June 4, 2019
Today was a day that I never, ever dreamed of. We had an afternoon of leisure time in Paris, which was nice after such a long rehearsal day. During dinner, we heard heavy rain, clapping thunder, and intense hail. Our concert that evening was of course…outside. This storm ended quickly and we luckily were able to salvage a beautifully cool night in the city. The bus drove us to our concert venue, and our jaws dropped. At the end of the Champ de Mars, right in front of the Ecole Militaire, were 200 chairs, a podium, and trucks unloading percussion. Our stage was at the end of the park of the Eiffel Tower. It was picture perfect and none of us could really believe that we were going to play our program under the shadow of the symbol of Paris.
Colonel Gabriel was so generous with his time, allowing us to take photographs with him on the podium before the concert. Because of the storm, the sky was setting so beautifully, and I was trying as hard as I could to stay in the moment and soak in what was about to happen. I have amazing friends who traveled to Paris to see these concerts take place, and it was truly the most special feeling to look into the audience and see their faces. Amazingly enough, Mr. and Mrs. Reveley (McCarthy Band Parents!) were coming through Paris this week, and the concert lined up with their travels. I was able to catch up with them before the concert, which was so nice. Band is everywhere!
The concert began with the American and French national anthems. I was overwhelmed at the start of the concert. I ended up being moved to the front seat, to the left of the Colonel. I was able to watch him intently, and I tried to capture mental pictures of this event. How many times in my life would I ever be able to play a concert, 4 feet away from Colonel Gabriel, at the Eiffel Tower?
We played through our program, which includes marches such as the National Emblem, The Longest Day, and Colonel Bogey. We’re also performing American film classics, such as Hollywood movie medleys and “Hymn to the Fallen” by John Williams. Hymn to the Fallen was difficult to play while watching Col. Gabriel. However, the Carmen Dragon arrangement of “America, the Beautiful” makes me lose it every time. There were moments of that piece that I could barely play because of the emotional climax of the piece. Watching Col. Gabriel conduct it with a wide smile and incredible passion is a memory that I will hold with me forever. Here are some of the photos of this amazing day.
June 5, 2019
Today was a transfer day between Paris and Normandy. We were able to stop in two French towns, Rouen and Honfleur. Rouen houses a cathedral that was badly damaged in the war, and it is still undergoing efforts to restore it to its original beauty. It was amazing to be able to see it from the outside, and even more so on the inside. The town itself was incredibly charming, with lots of shops and restaurants. Definitely a place to come back to!
After Rouen, we ended up in Honfleur, a seaside town with an old harbor and an AMAZING cathedral, St. Catherine’s. It is France’s largest timber church, and the coolest thing about it is its double nave (two main aisles going down the middle!). It was humbling to walk inside as well. We were told that the architecture was inspired by naval shipbuilding, which makes sense for a harbor town!
Now, we are checked in at our Normandy hotel. Our big day is tomorrow- THE reason why we are here! We’re participating in a wreath laying ceremony at the 29th infantry division monument, processing a mile down the beach toward the Omaha Beach D-Day Memorial, where we will give our concert. I am emotionally and mentally preparing for a day that will certainly be life-changing. I cannot wait to tell you all about it!