But We Were Told There'd Be Sousaphones

GrandDad and I went to the Army Field Band concert tonight.  I noticed the listing just yesterday in the performing arts center newsletter, and was relieved not to have missed it.  We went to Air Force and Navy band concerts earlier in the year, which we quite enjoyed.  I was eager to round out the traveling ambassadors of the major branches of the U.S. military at the earliest opportunity.

It wasn't until we were settling into our seats that I took a good look at the stage -- and saw a drum set, front and center.  And three huge electric keyboards.  And an electric guitar.  And an electric bass...

I furrowed my brow and flipped open my program:  The United States Army Field Band Volunteers is "the United States Army's premier touring show band" (emphasis added).  Highlights of the program:  Rock 'N Roll and Pop ... Rhythm and Blues ... Patriotic.  Personnel: seven musicians, on keyboard, bass, vocals, audio, guitar, drums, vocals.  Uh oh.  I think I've just brought my grandfather to a rock concert.  My 91-year-old Baptist grandfather who once complained that the new 50-year-old music minister at his church was "too young" for the job.


I pointed out to GrandDad that we seemed to be in for a different band than we were expecting.  He, too, had noticed the drum set.  He agreed that the instrumentation looked, well, unusual for a military band.  He had been expecting sousaphones.  (Me, too.)  He doesn't generally like the kind of music you tend to expect from the array of instruments before us.  But he is nothing if not amenable, and we had already taken our seats, so we figured we'd see how it went.  If we don't like it, we can leave at intermission.

A few minutes later, upon further perusal of the program, GrandDad pointed to the concert description, where it listed a few names of representative artists to give us an idea of the kind of music we would be hearing that evening.  "I've never heard of these people," he said.  (Or maybe it was "I have no idea who these people are." Or words to that effect.)

He was not indicating the sentence that was the cause of my personal consternation:  "The latest music from young artists such as Avril Lavigne and Outkast comes straight from the radio to the audience" (emph. added).  Heck, I'm not sure I have any idea who these people are.  Or if they're even people.  (Which is not to say that "Complicated" was not stuck in my head for the entire summer of 2002.)

No, he was indicating the next section of the description, which listed Luther Vandross and Stevie Wonder.

(Hoo-boy.  This could be a long night.)

"But I've heard of him," he said, pointing to the name Irving Berlin. (God bless the Army for at least keeping "God Bless America" in the repertoire).  

So.  The concert was relatively conservative, as "show band" concerts go.  They performed only a couple of songs written in the last 20 years, and those were mostly from the country genre.  Mostly they did standards.  A little Sinatra, a little Motown.  I suspect that they looked out on the crowd -- when GrandDad and I attend a performing arts center event together, and this was no exception, we cumulatively bring down the average age of the audience -- and decided to do their "white-hair" set.  I suspect that most of the 60- and 70-somethings in the audience, as well as the handful of younger folk, enjoyed it quite a bit.  But it certainly wasn't GrandDad's cup of tea.

Me?  I had a good time.  Not exactly what I had signed up for, and not what I would have brought my grandfather to if I had known, but it was fun.  If only I hadn't been worrying over how un-fun it was for my companion.

At one point when I glanced over at him, he appeared to be napping.  

(One of the things he likes about his new state-of-the-art hearing aids: when switched off, they function fairly well as ear plugs.)

So no, he didn't enjoy the concert.  But he didn't seem to mind it too much.  And he was remarkably gracious about the whole thing.

When we got home, I decided to double-check the performing art center newsletter to see if I had missed something that should have tipped me off that this was not your grandfather's military band concert.

Um, no.

The entry for tonight's concert, in its entirety:

Sat, Nov 1          7:00 p.m.
Oxnard Ambassadors, City of Oxnard,
and Ventura County Star present:
"The Musical Ambassadors of the Army"
Free Admission with Ticket

But maybe there was something more on the web page, which I checked to confirm the box office hours of operation?

Nope.  Even less, in fact:

"The Musical Ambassadors"
Sat, Nov. 1, 2008 - 7 p.m.
Free Admission with ticket

Accompanied by this highly misleading photograph:

Look!  What's that he's playing?  Could it be a SOUSAPHONE?*

Can you see how I might have arrived at the erroneous conclusion that I was off to see a military concert band?

(And while we're complaining about the picture: That's not even an ARMY tuba player!  That's so totally an AIR FORCE uniform!)

All of which just gives further illustration of my chief complaint about the universe: inadequate signage.

*yes, okay, Tuba.  Same diff.


scb said...

I'm wondering if the organizers of the concert might also have been surprised when the band showed up...

(I got here through Athena's blog, I discovered Athena's blog through Wende's blog, and here I am. I'm finding some "common places" in your posts.)

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