Hands across the sea
Sgt. Stacey Wilson, left, performs a saxophone solo while Lt. Col. Beth Steele, U.S. Army Europe Band and Chorus commander, conducts the band during the Hands Across the Sea concert earlier March 1-2 in Eppelheim and Oftersheim, Germany. Steele invited guest conductors and asked them to choose a musical selection that represents their nation's musical heritage.

HEIDELBERG, Germany - The U.S. Army Europe Band and Chorus "Hands Across the Sea" concerts brought together guest clinicians and conductors from Germany, Great Britain and the United States as well as a soloist from the U.S. Military Academy Band.

The concerts were likely the last performances in the communities of Eppelheim and Oftersheim. The crowds and city mayors expressed gratitude for the music that has come to their concert halls over the years while the USAREUR Band and Chorus called Tompkins Barracks home. The band will be relocating to Sembach this summer.

The concerts held March 1-2 celebrated the long standing bonds of friendship between the home countries of the guest conductors.

Lt. Col. Beth Steele, Commander of the USAREUR Band and Chorus, was inspired by the concept of reaching across national lines and forging friendship through music and came up with the "Hands Across the Sea" series.

She asked each conductor to choose musical selections representative of their nation's musical heritage.

The conductors rehearsed with the Soldier musicians for three full days before the concerts.

"Receiving professional musical training from musicians of another country is an opportunity for growth that is highly sought after by professional musicians ... Not only was their expertise enlightening, but their varied, genuine personalities shone through and really endeared them to our band members," said Sgt. Benjamin McMillan, a trumpet player for the band.

Steele led the band in Leonard Bernstein's quirky tune, "The Wrong Note Rag" from the musical "Wonderful Town." A poignant moment in the program came when the band played the theme song from the HBO miniseries "Band of Brothers" to remember those military members who are serving in harm's way.

The solo performances by Staff Sgt. Stacey Wilson, a saxophonist from the U.S. Military Academy, dazzled audiences with her virtuosic technique and tone. She played the theme music from the movie "Catch Me if You Can," composed by John William's and "Carmen Fantasie" by George Bizet, a medley of tunes from the opera "Carmen."

Wilson received standing ovations in both Eppelheim and Oftersheim.

The program began with the jubilant, flourishing piece, "Exultate," written by Samuel R. Hazo, followed by "Suite of Old American Dances," a five movement work by American composer Robert Russell Bennett. Dr. Eric Hinton conducted the quintessentially American pieces.

Hinton is Associate Professor of Music and Director of Bands from Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pa.

German conductor Lt. Col. Christoph Scheibling, chose the classic Bavarian "Izonso March" by Georg Fürst. While rehearsing, he encouraged the Army bandsmen to depict a bustling open air market with a woman and man conversing in the first strain and a bräuhaus with clanking beer steins during the second strain.

Next was "Tannhauser Overture" by Richard Wagner. This epic opera overture arranged for wind symphony by Mark Hindsley, tells a beautiful musical story of redeeming love. Scheibling serves as the Deputy Inspector of German Military Music Service in Bonn.

He has served as a military musician with German Federal Armed Forces since 1989.

Representing Great Britain, Dr. Graham Jones conducted a work that he had commissioned from British composer Martin Ellerby, "The Cries of London."

Jones recently retired as the senior director of music, household division and director of music, Coldstream Guards where he served nearly 40 years.

"The Cries of London" was commissioned for the band of the Coldstream Guards.

The movements paint a picture of London. "Dawn Watch" paints pictures of rustling wind down empty London streets at dawn with bugle calls coming from antiphonal trumpets calling Londoners to awake.

The sound builds to a climax as the "Westminster Chimes" second movement takes over with none other than the famous bell tones of the Westminster Abbey.

The third movement, "A Dream or Two," is a love song to London wrapped up in the familiar tune and lyrics of "London Bridge is Falling Down."

Sgt. Alan Page sang the song with tenor tones. The fourth movement, "Catch that Catch Can," was a jig that layered instrument upon instrument in a musical round.

"Having lived in Berlin during the waning years of the U.S. Army base there, I recognize the importance of this mission and the value placed on that mission by the host nation. It is obvious how much the German people appreciate the work that they do and what they bring to the communities they visit. I think the work they do with regard to reminding us what is best about our armed services is invaluable and they are truly inspirational figures in Germany and around the world," Hinton told the band during a rehearsal.

Page last updated Wed March 28th, 2012 at 00:00