By By Jim Dresbach, Pentagram Staff Writer May 3, 2013
JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. - Bus traffic brought an overflow crowd to Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall's Summerall Field May 1 for the season-opening Twilight Tattoo. That opening evening crowd received double the entertainment courtesy of a joint American-Norwegian operation.
The Norwegian Army's Hans Majestet Kongens Garde, translated in English to His Majesty King's Guard, filled the 6:45 to 7 p.m. pre-tattoo entertainment slot with music, precise footwork and exact rifle drilling. The King's Guard is an elite battalion of conscripts dedicated to protecting Norway's royal family and choreographing marches and drill team maneuvers.
"The band is both a ceremonial band and a concert band," said The King's Guard Band and Drill Team Company Commander Capt. Bjoernar Braekke.
"The ceremonial band has about 20 people, and the concert band holds around 60. Thirty-two drill team members will be performing tonight.
"We expect a big audience because we've been told there would be a crowd of a thousand to 1,500 spectators. That's exciting, of course," Braekke added at the conclusion of a pre-tattoo morning rehearsal, which involved the 110-person group. "These guys have never seen a U.S. Army [base] and have never seen this tattoo. They don't know what to expect. But I know they are excited. We know the [U.S. Army] Drill Team will perform, and that will be very interesting for our platoon."
While school groups from Illinois, Texas, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Georgia, Minnesota and Ohio settled into their seating arraignments, the European band and drill team marched in full dress uniform and received a standing ovation following their 20-minute review. Among those applauding the performance were dignitaries from the Norwegian Embassy and Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region/ Military District of Washington Commander Maj. Gen. Michael S. Linnington.
"We were thrilled that His Majesty the King's Guards 3rd Company, the premier military ceremonial unit from Norway could join us tonight fresh from their performance at the Virginia International Tattoo to kick off our Twilight Tattoo season this year," the general said. "Twilight Tattoo highlights the discipline and professional excellence of our Nation's strongest citizens - the U.S. soldier. Featured at each of our performances is the ceremonial precision of the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and the phenomenal musicianship of The U.S. Army Band 'Pershing's Own.'"
Also attending were Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Commander Col. Fern O. Sumpter, The U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own" Commander Col. Thomas H. Palmatier and dozens of The Old Guard Soldiers serving as interaction team members.
"I love this; this is great," said The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps Staff Sgt. Jessie DeJesus as she watched while the King's Guard played John Philip Sousa's march "Semper Fidelis."
"I'm so glad they are here getting this experience. I love their energy. Their performance is very energetic."
After stowing their instruments and rifles, many King's Guard musicians and drill team members hustled back to the parade grounds for the first of 17 tattoos this year. An unscientific poll revealed that the Norwegians equally anticipated the appearance of two American ceremonial segments- the U.S. Army Drill Team and their musical counterparts.
"I'm looking forward to seeing The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps," said King's Guard Pvt. Jan Ovestoresound, a field drum player. "We played with them yesterday [April 30]. I want to see how amazing they are."
Along with performing at Washington, D.C.'s Stoddert Elementary School April 30, King's Guard musicians met The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps members on JBM-HH for an informal international jam session.
"We did a joint performance - their drum line [and] our drum line - it was a really neat show of a common bond through music," opening night Fife and Drum Corps Drum Major Staff Sgt. James Hague said during the tattoo.
"The Norwegian King's Guard music is really excellent. They have a long tradition of field music, and it is quite similar to ours with the drumming and the bugles."
Twilight Tattoo is a free, hour-long military pageant, which is open to the public and is held on the Fort Myer portion of JBM-HH. Future tattoo dates this month include May 8, 15, 22 and 29. The May 22 tattoo will be held at Whipple Field with a special start time of 6 p.m. Other upcoming dates include June 5, 12, 19 and 26; July 10, 17, 24 and 31 plus August 7, 14, 21 and 28. Following the June 26 tattoo, the performances will move from Summerall Field to Whipple Field.
The Old Guard units involved in tattoo entertainment include the drill team and fife and drum corps plus The Army Blues, members of The Army Chorus, and vocalists of The Army Band Downrange and The Army Voices.
For more photos of the May 1 Twilight Tattoo, see page 6 or log onto www.flickr.com/photos/jbm-hh.