STARA ZAGARA, Bulgaria – As the sun set on the night of Stara Zagara, Bulgaria, the usual peace and quiet of the city was interrupted by the sound of music. A massive orchestration of percussion instruments, trumpets, brass and flutes filled the streets for every spectator to hear and enjoy.
The music marked the arrival of the United States Army Europe and Africa Band & Chorus, as they toured through Eastern Europe for the Stronger Together 2021 tour. United in Europe and Africa, the group had the opportunity to play alongside their allies and partners in the host country. On September 1, the orchestra performed alongside the Bulgarian 2nd Light Infantry Marching Band led by Captain Tsvetomir Rashkov Vasilev.
The ensemble included American and Bulgarian musical selections, including the national anthems of both countries. The concert was a wonderful demonstration of how two groups can come together and create sounds and art that motivate and inspire the masses. It was a shining example of unity and interoperability.
US Army Corporal. Ana Rodriguez went all out for a solo performance of James Bond’s Skyfall theme, while U.S. Army Sgt. Kayla Winslow performed solo O Mio Babbino Caro.
The whole group also lightened the mood with music from Star Wars and their own instrumental rendition of Simon & Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Yost, a percussionist in the group, found the experience interesting. “Military music is just fascinating to me,” Yost said. “So being able to play military music with another military band from another country was super rewarding and the cultural exchange between us was just amazing.”
As a thank you, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Randall Bartel, Marching Band Commander and Principal Conductor, presented Captain Vasilev with the first edition of the U.S. Army Marching Band and Choir Challenge piece for Europe and Africa. They also gave him a photo of the whole group.
“My favorite aspect of this tour has to be the experiences we get to be the happy beneficiaries of meeting our host countries, our allies, our partners and strengthening our relationship with them,” said Bartel. “They are just great hosts, friends and want to keep doing more with them.”
The tour continued on to Brasov, Romania, where the Barbarossa Winds, a wind quintet of the group, performed at Peles Castle on September 4. the history and vintage pieces that the castle offered. Hospitality is essential when working with host countries and Allies, and the Romanians have gone above and beyond to provide the best environment for the castle musicians.
At the same time, the rest of the group were playing at Bran Castle, better known as Dracula’s Castle. They played in the courtyard with the massive historic structure towering behind them. The ensemble that evening included a variety of American and Romanian coins in commemoration of the host country.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Michael Turner was thrilled with the opportunity to also conduct, orchestrating Slavonic Dance No. 1 by Antonin Dvorak and The Klaxon by Henry Fillmore.
All three performances were a glorious reflection of the values of the US military while operating with NATO allies and partners. The ability of two music groups from two different countries to play each other’s memorable themes and songs shows how much each other’s heritage and values are taken into account.
As the group continues to tour in Europe, USAREUR-AF’s partnership and impact with their allies and NATO partners will continue to grow. The spirit, energy and heart of the music are a powerful reminder of what the US military fights for every day.
Follow US Army Europe and Africa Band & Chorus on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/USArmyEURAFBand