WIESBADEN, Germany - Several dozen leaders and members of the Wiesbaden military community were able to time-travel through music back to the days of German Emperor Wilhelm II, thanks to the generosity of a local couple.
"We wanted to bring some joy to the American Soldiers and share this unique opportunity of a historic German Army band concert as we have a longstanding special relationship with the Wiesbaden community," said Dieter Werner, a retired board member of the USO, married to American Chris Brady-Werner. He is also with the German Kidney and Urinary Tract Foundation, which has a strong link to the spa city of Wiesbaden and hosted the benefit concert.
The concert was performed by the 300th German Army Music Corps based in Koblenz, conducted by Lt. Col. Robert Kuckertz and complemented by students of the Wiesbaden Music Academy.
Before the sounds of the first march of the historic Hessian Regiment filled the magnificent concert hall of the Wiesbaden Kurhaus, Wiesbaden City Parliament Chair Wolfgang Nickel welcomed the audience, "and in particular our American friends. We know that the headquarters move from Heidelberg to Wiesbaden is underway, and we want to say to all American newcomers to our city: You are warmly welcome here." His words were met with enthusiastic applause from the primarily German audience.
Then, the 60-member brass orchestra took the audience on a fascinating journey of military music and history, from Friedrich II of Prussia to Napoleonic times, to the last German emperor, Wilhelm II, to the Berlin Airlift. Before playing a 1741 "Marsch" of Friedrich II, Kuckertz explained that the emperor became a good flute player early-on and eventually wrote much of the military music of his time himself.
Halfway through the concert, the last German emperor, Wilhelm II walked down the aisle to chat with the Kurhaus director of the day, reminiscing their joint opening of the prestigious edifice and remarking that Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky had recently paid frequent visits to the Kurhaus Casino, losing money and gaining fame. The commander of the troops of the day, with a strong Berlin accent, informed the noble guest that the Soldiers wished to honor his majesty with the German Emperor's march.
"I enjoyed the concert, it was something different," said Eddie Thomas, who works with the U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security. "I haven't heard a military band since I retired in 2003."
Thomas then revealed his special connection to the musicians. "I used to play the flute with the 1st Armored Division Band," he said. "I talked to some of the band members during the break; I thought I might know some."
What Thomas enjoyed most was the Pique Dame overture by Franz von Suppe. "And of course the selection from Sousa."
When Kuckertz introduced this part of the concert, he switched to English, welcoming "Commander Carstens and our American friends. We want to play this special medley with music of Sousa for you.
"We have had the privilege to meet with U.S. musicians, outstanding professionals," Kuckertz said. "We played in D.C. last year on Oct. 3, our German Day of Reunification. We have heard concerts of the Marine Band and the Navy Band; and we are in close contact with the Army Band. All I can say about them: Great."