Sunday, September 16, 2007

100th Royal Tournament on YouTube!

I enlisted in the Marines in 1987 as a 5546 - a trombone player - and was assigned to the 2nd Marine Division Band at Camp Lejune, NC. In January, 1991, we reverted to our wartime function as a special security unit of Headquarters Company, Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division and deployed to Saudi Arabia for Desert Shield/Storm. Just prior to this, in the summer of 1990, we were ordered to London for three weeks to participate in the 100th Royal Tournament. On a whim, I searched for Royal Tournament on YouTube and the very first entry, although added a mere three months ago, was from the 100th Royal Tournament. Here's the video I couldn't take because I was there. There was a detachment of Spanish Marines, then the 2D MAR DIV BAND, and this video of the Royal Marines Massed Bands marching in to HM Jollies, the RM's service song. The instrumentation of the Spanish Marines (consisting of small bagpipes, piccolos and tenor drums) wasn't compatible with everyone else's, so they didn't play, but we played along with the Royal Marines on the rest of the music.

If you pause at 0:03, you will see the Spanish Marines closest to the camera with our small square of US Marines just on the other side. No bigger than we were, we were accustomed to playing large pass and reviews. We were tested at 135db point blank. At this volume, our small group balanced the 200-plus Royal Marine band members. They jokingly asked us if we were trying to straighten out our horns. We played loud enough that we earned a noticeable and surprised nod from Her Majesty, the Queen. You can get a closeup of the rear portion of our band (I was a little closer to the front) at 0:44 - 0:48.

The prayer spoken during the "Sunset" music is the official RM prayer and was recited by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, husband to the Queen.

Those not familiar with the seal of the Royal Marines may not notice that Gibraltar is missing from it. This was done to appease the Spanish Marines who lost to the Brits over it.

When you hear the British tribute and the sound of the trumpets becomes loud, that's the US Marines. None of the britih bands march with trupets, they use coronets. Trumpets are reserved for royalty and there is a special trumpet corps precisely for the purpose. There was a debate as to whether we would be able to use our trumpets when we played with the Massed Bands, but the permission was given. Thus, when we play the British tribute, you can here our few trumpets pierce the air thick with fake cannon smoke.

During our three week stay, we played 2 programs a night six days a week and cut a CD of the music. Just prior to the video I've included, we did our fifteen-minute program. We recorded 10 minutes of it. I include it here from my copy of the CD:

When we recorded this, the studio wasn't ready for our volume. Under normal recording levels, we blew a speaker in the sound booth to the extent that the cover flew off and made our drum major spill his coffe all over himself. Oooh RAH - Semper - stinkin' - fi!!!! We had to delay recording long enough for them to replace it. The portion of this that is narrated is called The Marine's Hymn, Apotheosis, by Sammy Nestico. When it transitions from one section to the other, you will hear a single trombone play a few pickup notes to lead it in (3:45) - that's me.

Naturally, I don't have photos of the portion of the program recorded in the video, but I do have a few pictures of portions of the program I was able to observe prior to it.

This was an earlier portion of the program that the RM Massed Bands did on their own.

There were a number of other portions of the program. Some involved demonstrations of police dogs rappeling from the catwalks, motorcycle stunts, and the Navy gun team tournaments. These were horse teams galloping in amazing syncronization about the court.

Let me go back and mention the gun teams again. These consisted of incredibly large men who would carry cannons by hand through an obstacle course. The team that fired off their cannon first at the end of course won. These men could carry 500 lb cannon parts in one hand while they hung onto a rope with the other. So dedicated were they that some were known to substitute their own digits (which they lost in the transaction), if a wheel peg came up missing, so that their team would win. Such injury was not uncommon and an exceptional number of alternates were on standby in the event that a team member was hurt.

But perhaps the most memorable occasion was directly after the finale, the royals would exit through a heavily guarded and temporarily cordoned walkway to their chauffered vehicles. This path was directly next to the opening to the court where we would exit at the end - so we delighted in observing the royals we typically only saw on TV. At the show that the Queen Mother (may she rest in peace) attended, she was slowly escorted down this path at the end. I stood next to my buddy who played the sousaphone and we had managed to make it to a position directly at the cordon between two guards. Now Brits don't march with sousaphones. Brits march with small tubas hung from their neck. The sousaphone is an American instrument. As the Queen Mum passed by, she paused and looked slowly over at me and my buddy. When she saw the size of the sousaphone, she exclaimed with reserved delight and wonder, "My, what a big horn."

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