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We began the morning with a sound check at Sumida Triphony hall in Tokyo, one of the finest halls I have ever performed in. At the beginning of rehearsal, there were a whole bunch of Central Band officers who had come to speak with the band. What I expected was mundane morning announcements; in fact, it was a sort of pre-concert ritual that added an air of profundity to what we were about to do. In a display of respect for both the performers and the officers, everyone said a sort of group “let’s do this” together, for each officer that spoke.

In the sound check, we only touched a few spots here and there to get used to the hall. And what a hall it was. In the West Point Band, we rarely have the privilege to perform in beautiful concert halls, and we loved every minute of it. We all grabbed a quick lunch then got changed into performance uniforms for the sold out performance. The Central Band’s performances are so popular that they have to hold a ticket lottery to see who will be allowed into the concert.

The combined bands on stage at Sumida Triphony Concert Hall in Tokyo. Photo by SFC Sam Kaestner

The combined bands on stage at Sumida Triphony Concert Hall in Tokyo. Photo by SFC Sam Kaestner

Throughout the trip, I have been impressed with the attention to detail of the Japanese people. It seems that everything is done deliberately, be it cleaning a train station, or assigning the parts to be played in the concert. It seems that everything is a conscious choice. One detail that we did not overlook was the switching of flags prior to the concert. In military ceremonies, you always place the flag with the highest honor in the left most position. Between the sound check and the performance, as a show of honor for the United States, the Central Band chose to place the American flag on the left of their own flag. This is a small detail, that many in the audience might have overlooked, but as someone who makes his livelihood getting all of the details right at military ceremonies, the significance was not lost on me. It was a deep gesture of respect for our nation.

Staff Sgt. Alexis Cole sings at Sumida Triphony Hall. The U.S. Flag has been moved into the place of honor for the performance. Photo by SFC Sam Kaestner

Staff Sgt. Alexis Cole sings at Sumida Triphony Hall. The U.S. Flag has been moved into the place of honor for the performance. Photo by SFC Sam Kaestner

I’ll write about the performance in the next post. Be sure to check back soon.

 

Words and images by Sgt. 1st Class Sam Kaestner

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