USAREUR Band Tours Denmark, Benelux Region

By SGT Blake Helander
US Army Europe Band and Chorus

News story photo
Major Andrew J. Esch conducts the USAREUR Band at a performance in Ath, Belgium
The US Army Europe Band spent eleven days on the road in late March and early April 2008 performing six concerts in four countries. The band traveled by bus almost two thousand miles to play in Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg before returning home to Schwetzingen, Germany on April 4th. The mission of the unit’s annual Spring Tour is to strengthen partnerships between the United States and its allies and to promote friendship between the nations. 2008 was no exception as the USAREUR Band performed for thousands of concert goers in Denmark and the “Benelux” region of Western Europe. This year’s concert series marked the final Spring Tour with Major Andrew J. Esch as the band’s conductor and Commander.

Major Esch chose a diverse program including Shostakovich’s "Festive Overture", Leonard Bernstein’s “On The Town”, Gioacchino Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” and the group’s major symphonic work, “Whatsoever Things…” by Mark Camphouse. This year’s instrumental soloists selected to perform concertos were Sergeant First Class Christopher Hite (Phillip Sparke’s Tuba Concerto) and Sergeant First Class Lori Nix (Carl Maria v. Weber’s “Andante & Hungarian Rondo for Bassoon”).

In addition to the instrumental works, the band performed a variety of American pop and vocal favorites including a medley of World War II-era dance band tunes sung by members of the Soldier’s Chorus entitled “Swing Sing”. The popular music portion of the program also included Staff Sergeant Derrick Alexander singing the classics of Frank Sinatra like “New York, New York” and “My Way”. The rock band ‘Night Fire’ performed an acoustic rendition of the Allison Krauss hit, “When You Say Nothing At All” sung by Specialist Jennifer Moyer with band accompaniment arranged by Specialist Paul McCracken. Additionally, The Rhein River Ramblers Dixieland Band played their signature tune, “Bourbon St. Parade” with Sergeant Jeremiah Van Skike singing vocals and playing the banjo.

The day after their sold-out opening night in Sonderborg, Denmark, the Dixie Band and Night Fire performed at an assembly for 500 students at nearby Hoerup Centralskoke High School. Next, the band traveled to the Netherlands for two concerts in the Dutch cities of Groesbeek and Wagenigen. The Dixie Band performed on a radio show in Arnhem at the Radio Gelderland studio to promote the concerts in Holland. Staff Sergeant Kevin Pick, the group’s leader, was interviewed for the radio program and fielded questions about the band’s mission and upcoming performances. When asked why the band was in the Netherlands Staff Sergeant Pick responded, “We’re here to strengthen ties with our European allies and to show them that Americans are friendly and love to play music.”

The tour continued with USAREUR Band performances in the Belgium cities of Ath and Bastogne, the latter being famous for the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. Between a sound check and concert, members of the band got the opportunity to view WWII memorials and battlefields directly outside of the concert hall. The Bastogne audience included many veterans of World War II, some of whom thanked the band members personally for their service.

The tour ended in Walferdange, Luxembourg where the band performed for its largest audience yet. Rows of seats needed to be added to accommodate the capacity audience numbering over a thousand. The final concert was attended by the American Ambassador to Luxembourg, Ann Wagner, the mayor of Walferdange as well as hundreds of bandsmen from numerous Luxembourgian military bands in the region.

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