Friday, January 14, 2011
Famed U.S. Marine Band Makes Its Third Stop Here
It was a fortunate thing that the U.S. Marine Band concert held here last week took place in the high school gym. The gym has no windows and the impact of the booming band could have shattered every window in the place.
We were sitting in the sixth row from the front and my ears were ringing hours later. But they were ringing with the very best band sounds that a person can ever expect to hear.
William Jones, the baritone soloist and narrator for the concert praised the Rochester audience for its resounding expression of appreciation. He said that this is the third time the band has played here (all within 10 years) and we imagine it won’t be the last. The band is playing 63 cities in 63 days, so this could be action about as rugged as Vietnam for those Marines— except for the lack of life-threatening danger.
It was a hot afternoon in the gym when 2,400 school children jammed in for a one-hour concert. The band played two hours for around 1,800 that night. But while members of the audience may have been warm, Lt. Col. Albert Schoepper, director of the organization, was as calm and cool as anyone in the place. When he casually strolled to the podium and lifted his baton on inch, it was like pushing the plunger for a charge of dynamite.
Col. Schoepper told young bandsmen at the afternoon concert that if they aspire to join a concert band, don’t study too many instruments. “Too many will dull your proficiency on all of them.” Schoepper has been with the band himself since 1934 as a violinist. He has been director since 1955. Soloists Bill Jones is quite a celebrity himself, having rubbed elbows with such notable as the queen of England, the Royal Family of The Netherlands, etc.
The band’s intent is to meet expenses on the tour. The profit goes to the sponsoring group. This time it was the Rochester Band Boosters who have a heavy commitment to pay for half of the new Senior High Band uniforms. The school district is paying the other half of the $7,500 cost. So it ended up with one band helping another.
“I’ve never seen an apathetic audience at any of our concerts during my 33 years with the Marine Band,” Col Schoepper declared. “It’s always a great inspiration to the musicians and conductor to see an audience alive, on its toes and apparently enjoying all it is hearing.”
Personally, the only complaint I had was at the very end of the concert. The band played a medley of service songs and the audience applauded as the band moved through the songs of the Navy, Army, Coast Guard, Air Force and finally the Marines. All the while I was ready to raise a cheer when they came to the Song of the Fighting Seabees— my alma mater. It never came.
You probably heard it if you ever saw the World War II film, The Fighting Seabees. It starred John Wayne. I hate to think about what kind of ruckus there will be when our hero, Big John, hears about this.