The USAREUR Band & Chorus rocks Red Square

By Richard Baumgartner, USAREUR PAO
USAREUR Band and Chorus

News story photo
Photo credit: Richard Baumgartner, USAREUR PAO
MOSCOW, Russia -- Anyone who grew up during the Cold War might find it hard to believe that American soldiers would ever march in Moscow's Red Square. And to march on Red Square performing the music of American pop icon Michael Jackson would be beyond fantasy. But that's exactly what happened during this year's Moscow Military Tattoo.

Overcoming logistical problems, language difficulties and uncooperative weather, soldiers from the U.S. Army Europe Band and Chorus, stationed in Schwetzingen, Germany, rocked Red Square in six performances during the Sept. 4-9 tattoo, also known as the "Spasskaya Bashnya."

The members of the Band and Chorus joined more than 1,000 performers from Russia, Germany, Israel, Kazakhstan, France, Bahrain, Ukraine and Tajikistan that performed in the tattoo. "The event organizers asked participants to perform popular music from their respective countries, and Michael Jackson's music is arguably some of the most popular music worldwide," said band commander Lt. Col. Beth Steele of the group's musical theme for the event.

Although the band's soldiers don't know Russian or the other myriad languages spoken by the international throng of musicians that participated in the event, Steele said they communicated their message of peace and friendship through two universal languages -- music and the camaraderie of Soldiers.

The colonel said Russian audiences seemed captivated by the group's musical talent, precision marching, dynamic vocals and intricate dance routines, and treated the soldiers like pop stars.

Known as "America's Musical Ambassadors in Europe," the Band and Chorus frequently performs at international events, but Steele said the Red Square performance stands out as a true first for a contemporary American Army band. Hopefully the good will generated by the musicians will continue to foster the partnership and friendship between the American and Russian governments and their citizens, she added.

An overwhelming highlight for the musicians was performing the Russian composer Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" with all the tattoo's participants, during each performance's grand finale, Steele said. She noted that it was this very setting -- the backdrop of candy-colorful St. Basil's Cathedral; the air filled with music punctuated by the crash of the captured cannons of Napoleon's army and victory bells ringing in the Kremlin towers and city's churches -- of which Tchaikovsky dreamed when he wrote the now-renowned piece more than 130 years ago.

"To do it [play the "1812 Overture"] in Red Square with the cannons fired from on top of the Kremlin wall and the bells chiming from the Kremlin ... just sends tingles up your spine," said trumpet player Sgt. 1st Class David Martinez. "It's incredible, [and I'm] so lucky to get to do this!"

"It's absolutely breathtaking," added Master Sgt. Steven King, one of the band's senior musicians.

The Moscow performances close a busy summer for the Band and Chorus that also saw the group performing in Finland, France, Norway, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, as well as at traditional venues across USAREUR's European footprint.

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