USAREUR Band and Chorus deliver powerful performance at final Bremen Tattoo


By Sgt. 1st Class Patricia Deal, U.S. Army

BREMEN, Germany--The spotlight turns on, illuminating a band platform with instruments in a dark arena. A man appears and picks up the electric guitar and starts playing. But then some Soldiers come over to take the instruments, using broken German to tell the man that they're here to play.

While it was all in fun, the Soldiers were serious about playing. The Pit Band, along with some fellow U.S. Army Europe Band and Chorus band members, electrified that arena with rock music from the Rolling Stones to open the 53rd and final Musikschau der Nationen (The Music show of Nations) Jan. 27-29 in Bremen, Germany.

The Bremen Tattoo, considered Europe's biggest brass band music festival, is sponsored by the German War Graves Commission and helps celebrate military history and honor the military members who have made the ultimate sacrifice in protecting and preserving freedom.

The U.S. Army Europe Band and Chorus delivered a powerful performance along with band members from Germany, Mexico, Finland, Russia, the Netherlands and France to entertain more than 30,000 attendees for five performances over the three-day show.

The U.S. Army Europe Band and Chorus has a history with the Bremen Tattoo spanning more than 30 years and played a major role in this year's final show.

After the opening number, each country put on a short musical performance representative of its culture. The Army Europe Band and Chorus packed their performance with electric guitars and keyboards, traditional marching band acoustics, plus vocals and dancing. Their 10 minute stint saluted decades of American popular music featuring crowd favorites such as Sing, Sing, Sing (Benny Goodman), All Shook Up (Elvis Presley), 9 to 5 (Dolly Parton) Think (Aretha Franklin), In the Mood (Glenn Miller) and The Stars and Stripes Forever (John Philip Sousa).

"American popular music is known and loved worldwide. Our performance brings an authentic interpretation of American music culture, and highlights the type of music that we're good at playing. We play Glen Miller because that era-music is very popular with the German audiences," said Maj. Dwayne Milburn, commander of the U.S. Army Europe Band and Chorus. "Our show stands out from the other bands as we provide a pop element to complement the acoustic instruments, and we also bring the chorus capability complete with choreography."

The band has proved popular with American audiences as a live-stream of the band's performance was viewed nearly 8,000 times and received more than 1,600 likes, comments and shares over the course of the weekend.

The band and chorus also showcased their vocal talents during the show's finale, as Staff Sgt. Jordan Armstrong sang Music by John Miles.

Armstrong, a soloist, had only a couple weeks to learn the song, but that didn't stop him from performing it note-perfect.

"There's always a certain amount of pressure when you're soloing in front of large audiences, and I'm a bit of a perfectionist, but I always make sure I'm prepared and take especially good care of my instrument (voice) so I know I will do well," Armstrong said, adding that he's had several years of singing experience both as a teen and then with the Army for 11 years.

"Performing in such a diverse, multinational show has been a great experience for me. Everyone has been genuinely nice and interested. The band members from other countries have extended a hand of friendship through music and I can't think of a better way to share our gifts with each other," Armstrong added.

Sgt. Willard Wilson, another singer in the Soldier's Chorus, also enjoyed the meeting musicians from other countries and learning about their culture.

"After one of our performances, a singer from the Mexican band approached me but I didn't understand what she was saying because I don't speak Spanish. But then she started singing, and since music is a language I understand, I listened and then sang a favorite song of mine for her," Wilson said. "It was really great to be able to communicate through music and to share our talents. Just this whole experience has been phenomenal, performing and socializing with such a diverse group of music professionals."

That positive interaction with the bands from other nations is what also makes the Bremen Tattoo a favorite for Master Sgt. Steven King, a clarinetist, who has participated in the Bremen Tattoo multiple times during his career, beginning in 1999.

"While there are cultural differences that I find interesting to learn, music has always proven to be the universal language for all musicians," King said. "We help to spread goodwill towards other nations; represent ourselves, U.S. Army Europe, the U.S. Army, and our country in a positive light; and contribute to an event where all nations can showcase their musicians on an international stage."

This was the U.S. Army Europe Band and Chorus' final performance at the Bremen Tattoo, the musical ambassadors still have many more engagements ahead of them. They are slated to perform at an international military tattoo in France, a centennial celebration of the arrival of the first American troops arrival in France during World War I, a tour through the Baltic states and other performances in support of the exercises throughout the Army Europe area of responsibility.

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