The red sun melted into dusk as hundreds of people gathered on the Capitol last night to hear the U.S. Air Force Band and its chorus, the Singing Sergeants.

As if on cue, hundreds of street lights flickered to life as the bass drum pounded the beat of the Overture from Carl Nielsen's "Masquerade."

The concert, the first of a summer series of military band programs, featured dazzling, brassy music set against the serene backdrop of the night skyline. While the musicians raced through the jaunty marches and light opertic selections, children danced on the vast lawn, a man in a pith helmet twirled a baton, and the crowd feasted on the warm music and the cool night air.

After a rousing rendition of the National Anthem, the program took various leaps and turns, with a world premiere of a band arrangement of Prokofiev's "Leutenant Kije Suite" and a duet from Verde's "La Traviata." In the finale, the band played a tribute to Irving Berlin, with a narration by radio personality Ed Walker.

The series, which has become something of a rite of summer, will continue on Tuesdays at the U.S. Capitol Plaza and on Fridays at the Jefferson Memorial, beginning at 8 p.m. The concerts are free; no tickets are required.