Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Playing For the Brass

"Brass," in this sense, being "very high-ranking people." Today was the big Transfer of Authority ceremony, in which Major General Terry, commander of the 10th Mountain Division, took command of military operations in the southern region of Afghanistan. This is the first time this part of the country has been overseen by the US Military. My brass quintet was there to participate in the festivities, mainly to provide music prior to the start of the ceremony and to play the Afghan national anthem (which sounds very much like a remnant of the days of Soviet occupation, very heavy and imposing), the NATO hymn (representing the nations of the International Security Assistance Force), and the 10th Mountain Division song, "Climb To Glory."
Interestingly, one Air Force person (don't remember his rank!) asked if we took requests and wondered if we could do "the Monty Python theme." We were able to oblige, as "Monty Python's Flying Circus" used John Philip Sousa's "Liberty Bell March" as its theme music, and that march was a couple of slots away in our rotation.
The ceremony was held in the "Fest Tent," which is basically a large concrete slab with a "skin" stretched over a metal frame, with a big wooden stage and lots of folding chairs. Surprisingly, this environment provided very good acoustics for our quintet, helping us to sound "big" without overpowering the rest of the room. It was easy for us to get comfortable and we had one of our better performances. When several Generals, including the man in charge of Afghan military operations (GEN Petraeus), regional governors, and other dignitaries are present, it's good to play well! After we played honors for the General, prayers were offered by a local Muslim cleric and a (Christian) US Army Chaplain, and there were speeches, including the outgoing British General Carter and MG Terry. Then the 10th MTN DIV flag was unfurled, symbolically displaying the Division's "arrival." The only big letdown was that after the ceremony, we found out our transportation had technical problems and we had to walk back to our storage area, hauling our instruments with us. That's life in a deployed environment--always unpredictable!

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