Metairie woman’s patriotic song born during World War II

Photo by Eva Jacob Barkoff -- Metairie resident Amelie Prados Cressend holds a framed print of the musical score 'Keep America Free.' Cressend, who will be 93 Wednesday, started composing the poem and music in 1943. It was recently performed by the Marine Corps Band New Orleans.
Photo by Eva Jacob Barkoff -- Metairie resident Amelie Prados Cressend holds a framed print of the musical score 'Keep America Free.' Cressend, who will be 93 Wednesday, started composing the poem and music in 1943. It was recently performed by the Marine Corps Band New Orleans.

A SONG FOR HER COUNTRY

She calls herself a frustrated writer, poet and musician. And it may be true because since about 1943, Metairie resident Amelie Prados Cressend has worked off and on a song honoring her country.

“This all began for me when my husband, John, a U.S. Army man, went off to serve our country during World War II,” recalled Cressend, who will celebrate her 93rd birthday on Wednesday. “My brother, Rufus, was a colonel in the Air Force, my sons Paul and Rufus were Marines, and my son-in-law, Jack McGregor, was a Navy doctor. So my family and the military have always been an important part of my life.”

But it was after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, when Cressend decided that it was time to get back to her poem and her music.

“I made up my mind that it was about time for me to finish this,” she said.

Cressend said she brought the composition, titled “Keep America Free,” to several people in the music business but no one showed interest. And then earlier this year, she contacted Chief Warrant Officer Bryan Sherlock, band officer and director of the Marine Corps Band New Orleans.

“I called, ask him (Sherlock) to look at it and he agreed, so I sent a copy,” Cressend said. “And finally, about three months ago, Bryan called me and said he loved the song and that the band wanted to use it as part of their repertoire. Well, I nearly fainted.”

The band performed the song, which was arranged by Jake Johnson, at two events on May 6 — first during a special program for Cressend’s family and friends at the Marine Corps Support Facility in Algiers and again later that evening at an event at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

“When Miss Amelie first contacted me, she told me this song was something she had been working on since 1943,” Sherlock said. “The song fits in with other patriotic songs we play, such as ‘You’re a Grand Old Flag.’ After talking with her several times on the phone and then finally meeting her in person, it didn’t take me long to realize that Miss Amelie is a force to be reckoned with, that’s for sure.

“As Marines, we are very cognizant of the history that went before us and what the men and women of Miss Amelie’s generation went through for our county. The band members were happy to have had the opportunity to play this song. It was a very enjoyable experience for us and of course, for Miss Amelie too, who was so appreciative.”

The band also presented Cressend with a framed print of the musical score of “Keep America Free.”

A former public school teacher who taught English, social studies and Latin for 25 years, Cressend said hearing the words and the music played to the poem and song she worked on for decades “is truly a dream come true.”

“After all these many years, I never thought this would ever happen,” Cressend said. “It is truly a dream come true. I feel so blessed — I feel like I am in heaven.”