Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
Retired Lt. Col. Bill Welch has been sharing music with his family and friends via Facebook for several months following the cancellation of several in-person performances because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but his most recent performance was meant to send out a message after he read negative comments posted online in response to someone’s offer to pray for any prayer requests.
“I’m just frustrated with where our country is going,” Welch said. “People are just mean. … We just don’t need that anymore and need to get away from that kind of stuff.”
As a result, Welch planned a special “Come Together Tribute” for his Facebook Live concert Feb. 5 from his home in Leavenworth.
The half-hour set included a medley of “feel-good” songs like “Get Along” and “Happy Does” by Kenny Chesney, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from Toy Story, “Undivided” by Tim McGraw and Tyler Hubbard, “Grandpa” by The Judds, “Three Year Old” by Eric Church, “Be a Light” by Thomas Rhett, “Imagine” by John Lennon and “We Shall Be Free” by Garth Brooks.
Welch, who works as an operations research specialist at The Research and Analysis Center, has been performing two or three mini concerts a month for his family and friends via Facebook since mid-April.
“Since the pandemic, live music just hasn’t happened,” Welch said. “I’ve played a few venues, but they were during the summer and early fall, and they were outdoor gigs.”
The live Facebook sessions, as well as neighborhood driveway concerts, have been his way of still sharing what he loves, Welch said.
“I just love to play. … I’m not in it for any money,” Welch said. “There’s going to come a day when I can’t play music anymore. I’m going to get too old, my fingers are going to get arthritis, I’m going to become forgetful. I don’t really know, but I know that one day will come when I won’t be able to play anymore, so I’m going to play every opportunity I can.
“If people want to listen, great; if people don’t want to listen, that’s fine, too, because while I like sharing it, I’m kind of doing it for myself,” he said. “I always refer to (the Facebook concerts) as my therapy session because music has always been a thing that I don’t care how bad the day was. …I can walk in and pick up a guitar and start playing and it’s calming.”
Welch’s self-proclaimed therapy sessions have attracted viewers from all over the country and the world, including Ukraine and Germany. They’ve ranged from family, including a cousin Welch has never met, to friends and soldiers Welch served with in the military.
Most of the live sessions have just been random songs, Welch said, but some have been tributes to various artists including a tribute to American folk and rock singer-songwriter Jim Croce on Jan. 22. The Come Together Tribute was meant to spread a message, he said.
“We just have got to not be divided and stop letting the media and outside forces do this to us,” Welch said during the live session. “It’s all within our capability. It just starts with you. If you don’t take anything else away from tonight, I hope that’s at least one thing that you walk away with.
“Just pass it on. We’re not going to make (the world) any better until we do it ourselves,” he said. “Be nice to one another, help each other and I promise you, it’ll be a better world. … If we do that, all I can tell you is, in the end we’ll be free.”
Comments made by viewers during the online concert showed appreciation for the message Welch was sending.
“Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful words and music,” commented Tammy Downing. “So very needed at this time.”
Downing, who tuned in from Omaha, Neb., said she got to know Welch while she and her husband were stationed at Fort Leavenworth.
Welch’s brother-in-law, Buck Russell chimed in, too, as he watched from his home in Logan, Utah.
“John Lennon would approve of the peace and love you are spreading,” Russell commented. “I love all of (Bill’s) performances.”