IN 1988, singer and composer Rick Vale spent a month in both Russia and Ukraine as part a joint theatrical project. Today, he aches over the current Russian-Ukrainian war, especially because he still has friends in both countries.
“I loved the people of Siberia, where I was much of the time, and the people of Ukraine, mostly in Kyiv,” said the Anderson performer and pastor. “I believe freedom is for everyone.”
The 64-year-old soloist will sing at Friday’s 7 p.m. annual outdoor SALUTE! orchestral concert for veterans with that thought of freedom in mind, along with gratitude for the freedom existing in the United States because of others’ sacrifice. This marks his fourth stage appearance at the free event for military veterans and the community at large.
The picnic-oriented gathering frequently attracts an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 people on the lawn at the Bartholomew County Memorial For Veterans on Second Street in downtown Columbus. David Bowden, artistic director for the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic that organizes the concert and plays at it, has mentioned before that, at such a large event, Vale is a perfect fit.
He performed at SALUTE! in 2006, 2011 (while he also was performing in a stage production of “A Few Good Men”), and 2018 — understandable when you consider that his father was a U.S. Army sergeant who entertained at USO shows. He and Bowden, longtime friends, also have worked together for concerts with the Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra, where Bowden also serves as artistic director. Vale will help Bowden celebrate his last Philharmonic performance before his July retirement.
“He has stage presence galore,” Bowden said, aware that Vale has worked as a composer with other high-profile singers such as Sandi Patty. “In a concert such as this, the performers are so far away from some of the people. So one has to be able to reach through the microphone in a sense to listeners.”
Vale understands that connecting is huge.
“Most performers/actors understand a principle that seems counterintuitive, but actually works well: No matter the size of the crowd, perform as if you are performing for a couple of close friends and one stranger — or friend of a friend.
“When you are the most intimate, you reach the furthest and deepest. When you go too broad or too big, you often don’t reach as deeply as you’d like. I’ve always believed it’s the same rule for most of the arts, including lyric-writing: the more specific you are, the broader the appeal. The broader your lyric, the shallower your reach.”
Among the tunes he will present, besides the military theme songs, are “American Anthem,” a 2007 patriotic song from Norah Jones, and the inspirational classic “You Raise Me Up,” a favorite of his arranged by his late friend Bob Krogstad.
In the past, Vale has mentioned that he likes outdoor shows with moderate humidity for his vocal chords “and no bugs.”
He acknowledged a special feeling helping Bowden close his 35-year Philharmonic career.
“I think my emotion for this concert is tempered by the fact that he and I won’t really be saying goodbye since he and I will see each other again — and possibly work together again,” Vale said. “I’m only there to join him as he celebrates a wonderful chapter in his life, and and to honor him for HIS service to the Columbus community.
“I’m honored to have been asked to be a part of it.”