Here is the Marine Band getting ready for a Kiddie Concert.
They are practicing. They are playing Mozart's First Symphony.
Mozart was 8 years old when he wrote his First Symphony.
The children are late. Their bus broke down. They come from Rollingwood School in Chevy Chase. Finally some children arrive and sit on the floor. The musicians wear scarlet uniforms, like the flags on the Marine Barracks' walls.
"These people are very good," says Sgt. Vincent Patterson. Sgt. Patterson is in the Public Affairs Office. "We have 50 trying out for every vacancy. So they are very good."
The band plays the Mozart symphony. Mozart never heard the Marine Band because it was formed in 1798. Mozart died in 1791. He would have liked it. The strings are crisp and the woodwinds are brisk. They are very good.
The children are not paying attention. During the National Anthem they slouch around and point at the soloists and take pictures with little cameras. Will someone teach them about the National Anthem?
Now the conductor, Capt. Timothy Foley, is showing all the instruments. The violins sing, the horns shout, the drums thump. The children listen better when they are being talked to. They like the "Muppet Medley." The class cutup talks with his cronies and takes pictures with his little camera.
Nine girls are chosen to be pompon girls for the "Mr. Touchdown U.S.A." number. Some girls wear jeans. One wears a monogrammed sweater. They wave their pompons. They laugh. Everyone is having a good time. Then comes the "Circus Polka." It is about elephants. It was written by Stravinsky, who lived much longer than Mozart. He lived so long he surely got to hear the Marine Band. An elephant puppet dances on the stage. The children point. The class cutup lies on his back and talks to his cronies.
The late bus load of children arrives during "Tubby the Tuba." This is the smallest crowd of the season, Sgt. Patterson says. "Usually we get 200 or 300 kids." The concerts are held every fall because the band is not so busy playing at the White House then. There are two more concerts this year, Wednesday and Thursday. "Schools can call the public affairs office," says Sgt. Patterson.
The Marines designed this program just for the children. They also give out booklets about the flag.
At the end they play "Stars and Stripes Forever" by John Philip Sousa. The band always plays something by John Philip Sousa. He was their most famous leader. He was the director from 1880 to 1892. The director now is John R. Bourgeois.
The children have heard "Stars and Stripes Forever." Everyone has heard "Stars and Stripes Forever." The band could play it in its sleep. But no one is sleeping now. At the climax, the whole brass section stands up in a row and blares away like Armageddon. Kapow. Everyone has heard it before. Yes. But it still lifts the top of your head off.