16 May 2008

Getting Sentimental Over the NMA Reunion

The Orpheum Theatre in Galesburg, Illinois was swinging last night. The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra was in town and I enjoyed a two-hour performance by this classic legacy band, trombonist and longtime Dorsey associate Buddy Morrow at the helm.

They played Dorsey standards--"Getting Sentimental," "Opus One, "Song of India, "Marie" (with gang vocal)--with the smooth expertise of seasoned professionals. Buddy is 89 years old, and some of the sax players aren't far behind. And they cooked up some more contemporary entertainment with the unbridled energy of talented youngsters. The rhythm section looked like a trio straight out of "A" school; the pianist was 22, a quarter of Buddy's age.

The players have met the challenge of all full-time professionals who must master their repertoire and still make it fresh night after night. And, as superb as the band was, it made me appreciate the musicianship I encounter at the NMA reunions.

The Navy Musician Association bands meet but once a year. We sit on the bandstand between trombone players we played with forty years ago and drummers we met for the first time at breakfast. We play charts we haven't seen in decades and sight-read arrangements that were copyrighted last week.

We're professionals and amateurs; we're full-timers and part-timers. Some of us don't play as well as we used to, and some of us are playing better than ever.

And we swing. Last year, with the debut of a new band at the Saturday night dinner/dance, we even started to rock.

For a few days, we work, play, woodshed and wail. And just when we're getting the notes under our fingers, it's time to pack the seabags and head back home.

But for those few days, my friends, we're at the top of our game. Believe me, if the NMA Big Band had been onstage in a battle of the bands with the Dorsey organization last night, the outcome would have been in doubt.

After all, they're every bit as good as we are.

02 May 2008

Four Ruffles & Flourishes and a Firing Squad

My informant who provided the sordid details about the White House ceremony at which the Army Herald Trumpets and the US Marine Band played Hail to the Chief out of sync with each other and in different keys--described in the post below--has learned how things went so wrong.

According to a highly-placed Washington, DC source, the Army's Herald Trumpets always perform the presidential honors at White House arrival ceremonies. The Herald Trumpets know this. The president's staff knows this. Anyone who has ever studied for the MU2 test knows this.

The coordinator from the Marine Band didn't know this. He didn't attend the dry run, didn't even attend the talk-through rundown of the ceremony.

Fortunately the bands were spaced far enough apart that most attendees, including the president, were unaware that honors music was being performed by two bands in two locations in two keys.

Not doubt this was followed by a smaller, more private ceremony in honor of the Marine Band's coordinator at which the honors were performed on muffled drums.