Marine, Japanese bands in tune for Okinawa concert
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Members of the III Marine Expeditionary Force Band here have been practicing for more than a month for an upcoming annual concert with their Japan Ground Self-Defense Force counterparts.
The III MEF musicians will join the JGSDF 1st Combined Brigade Band Oct.21 for a 10th annual “Combined Concert” at the Ginowan Convention Center, according to Chief Warrant Officer 2 Benjamin Bartholomew, officer in charge of the III MEF Band. The two-hour concert will begin at 7 p.m. but Bartholomew recommended arriving about 30 minutes early because parking is limited. About 1,500 are expected to attend, he said.
About 65 musicians will be on stage throughout the night, said Bartholomew, who will be conducting his fourth combined concert here.
“Even if you’re not a classical fan, you’ll really enjoy the music,” he said. “You can expect to see a world-class performance from a professional wind ensemble, which isn’t that easy to come by. There are very few large wind ensembles of this caliber in the world.”
Bartholomew added that it’s a “very rare opportunity” for his Marines to play with musicians from another country. “This is great for them,” he said. “Musically, they challenge each other. There’s more attention to detail … when they sit down next to each other, the bar gets raised.”
Bartholomew said he also enjoys the annual concert because he can select music he normally wouldn’t choose for the III MEF band alone.
The band has been preparing for the concert for about a month, Bartholomew said, and has had one rehearsal with the 1st Combined Brigade Band. A second and final rehearsal is set for Wednesday.
Tuba player Lance Cpl. Jacob Kallash, who joined the band just a month ago, said he didn’t expect to be playing in such a concert so soon.
“I had no idea I’d be in Japan playing alongside Japanese nationals … it’s a good and welcomed surprise,” said the 20-year-old Marine of one year. “I’m a little nervous but I can play the music. I’ll just get lost in the music, keep my eyes on the director and everything else will take care of itself.”
Bartholomew wouldn’t disclose a great deal about the program but did say there would be some singing at the end, perhaps during an encore.
“I’m not going to give away the secret,” he said.
Dress for the concert is “open-collar casual,” Bartholomew said. Tickets to the free event are available at the III MEF Band Hall although Bartholomew said they are not required.