The orchestra had a 4 day period at a US Army base in Zweibrücken in March, 1957 during which it rehearsed for its forthcoming six week trip to France. The barracks where we were billetted featured two person rooms, which we were supposed to keep ready for inspection, and one day a lieutenant came around with his orderly to see just how soldierly we were. Most rooms were what you'd expect them to be, and the lieutenant was both dismayed and furious. He asked for the names of the individuals inhabiting each room, and threatened severe disciplinary measures. As most of us were away from the barracks at the time, those who were there had to make the identifications, which they did: Bartok, Ravel, Debussy, Prokofiev, etc. All of the names had to be spelled out, and even at that the orderly needed lots of help. If there were any penalties, they never caught up with us!
Our conductor during that tour (and beyond) was Shao Ling Tung, who was the very model of the inscrutable oriental. But we managed to crack his reserve on at least two occasions: once on the French tour, when someone stuck a large photograph of a fully nude and well-endowed blonde in the opening pages of some large musical score; and again in Schwäbisch Gmünd (or Hall-- I forget which one), where we found a bunch of vivid animal masks (it was Fasching) in the auditorium where we were playing, so members of the woodwind section put them on, bent over so that the music stands would hide them from Ling Tung's view, and when his downbeat came, they straightened up. At that, he barely cracked a smile!
And then there was our escort officer (a lieutenant) during the French tour, who was invited to a “wine of honor” in Bordeaux, held just before our concert there. Ling Tung and John Scecina were the only orchestra members present, and they drank very little, but Lt. Boar Hog (so named because he told us before we started the French tour that our MPCs [remember those???] would be "worthless as the tits on a boar hog" once we crossed the border) helped himself, and got so drunk that he went into the orchestra bus (our name was clearly visible on the outside) and vomited and dry-heaved so noisily that people coming to the concert could hear him clearly.
The Rest of the Story - Reciprocity at its Best
Many will remember M-Sgt Claude Hansbrough, the next-to-retirement-age NCO who was responsible for rousing the special services/symphony troops at 6:00 A.M. each morning. We, on the fourth floor, would hear him making his way up the stairwell, his steps reverberating in the concrete stairwell like a present day boombox. Then, he would open the metal door and put his drill whistle to his mouth, blowing sonorous shrillness into the minds of weary artists who were recovering from the stresses of the previous day. He then cried-out in a battle-charge manner: "GET THEM EGGS!!!!!!!"
All who were still living would moan and groan, many of whom would roll over and go back to sleep! Some of us, fearing that the breakfast the good M-SGT. had enjoined us to attend, might just be our last, got up and "GOT THEM EGGS!" Most who did were those of us regular Army folks! However, even a few conscripted members occasionally had breakfast.
This NCO invitation from the good M-SGT. continued for many months. Then, one fine day, while in downtown Stuttgart, someone (I'll never tell who) found a large number of cheap sport whistles for sale in a variety store. An idea was evolving that might just contribute to the nocturnal tranquility of the artists-in-residence of the fourth floor.
The unnamed whistle-broker distributed about twenty shrill-sounding German sports whistles to as many 7ASO members with secret instructions to be revealed the next morning at 6:00 A.M.
As usual, the kindly M-SGT Hansbrough, was heard to be ascending the cave-like stairwell, and when he open the fourth-floor door, he faithfully blew his clarion whistle. BUT, before he had a chance to follow-up with his "GET THEM EGGS" invitation, the alerted and vigilant "twenty whistlers" were responding in harmonious unison in their joint-concert of WHISTLES with their respendent shrills! And, OH, how the noise hit the good M-SGT directly in the ego-plexus!.
He, in critical shock, was heard to say, "This is too much. I can't take you guys any longer!," upon which he descended to more friendly climes. He was reportly never the same, having lost, I'm told, his will to live!
Postscript: The vanquished M-SGT. never again blew his whistle, and if my memory isn't too destroyed after all these years, I don't recall ever being invited to "GET THEM EGGS" again!
P.S. pp. 29-30 of John Canarina's book, Uncle Sam's Orchestra, recounts "just a part" of the story! You've heard the "Rest of the Story" here!
While on tour in Germany during winter 1954-55, we were put up in the transient barracks in Würzburg, home of the Big Red 1 at the time.
The 1st Sgt. of the barracks showed up promptly early in the morning, expecting everyone to jump out of bed, dress, clean the barracks, and be ready for inspection by 8:00 am.
Evidently, no one had informed the barracks staff that we were under travel orders stating that our duty hours were different from the rest of the Army and that we were not to be disturbed in the morning. The Sgt., greeted with catcalls, remarks of "get the f--k out of here", etc. said that he was returning with the Capt. of the barracks in 15 minutes and "we'd better be standing tall".
The Sgt., shouting "Attention!", did indeed enter with the Capt. in 15 minutes only to find (1) a small group of guys playing with Märklin electric trains hastily set up on the floor (2) others slouching against the sides of their bunks in their underwear or wearing nothing (3) still others (including myself) refusing to get up at all (4) Jack Coan in dark shades and beret playing bop licks on his muted trumpet, and when the Capt. went by, exclaiming, "What's happening, prez?" The sight of all this proved to be too much for the Capt. and Sgt. who, shaking their heads in disbelief, beat a hasty retreat.
Daily Inspection at Patch
There've already been several references to Sgt. "Pappy" Hansbrough's 6:30AM call to "git them aig" on this website. On hearing this, I would turn over in my bunk, sleep until 7:45, grab soap, towel, and electric razor and head for the showers on the 3rd floor, thereby avoiding the 8AM inspection. I would then return to my 4th floor bunk, dress, grab my fiddle and head for the bus that took us to the downtown service club for 9AM rehearsal. I usually had time for a quick toast and coffee breakfast before the rehearsal began.
One day I arrived back at my bunk only to find that Lt. "don't call me Benny" Ortiz was just coming in the door. With just a towel wrapped around me, I had no time to dress before Ortiz would reach my position. Quickly, I spread 8x11 photos of my beautiful blonde Hamburg girlfriend on my bunk, hoping to distract him. This tactic proved successful as Benny spent some minutes looking her over, ignoring my next-to-nakedness while the guys nearby were stifling their laughter.
Journey to & from an Unknown Island
My stint with the 7ASO began, like many, at Fort Dix. I was scheduled to go on a troop ship, then to my disappointment I was taken off the list. The next day I was told that I would go by plane. Great, I thought, Ill be there in a day or two.
The flight seemed normal, on a MATS 4 engine propeller plane, seats facing backwards. I think it was scheduled as an 18 hour flight, with one stop at Lajos Field in the Azores for refueling. We landed at Lajos Field, as scheduled, on Terciera Island. We were then told we would stay overnight at the Air Force transient billets as the weather wasnt good. This seemed fine too. A little rest in the middle of a long flight.
We were driven to the barracks and told to pick our own bunks. Our group was about 40 strong, a mixture of Army and Air Force personnel. First, the weather was bad for a few more days, then rumor had it that the plane needed a new engine which had to be flown in from Europe, then several weeks of no news at all. During this time I paid a visit every day to the airfield to look at our plane. After several weeks it was gone. I didnt know whether this was a good or bad omen. Later I figured out (I think) that they flew the plane empty to Europe to get the new engine instead of flying the new engine to Lajos.
My schedule at Lajos was to get up at about 10 a.m., then have a leisurely breakfast of whatever I fancied that morning, afterwards a little nap, then lunch. After lunch I practiced the trumpet for a couple of hours, visited the airfield to check on our plane, then read and played a little ping pong until dinner. After dinner there was a movie and a few beers. Not a bad life, if a little boring. Air Force mess hall food was excellent and snacks or breakfast were available 24 hours a day.
Life in the barracks was calm at first until the social differences between the Lowlifes and the rest of us came to the fore. The Lowlifes were mostly RAs, many Hawaiian, (left over from "From Here to Eternity"?) who enjoyed playing cards until 3 in the morning, accompanied by much drinking and an occasional knife fight. The rest of us lay cowering (speaking for myself) in our bunks. Finally one night the Lowlifes decided we were cramping their style and moved into the next barracks, which was empty. This was a big improvement until a couple of nights later when they returned, pounding on our barracks door for us to come out and fight. They were loaded and sour. None of us seemed ready to do battle except for an RA Cpl., a little old man (probably about 45). He got up, went to the door in his underwear and punched the first Lowlife available in the nose. This was a BIG Hawaiian. He fell to the ground and the others all ran. We locked the door and went back to sleep and never saw our friends from hell again until our flight continued to Europe. By then everything seemed to be forgotten. Maybe the fact that the Cpl. was RA helped the Lowlifes to adjust to defeat. This nameless Cpl. has been a hero to me ever since. He represented some moral principle that I havent quite figured out yet..
After a month of this dolce far niente I went to the airfield one day and a new plane was in place, ready, I guessed, to continue our flight. We left the next day, flying to Frankfurt. I was well rested and also in good shape, having practiced every day for several hours. In the month I spent at Lajos I had no contact with military "authority" except for the cooks in the mess hall who were rightly proud of their cuisine. During all this time the 7ASO was waiting for their new trumpet player, lost somewhere en route from Fort Dix to Vaihingen. [will continue]
How David O’Hara got into the 7th Army Symphony via the BSO
After David finished his second year at the Crane School of Music at Potsdam State Teachers College, he secured a summer job with the Boston Symphony as a Guide at Tanglewood. This worked out well and he returned to Tanglewood for a second season before his Senior year. He graduated from Potsdam with a draft notice for October 1958 and no hope for a job. In an attempt to keep busy he called the BSO at the last minute to ask if he could return for a third summer. This worked and he was given even more responsibility than in either of the previous two seasons.
His basic training was at Fort Dix. He was a good shot (and could add in his head as well) and passed the rifle marksmanship qualification test but missed the target with his last shot, so was then assigned not to the Infantry but instead to the Army Band Training Unit. At that time the BSO was playing an extended concert engagement in Carnegie Hall in New York City, where David could go every weekend on pass. In a conversation with the manager of the BSO he was asked what the Army wanted to do with him. He replied that they wanted him for the Fort Dix Band, but this was not the kind on music he liked and he would prefer the West Point Band or the 7th Army Symphony. It seemed that the BSO manager had a brother in the Pentagon and a phone call was made. On another weekend in NYC David was asked for his real preference and it was the 7th Army Symphony. When his orders came they were not from Fort Dix and his Unit Sergeant was put out and wanted to know whom my brother knew. I don’t think he told him.
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My Miraculous Path to the 7ASO
When I was drafted in January ’53, the Korean War was still in full swing. I was sent for basic training to Camp Pickett, a hellhole in southern Virginia. It was bitterly damp and cold in January and February, and miserably hot and humid in May and June. The drill sergeant was a young southerner who had been badly wounded in Korea. His earthy command of language was a revelation to all of us, and his assurances that we would all get our asses shot off in Korea sounded ominously credible. After eight weeks of basic and another eight weeks of training for the Medical Corps, I was destined for a career as a medic. I chanced to learn, however, that there was a special MOS, or service, for men who had graduate degrees in the social sciences. I had just managed to earn a Master’s Degree in Economics before I was inducted. Naturally, I was interested. I didn’t really want to become a medic, so the question was how to get myself out of the Medical Corps and into this so-called “Scientific and Professional” service. My solution: I had managed to maintain a low profile during basic, and thus kept myself off the sergeant’s shit list. So when I told him that I had a terrible toothache, he allowed me to go off, he thought, to the dental clinic, but in reality, to the personnel office. I was received there by a sympathetic fellow draftee, who put me on the roster to receive orders appropriate for “Scientific and Professional” people such as myself. Just as my basic training concluded, the Korean War came to an end.
In due course, orders came through, and I was transferred to Fort Lee in Northern Virginia, where I found myself in congenial company with light duties. My first assignment was to join a small group whose job was to survey the uniform preferences of WACS, the women soldiers of which there was a company at Fort Lee. The work consisted of collecting the WACS’ dirty uniforms for laundering and then delivering the cleaned uniforms back to them. I met some nice women in the course of this work, but the work itself was not so challenging as to cause brain fever. My next assignment was to tour a number of military installations to survey soldiers’ food preferences. Detailed analysis of the survey results revealed that soldiers preferred steak to K Rations.
After some months of this basic research, I yearned for something more interesting. At this point, I decided to capitalize on Fort Lee’s proximity to Washington. While at university just before my induction, my classmates had included two Army officers sent by the Pentagon to broaden their education, a major (later Brigadier General) and a Lt. Colonel (later full Colonel). Our graduate class was small, and we all became friends. I contacted one of them and, through his good offices, obtained an introduction to the Major at the Pentagon who was in charge of “Scientific and Professional” assignments. On leave, I met with this Major at the Pentagon and found him to be sympathetic to my request for change. There was a vacancy for an “Education Specialist” at Fort Monmouth in New Jersey. Would I like to be sent there? Wow! Fort Monmouth was a stone’s throw from NYC and family. So, shortly thereafter, I was ordered to report to Fort Monmouth.
There was only one hitch; when I got there I found out that they already had a surplus of education specialists. Accordingly, the powers that were assigned me to the Fort’s Personnel Office. My job there entailed maintaining the records of soldiers in several companies. Data for each soldier were entered on large IBM-type cards. Information recorded there included name, birthdate, inoculation, leave, medical, and promotion records, marital status, etc. Also included was a detailing of educational and military history, and even a listing of hobbies. This latter was a crucial link in my connection to the 7ASO. After several months of humdrum personnel work, our CO, a Captain, came through and ordered each of us to search through our files to see if we could find anyone with the skills called for on the list that he provided. The list detailed all the instruments of a symphony orchestra.
I was electrified. My musical accomplishments were modest, to be sure. I had taken up the cello just before college, and while I took lessons throughout my undergrad and graduate school years, my cello playing was always a sideline. At best, my achievements did no more than to place me into the ranks of so-called “intermediate” players. Naturally, I inquired why we needed to find musicians. I was then informed of the existence of an Army orchestra in Germany that needed replacements. The Pentagon was behind the efforts to provide them. Keyed up with this knowledge, I ventured to approach the CO, a rather disdainful and austere officer, with whom I had had no prior dealings. I told him that I was an amateur cellist and asked if I could put my name on the list. “Certainly not,” he said, “we need you here.” And that seemed to be the end of it. Yet the idea of this orchestra haunted me. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. So, a week later, I screwed up my courage and approached him again. I was just beginning the conversation when he was called to the telephone. It was the Pentagon. They wanted to know how many musicians he had identified. He had to say that he hadn’t found any, but evidently feeling under some pressure to deliver, he added that he had this one soldier who could play the cello, but they couldn’t spare him. I didn’t hear the other side of this conversation, of course, but I have to infer that it was a superior officer, because my name got on the list. The CO, however, was angry for having had his hand forced, and he regarded me as disloyal for wanting to get out of his unit. So he transferred me to a grungy job processing incoming soldiers, making new dog tags, etc. Well, several months passed and nothing happened.
I mastered the dog tag machine and got quite good at punching smutty messages on tags for appreciative friends. But it was boring. I had forgotten all about the orchestra when, to my surprise, around April ’54, orders came for me to ship to Stuttgart. I soon found myself on an ocean transport, along with dozens of percussionists and trumpeters. The roster included four cellists, Tom Wiand, me, and two others. Gene Becker was also aboard. It was an uneventful trip, except that near the outset someone mixed all the ship’s sugar with the salt.
On arrival at Patch Barracks, another surprise! They didn’t need four cellists. We had to audition. This took care of almost all the trumpeters and percussionists. They were farmed out to companies somewhere else within the then-U.S. Zone of Germany. When my turn came to play for Jim Dixon and Ken Schermerhorn, the cello part of the Hebrides Overture was placed before me. My performance could only charitably be termed catastrophic. Jim Dixon was very nice about it and, seeing my very earnest wish to be accepted, held out a ray of hope. The orchestra’s clerk, the one who handled all the leave records, etc. was about to be rotated out of the service. A replacement was needed. They noted that while I couldn’t play the cello worth a damn, I could type and, having been born in Vienna, I could speak German – two skills that proved sufficient to overcome my shortcomings in the cello division.
And so, I was allowed to stay on. In time, I made friends and was even able to worm my way into the back of the cello section, where I kept a low profile and played softly. My greatest regret from this experience is that my time in the orchestra lasted only nine months. The greater part of my two years was consumed in other assignments. And now, my friends from this golden time are almost all gone - Gene Becker, Stanley Plummer, Ken Schermerhorn, Ron Valpreda, Abby Mayer, Jake Berg, Dave Newman, and now Al Gove and Lyle Wolfram. In 1954, I was 25. Now I’m 87. My cello playing has improved somewhat in the intervening years, and I play in an amateur chamber orchestra. No audition was required!
Getting to the 7ASO
Drafted at the end of June 1953, I did eight weeks basic training in the 10th Infantry Division at Ft. Riley, Kansas. During those eight weeks, friends in the 10th Div. Band whom I'd known in civilian life came for me one day, taking me to meet Warrant Officer Ostrom for an interview. The band already had other violinists (clashing cymbals or banging bass drums), so I had the possibility of joining them after the 8-week basic period.
Ostrom started by telling me his "history" as former 1st trumpet of the Philadelphia Orchestra. I had come from Denver, and responded that Denver Symphony conductor Saul Caston (née: Sol Cohen) had been Philly's 1st trumpet and ass't. conductor from 1923 until becoming DSO conductor in 1945, and that his former Curtis pupil Sam Krauss had taken his place - so where did Ostrom fit in?
Needless to say, not only did Ostrom not take me into the band, but he refused to put me on the Pentagon request list for eligible musicians for the 7ASO that brought so many players to Stuttgart in April '54.
Meanwhile, other friends in C & A (classification and assignment) rescued me from radio school, getting me a spot as an OJT (on the job) company clerk in the 10th Recon company. With this came the freedom of being able to wear civvies and go into town even though I'd not completed 16 weeks of basic. In December '53 a levy crossed my desk for someone with my MOS needed at Ft. Meade, Md. The CO allowed me to put my own name on orders transferring me to 2nd Army Hq. at Ft. Meade. I wrote them with a delay en route so that I could see parents and friends in Denver.
My plane to Wash. DC stopped in Chicago where a full bird colonel sat down next to me (I was wearing civvies). He noted that I had a violin case and that I was reading a science fiction magazine. He remarked that he was also a SF fan and, upon my asking, said that he was in officers personnel in the Pentagon! I proceeded to regale him with my sad inability to get on orders for the 7ASO. He gave me his card, telling me to contact him as soon as I got settled in Ft. Meade. Bingo! in a week or two, I arrived at the Pentagon, wearing civvies so I wouldn't wear my arm out saluting. After sending me a mile down the hall to a colonel in enlisted personnel, my new-found friend told me to come back and have lunch with him. The enlisted personnel colonel not only put me on orders to "this here sympathy band," but he changed my MOS to bandsman/violin, thereby ensuring I wouldn't end up doing something else. I arrived a little after the big migration in time to play in Jim Dixon's last concert.
My leaving the orchestra is told in half a chapter beginning on pg. 96 of John Canarina's book Uncle Sam's Orchestra: Memories of the Seventh Army Symphony.
More Time Off Than Anybody in the Whole Army
3/27/99, Myron Rosenblum
During 1958, the 7ASO made a tour to the northern cities in Western Germany. One of the more important concerts was in the beautiful concert hall of the radio station in Hamburg. This large hall was multi-tiered with steep rises and had fine acoustics. The concert seemed to have been an important one as the audience was filled with top US and German military brass as well as civilians. During a moment of delicate silence, one of the brass players (probably trumpet) sitting on the top tier accidentally dropped his mute. We sat in frozen silence as the mute dropped from tier to tier and made a reverberating and loud clanging noise until it reached the bottom level of the hall. Then the concert resumed.
Immediately after the concert ended, we were all back stage packing up when I noticed a colonel talking animatedly to our escort officer. The good colonel was in the audience and was livid at our very unmilitary conduct during the concert. Not only was the dropping of the mute poor military protocol but he was furious at something else. He was watching the men on the orchestra carefully and noticed that not everybody was playing all the time. From time to time, the orchestra members would put down their instruments and were "taking breaks." This infuriated him further and he loudly proclaimed something to the effect - "THESE MEN HAVE THE EASIEST JOB IN THE WHOLE DAMNED ARMY WITH ALL THIS TIME OFF WHILE THEY WORK."
During one of our characteristically infrequent and short visits to Patch, the orchestra was required to attend a re-enlistment pitch at the end of which Larry Thies, 'cello, brought down the house by loudly burping out "RE-UP."
The attending brass were not amused, but I don't recall them making any attempt to punish Thies.
Don MacCourt (Bassoonist supreme) took the stage one night with his reed in his mouth. Overheard at the reception following the concert was an Army Major dressing our Lt. Hord down for allowing his men to come onto the stage smoking cigars.
Strategic Retreat by Lt. Ortiz-Torrez
Escort officer Lt. Benjamin Ortiz-Torrez (do not call me Benny) was seldom seen in civilian clothes. His well kept uniform and Latin temperament often attracted the attenion of the young ladies. I think it was in Kaiserslautern about 1955 where one young lady asked him to dance. As soon as they got onto the dance floor, she pulled a string on something and stood there resplendent in her underpants. Benny beat a hasty retreat.
The Abduction of Lt. Ortiz-Torrez
(1955): The orchestra bus pulled off to the side of the Place de la Concorde and parked. The occasion was an evening of recreation in Paris. In charge was our combat veteran escort officer, Lt. Benjamin Ortiz-Torrez (do not call me Benny).
This evening he was wearing a particularly splendid dress uniform and was the very picture of a dashing, handsome officer. He was spotted immediately by two well dressed ladies of the evening who were strolling by.
Benny (oops, - Lt. Torrez) finished his speech about how we were to behave ourselves and told us to be sure to be back by 3 a.m. He turned and stepped out of the bus. He was then literally scooped up by these two women, who started dragging him down the avenue.
"Help fellows - save me!" he cried (grinning from ear to ear). We all pretended not to hear.
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Exit Lines (I)
7/7/98, Ron Rhodes
(1955): The time came when each of us left Patch Barracks for the last time. Most of us had something to say at that time.
Lloyd Greenberg came up with one of the most original and effective exit lines. He had been lying quietly on a bunk most of the morning. Then he remarked "Well, I guess I'll get up and go to America now." Rising, he picked up his kit and sauntered out the door.
Exit Lines (II)
As Sergeant Cloud sat in the car in front of Patch barracks, he asked the Captain (name withheld to protect the guilty), who was personally driving Cloud to the airport in Frankfurt, to wait just a moment.
As always, the Captain dutifully obeyed Cloud, and as Cloud looked out of the window of the car, pointing upward to the third floor (or was it the fourth floor) where the symphony was housed, in his usual mellow manner, he casually commented: "Captain, there have been many Captains before you, and there will be many after you, but there has only been one Cloud Crawford," at which time he summoned the captain to continue, and drive him to the airport.
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Get a Haircut!
9/17/98, Richard N. Rusack
I noted that the famous musicologist and beer drinker extaordinaire, Pogo Rayner, in one of his anecdotes mentioned his duck tail haircut. This immediately triggered this particular story.
Pogo (being the worlds' first hippie) (who else would wear argyle socks and sandals with his dress uniform for performances!) was walking into the barracks one day when he was accosted by a brand new CO (we went through them rapidly in those days..)
As I recall , this particular CO was a captain from a Ranger Battalion who had been sent to "shape up the orchestra". He yelled at Pogo, "Hey soldier"! Obviously Pogo wasn't a soldier, so he kept on walking. Again the CO yelled and again Pogo kept walking.
Finally, in desperation the CO walked up to him and tapped him on the shoulder. "Who, me? " Yes you!" Pogo said something flip like, "Oh, hi Captain." The CO by this time was not amused and screamed at him, "Get a haircut!" Pogo's reply was,"But captain, I don't need a haircut." "Oh yes you do." "Oh no I don't" said Pogo.
The CO scrutinized Pogo's head one more time and in desperation said, "Why don't you think you need a haircut?" Pogo said, "Because I just got one yesterday," and with that, turned and walked away leaving the CO muttering under his breath and scratching his head...
How I Obtained my Official "Authorized" Moustache
My first encounter with the 7ASO was in Würzburg. There we were preparing to go to the World's Fair in Brussels. On our return journey we stayed in various military establishments; some Belgian, some Luxembourgian, some French, and of course some American. I noticed that some of the American enlisted personnel sported moustaches. I thought that was so "swell;" we didn't say "Cool" in those days. When I asked why we in the 7ASO weren't wearing any moustaches I was told they were not allowed. I suppose I asked the wrong person?
After forgetting the subject for a few weeks a miracle happened. A very dapper cat showed up at Patch one day. He was elegant with his pipe in hand, violin case in the other, and YES he had a real "groovy" moustache. He was PFC Larry Frost and had just transferred in from one of those "other" companies where 'staches were allowed. I figured that if Frost has a 'stache then so can Thomason.
Quite secretly I began to grow a moustache. We did some runout concerts from Stuttgart and little by little the thing started to take shape, albeit pretty weird looking for a while. Then Lt. Hord noticed it and at first thought it was funny. "You're going to have to cut that thing off you know." Word got out so, I suppose in support, a whole bunch of the other "cats" started growing 'staches too. Some of them were hilarious; one fellow's grew upwards into his nose.
After a while the peas hit the fan and we had a "meeting" on the company street, Lt. Hord presiding! "By tomorrow morning at 0600 hours there will be no unauthorized moustaches in The 7th Army Symphony." Of course I panicked. I went up to Larry Frost and asked him how he got his 'stache "authorized." He told me that the I.D. card (that little green job we had to carry around all the time) had to have the moustache on your mug so that when anyone asked to see it you would be one and the same person.
What to do? Somehow my green card mysteriously disappeared, just like that. The only thing I could do was to go to that little office on post and tell the guy there that I somehow lost my card; would he be so kind as to issue me a new one(?) "Sure, but you will have to get a photo taken." "No problem," I said.
The next morning at 6:00 AM we were all in formation. Lt. Hord was very pleased that the fellows had complied and were properly shaved, until he spotted me. "THOMASON, I thought I told you that there will be NO unauthorized moustaches in the 7th Army Symphony." "But Sir, mine IS authorized, see." He was not amused.
We were dismissed only to have to make another formation later in the day, Lt. Hord presiding. "Men, listen up. There are only two authorized moustaches in the 7th Army Symphony...Frost's and Thomason's. Dismissed."
I have been wearing my moustache ever since those days; can't part with it now.
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There is a peculiar military tradition to inspect its members, especially of the lower ranks. What this ritual has to do with waging war, remains a mystery. At the outset, the 7ASO was subjected to this ritual.
No sooner had we settled into our barracks than some husky sergeant yelled at us to be ready for inspection first thing the next day. What follows is an insight into the mentality of our musician-soldiers. One response to the upcoming inspection was Allen Gove's. Allen polished his cello case for the occasion and stood it at the head of his bunk. He then dressed the cello case in full military regalia, from a crumpled hat under a steel helmet, to boots and shoes mixed. In between were regulation shirt, jackets and trousers, wrinkled, not according to military standards. The next day, the shouting sergeant shouted the coming of the inspecting officer. The "inspector", stiff-necked and erect, walked up and down the rows of bunks saying nothing until he reached Allen's bunk. He stared at this object even more silently. He stared incredulously into this mummified cello case. Allen had festooned his military cello with decorations, jumbled rank, a belt that hung below the belt and from which hung a canteen and bayonet. The cello was evidently ready for combat. In silence, we watched the lieutenant digest what stood in front of him. We in turn tried desperately not to laugh. "What is that?" the lieutenant asked the sergeant. The sergeant turned to Allen and asked "What is that?". Straight-faced, Allen replied, "A cello". To which the sergeant replied, turning to the lieutenant "A cello". "A cello?" said the lieutenant. "What is that?" shouted the lieutenant. "What is that?" shouted the sergeant. To which Allen replied "A cello, sir, is a cello". At that point, pandemonium broke out. In a split second, the entire barracks roared with laughter, as the lieutenant stormed out of the barracks, followed by the sergeant, who let us know of his vast command of four letter words. We never saw the lieutenant again.
The Festival of 1954
5/27/98, Ron Rhodes
The 1954 festival consisted of many events: a ballet evening, a GBS play, chamber music, an organ concert and programs by several different symphony orchestras. One of the main events was a fully staged Beethoven's Fidelio, in two performances.
The 7th Army Symphony played for the ballet company (from the National Opera of Paris), performed their own symphony concert and was the orchestra for Fidelio. We were there for many days, and there was a lot of rehearsal.
The scene was the Nibelungenhalle in Passau. We were well into the rehearsal of Copland's El Salon Mexico. Clarinetist Lloyd Greenberg had just begun a raucous and shrill solo. At that moment, the doors to the rehearsal room flew open and the entire city council of Passau strode into the room. The 7ASO had been to previous Passau festivals, but apparently they wanted to hear just what it was they had engaged for the performances. They seemed to be in some kind of shock. Maybe they had never heard Copland before. At any rate, they were not happy.
Maestro Schermerhorn stopped the rehearsal while introductions were made. Their spokesman (perhaps the mayor of Passau, but it's hard to remember details from so long ago) indicated they would like to hear the Leonore Overture #3. I guess they figured if we could play that they didn't have to worry about the Fidelio performance.
Sgt. Schermerhorn explained to them that we had little time left to rehearse the Copland and really needed to continue with it. There was an awkward silence, and then the Mayor (or whoever) firmly declared "BITTE, die Leonore!" End of discussion. There was nothing for it. We assembled the Beethoven orchestra and began the Leonore #3.
During my time in the orchestra, I was impressed by its ability to rise to an occasion. If we ever needed some quality playing, this was the time. Let's call it a triumph of eternal art, or perhaps Beethoven himself. The stern expressions of the council softened when the first chords seemed appropriately profound. By the time Jake Berg began the flute solo, it was apparent we had the council on our side. The overture came to its triumphant conclusion, to applause and smiles all around. The day was saved, just as Florestan was saved by the trumpet call!
From that time, I do believe we could have played poorly and no one would have cared. As it was, the festival was a success, and the 7ASO was not the least of the events.
Passau Trivia from 1954
Our quarters in Passau were in a former orphanage, just off the banks of the Danube. We often stayed in quarters that could be described as "rustic", but this was unique because we all slept in bunks designed for children. The mattresses were made of straw. A few extra beers at night were required for proper rest.
The famous and dramatically critical trumpet call near the end of Fidelio is usually played off stage. Since the Nibelungenhalle wasn't exactly state of the art, we found that the call sounded pretty good when played from the latrine directly in back of the orchestra pit.
Passau Fidelio Chorus, 1954
The tale I recall from the 1954 Passau Festival was Ken Schermerhorn's first rehearsal of the final scene of Fidelio, where the released prisoners give thanks to the governor, Leonore, et al, with a rousing chorus that begins, "HEIL! HEIL!." Only it came out "Heil...Heil." Kenny looked at the chorus with a mixture of scorn and amusement, and told them dryly, "It's OK; you can say it now"!
The Festival of 1953
I was in the Passau '53 orchestra -- which was a scene-and-a-half, like
when the Black Watch pipe corps showed up at "our" Gasthaus the evening
after they played -- and when we played Orff's "Die Kluge" on one week
of rehearsals with a German conductor -- and the tenor fell off the
barrel on which he was warbling the German equivalent of
"cock-a-doodle-doo," sending the barrel crashing down the dozen or so
steps from the stage into the pit (the venue seemed to have been an old
Reichshalle) -- right between the first cello (was it one of the Serbagi
brothers?) and the harp -- and so on.
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