Members of the U.S. Air Force Band surprised commuters at Union Station with a World War II holiday flashback Dec. 3.
The event was designed to be a special holiday musical presentation celebrating the service and sacrifices of the nation’s WWII veterans.
“This is the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. We’re trying to honor our veterans from the greatest generation,” said Col. Larry Lang, the band’s commander and conductor. “We’ve jumped back into that really cool swing music and designed some music just for them.”
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James signaled the beginning of the concert by handing a pair of drumsticks to a solo drummer from the band’s Airmen of Note. Tech. Sgt. David MacDonald then began the eight-minute performance during which musicians from the band slowly emerged from hiding dressed in WWII-era uniforms to perform a lively musical arrangement of “Jingle Bells” and “Auld Lang Syne.”
“On a piece like this, I get a little bit more nervous than normal because it’s a big performance,” MacDonald said. “Right before we start, I’m trying to get my head in the game, focus on the music, and remember how we rehearsed the piece.”
The spontaneous nature of the performance made it special, but it also created unique musical and logistical challenges, MacDonald said before the event.
“Our challenge is to make sure we remain focused,” said Master Sgt. Tyler Kuebler, a clarinetist with the Airmen of Note. “It’s going to be very reverberant and hard to hear. People aren’t going to be sure what’s happening at first, and we want the audience to be included, to feel like they are part of the experience.”
Including the audience while still capturing the event and ensuring all the technical needs are met created the biggest logistical challenge, said Senior Master Sgt. Dennis W. Hoffmann, the superintendent of production.
“We’re doing this at noon at Union Station, one of the busiest train terminals in the world, so we anticipate a lot of people and a lot of foot traffic,” Hoffmann said. “The challenge is producing it so it looks like it’s just this organic thing that happened. No fingerprints left behind.”
These types of concerts are designed to inspire pride in the Air Force and to recognize those who serve our nation in many other capacities, Lang said.
Band members take this role seriously.
“A lot of times, we’re the only active-duty personnel that members of the community will get to interface with personally, so it’s our opportunity to demonstrate the excellence that our fellow Airmen throughout the Air Force display every day,” Kuebler said. “This is our way of representing the entire Air Force in our specific way with our skills.”
Headquartered at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C., the band is the premier musical organization of the Air Force. Their performances honor veterans and inspire Americans to heightened patriotism and service.
“Many of the things our Airmen do for our nation go unnoticed. Hosting an event like this in the community allows us to put the Air Force on display in a unique way,” James said. “This holiday flashback was a wonderful opportunity to honor the dedication and sacrifice of our service members, past and present, who have served this great nation.”
To view the USAF band surprise performance follow this Youtube link: https://youtu.be/khQN5ylb3H0.