On May 6, members of The U.S. Army Band “Pershing's Own” departed from Andrews Air Force Base for an eight-day tour to Norway where they took part in the 2012 Norwegian Military Tattoo. One of the largest military pageants in the world, the Norwegian Tattoo featured premier military bands and civilian groups from eight different nations. The various ensembles, including dance troupes and drum lines, performed four sold-out concerts at the Oslo Spektrum in Norway's capital city.
Upon their arrival, and after a brief stop at the home of Norway's elite ceremonial unit, His Majesty the King's Guard Barracks, members of “Pershing's Own” began the week with rehearsals for the tattoo performances and several high-profile events around Oslo.
On May 9, a small team of musicians performed at the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Norway, Barry B. White. Staff Sgt. Marlisa Woods, violin, and Staff Sgt. Tim Whalen, piano, performed for 200 VIP guests of the ambassador at a reception prior to a concert featuring The U.S. Army Brass Quintet. The concert took place on the lawn of the historic residence built in 1911 by the Norwegian architect Henrik Bull, and also featured a performance by the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Silent Drill Team. In his opening remarks, Ambassador White thanked not only the members of The U.S. Army Band, but also acknowledged the commitment to excellence of the many thousands of U.S. citizens serving in uniform.
Later that evening, the tattoo began officially with a concert featuring three of the guest ensembles. The Royal Band of the Belgian Air Force, the Central Band of the Army of the Czech Republic and “Pershing's Own” performed symphonic works in the ballroom of the Radisson hotel in downtown Oslo. Members of “Pershing's Own” performed last on the program and took the opportunity to listen to their counterparts from Belgium and the Czech Republic from the back of the ballroom. Each ensemble's program highlighted the individual talent of its members, and many included music native to their homeland. Col. Thomas Palmatier, leader and commander of “Pershing's Own,” led a varied program of traditional and contemporary American works for band, as well as a trio of jazz standards featuring singers from The U.S. Army Voices.
May 10 was a day spent rehearsing and putting the final touches on the tattoo performance, which was recorded by a full television camera crew. Members of The U.S. Army Band's brass and percussion sections arrived early to rehearse their roles in the opening fanfare alongside band members from Belgium and Norway. The entire event offered high production value with ensembles from the different nations moving seamlessly on and off stage throughout the three-hour show.
Despite a full schedule of rehearsals and performances, members of “Pershing's Own” were able to take some time each morning to site-see in one of Europe's most beautiful cities. With a population of about 500,000, Oslo is one of the continent's smallest capital cities, but one rich in history with a vibrant and walker-friendly downtown area.
On, May 11, members of “Pershing's Own” lined up on the grounds of the historic Akershus Fortress under skies threatening rain. Wet weather at the start of the official tattoo parade didn't keep fans away as they cheered on all the participants through the streets of Oslo. The only casualty of the rain was a scheduled performance by each of the bands outside of the historic city hall, home to the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony. Following the parade, The U.S. Army Woodwind Quintet performed for a reception hosted by Oslo's mayor with many high-ranking government and military officials in attendance.
The first of four tattoo performances began Friday evening to a near-capacity crowd numbering close to 3,000. The Norwegian Military Tattoo has been attracting fans of military music for nearly 20 years. Since its inception in 1994 (then held at the Viking Ship Arena in Hamar, Norway), the Norwegian tattoo has grown with the official support of the Norwegian Armed Forces. The event, held every two years, now attracts elite military musical components from all over the world. In addition to “Pershing's Own,” this year's tattoo featured these ensembles: the Royal Band of the Belgian Air Force; the Central Band of the Army of the Czech Republic; Switzerland's Top Secret Drum Corps; the Norwegian Air Force, Navy, and Staff Bands; His Majesty the King's Guard Band and Drill Team; the Republic of Korea Ministry of National Defense Traditional Band; the Emerald Isle Irish Dance Team; the Orchestra of the Estonian Defense Force; and the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team. Each performing group brought its special talent to the event, from the flaming drum sticks of the Top Secret Drum Corps, to Bugs Bunny “guest conducting” the Belgian band, to masked drummers performing acrobatic routines while playing their traditional Korean instruments.
After the final performance on Sunday afternoon, the musicians of “Pershing's Own” took time to trade gifts and take pictures with their counterparts from the various nations attending the tattoo. Palmatier and Command Sgt. Maj. Mitchell Spray also took time to recognize TUSAB Soldiers who contributed to the success of the mission by fulfilling a wide variety of extra duties including writing drill for the floor show, loading gear and luggage on and off commercial aircraft, and serving as on-sight producers for nearly 70 musicians. A special presentation was made in recognition of the band's Norwegian liaison, Lt. Marius Juvyk, who served as facilitator, tour guide, and gracious host to the members of “Pershing's Own.”