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CONTRIBUTED PHOTODaniel Rodriguez, “The Singing Policeman,” accompanies the Allentown Band for “Americans We Tribute to Veterans-Holiday Concert,” 3 p.m. Dec. 15, Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown. CONTRIBUTED PHOTODaniel Rodriguez, “The Singing Policeman,” accompanies the Allentown Band for “Americans We Tribute to Veterans-Holiday Concert,” 3 p.m. Dec. 15, Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown.
CONTRIBUTED PHOTOMaster Sergeant Michael Mergen CONTRIBUTED PHOTOMaster Sergeant Michael Mergen

‘Singing Policeman’ at home with the Allentown Band

Friday, December 13, 2019 by KATHY LAUER-WILLIAMS Special to The Press in Focus

It is the fifth time “The Singing Policeman” returns to sing with the Allentown Band for the its annual holiday veterans’ concert.

Daniel Rodriguez, known internationally as “The Singing Policeman,” says Allentown is a place he “keeps coming back to.”

Rodriguez, also known as “America’s Tenor,” accompanies the Allentown Band, El Sistema Lehigh Valley Children’s Chorus and guest musician, Michael Mergen, a cornet player with the U.S. Marine Band, for the “Americans We Tribute to Veterans-Holiday Concert,” 3 p.m. Dec. 15, Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown.

Rodriguez, along with Mergen, the band and youth choirs, will present a program of patriotic music and Broadway favorites, along with recognition of veterans.

Highlights are a haunting rendition of “Bring Him Home” from “Les Miserables,” sung by Rodriguez, and “Somewhere a Voice is Calling,” featuring Mergen on cornet.

During the concert, an estimated 30 World War II veterans are expected to be recognized for their sacrifices through a partnership with Mike Sewards and the Lehigh Valley Veterans History Project.

“Music connects all people,” says Rodriguez in a phone interview. “I truly believe it has the power to heal and I’m fortunate to be the vessel for that power.”

Rodriguez’ singing first came to notice when he sang the National Anthem in front of 2,000 at his graduation from the New York City Police Academy during ceremonies in Madison Square Garden.

His performance brought him to the attention of then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who started calling him to sing at city events.

Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Rodriguez was the designated National Anthem singer for the New York Police Department’s ceremonial division, where he was dubbed “The Singing Policeman.”

But it was when Rodriguez was asked to sing at the star-studded “Prayer for America” concert in Yankee Stadium one month after 9/11 that he was thrust into the national spotlight. Rodriguez says after that, Placido Domingo asked him to study with him and Oprah Winfrey invited him on her television show.

Soon, Rodriguez was going from working as a police officer at Ground Zero during the day to appearing at evening tapings for late-night TV talk shows.

When Rodriguez was approached by record label EMI, he said he wanted to make a CD single of “God Bless America” and donate proceeds to the Twin Towers Fund. The single raised $150,000. A follow-up “Spirit of America” album sold 400,000 copies.

For the Allentown Band’s Dec. 15 concert, Rodriguez will sing “God Bless America,” “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and a medley of Christmas music arranged by Steve Amerson.

Mergen will play cornet on “Star Spangled Banner,” “Liberty Fanfare” and “The Bugler.”

“The Allentown Band is honored to have Master Sergeant Michael Mergen as guest soloist for this year’s concert,” says Ronald Demkee, conductor of the Allentown Band.

Mergen, who began taking music lessons at age 9, joined the “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band as a trumpet and cornet player in 1999.

Before joining the Marine Band, Mergen performed with the Singapore Symphony in the Republic of Singapore, the Harrisburg Symphony in Pennsylvania, and was a fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox, Mass. He previously performed in Allentown with the Allentown Symphony Orchestra.

Mergen performs with the Marine Band and Marine Chamber Orchestra at the White House, in the Washington, D.C., area, and across the United States during the Marine Band’s annual concert tour, during which he has performed Eugéne Demaré’s “Cleopatra Polka” as a featured soloist.

The Marine Band is America’s oldest continuously-active professional musical organization. It was founded in 1798 and has performed for every U.S. president since John Adams.

Students also are involved on all levels of the Dec. 15 concert.

The ROTC Color Guard from Dieruff High School will perform the “Presentation of the Colors” with music by members of Freedom High School Fife and Drum Corps, led by Michael Moran.

The El Sistema Children’s Chorus, under the direction of Steven Paszkowski, will sing a medley of patriotic songs arranged by Kenneth Force.

There will be a recognition of veteran honorees by Sewards and Major General Gerald Still, USAF-R, President of Lehigh Valley Military Affairs Council.

During a performance of “Salute to the Armed Forces,” veterans will be asked to stand and be recognized when their military affiliation fanfare is played.

Tickets: Miller Symphony Hall box office, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown; millersymphonyhall.org; 610-432-6715. U.S. military veterans are admitted for free.