring two guitars in,” Gartrell said. “I listened to a recording — listened to different parts and plucked them out and plugged them in for different instruments.”

Gartrell said that when arranging music, typically the first run-through may not sound good. But he said that wasn’t the case with his arrangement, which took him about four days to complete.

“I thought, ‘Holy cow, that sounds really good,’” he said. “I’m looking forward to playing it for an audience … it’s going to be fun.”

Several band members also will sing, along with some special guest vocalists, Palinosky said. The band is also working to have a special jolly visitor of whom children especially may be fond.

“We’re coordinating with Camp Services to make sure if he’s in the area, he gets base access,” he said. “Our people are talking to his people, so I’m confident it will work out.”

As in past years, all performances are free and open to the public. The concerts also are serving as a Toys for Tots collection point, so guests are encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped toy to donate to the program. Call DSN 645-3919 for more information on the concert.

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