Air Force Band surprise museum guests with holiday flash mob

by the United States Air Force Band
Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington D.C.

band-flashmob1It’s rare for 120 members from the United States Air Force Band to gather in one place when not performing in front a knowing audience, but that’s exactly what has happened Dec.3. The band partnered with the National Air and Space Museum, in Washington D.C., to host the first ever holiday flash mob.

Some musicians were excited, some leery and all wondered how they could pull off this instrumental (no pun intended) feat. The band entered the museum the night before and rehearsed not only the original arrangement of “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring/Joy to the World”, but also practiced how to appear inconspicuous while moving around the crowds of tourists. Though the rehearsals went well, nothing could be fully visualized until the actual event.

The project’s brain child and the band’s producer, Chief Master Sgt. Jebodiah Eaton said, “I wanted to produce the flash mob at a recognizable location in Washington, D.C. When the National Air and Space Museum agreed to partner with us, we knew it would be the perfect setting to kick off our holiday concert series.”

The day of the event, the band unloaded from five buses and discretely hid, their uniforms and instruments behind trench coats and walked to their assigned spots in the museum. A chair placed perfectly in the center of the rotunda sat unused until a lone cellist carried his instrument through the spectators, and masterfully ran the bow over the strings, which signaled his fellow band members to join in one-by-one.

As of Dec. 9, the Air Force’s flash mob video has been viewed more than 840,000 times. From the eyes of the band, here’s the timeline:

Flash Mob rehearsalDec. 2, 6 p.m.

The members of The United States Air Force Band are back from Thanksgiving, and ready to get in the holiday spirit with our first onsite flash mob rehearsal at the National Air and Space Museum. Some members busily work on final memorization of their music for the performance. Others marvel at the novelty of being in a museum after hours. Everyone is excited. The night progresses and rehearsal goes smoothly. Space is a bit tight with the number of performers, and many musicians wonder what they’ll do if a spectator is in their place when it is time to perform. No flash mob can possibly go exactly as planned—read on to see how ours turned out!

Dec. 3, 7:45 a.m.

The National Air and Space Museum is closed, and it’s time for the final rehearsal of the flash mob. After checking the sound and recording equipment, the Band successfully runs what will hopefully be a stunning performance at noon!

Dec. 3, 11:20 a.m.

Five buses arrive outside the National Air and Space Museum. Musicians file off, attempting to conceal their instruments and uniforms under civilian coats. As they enter the museum, they quickly make their way into designated “hiding spots.” Many take the escalator downstairs to the parking garage below the museum. Here, musicians hand their instruments over to members of the United States Air Force Honor Guard who will keep them hidden until their exact entrance in the performance.

Dec. 3, 11:53 a.m.

The Air and Space Museum is buzzing with excitement. The United States Air Force Band members disguised in civilian coats roam the museum, acting as tourists. Observing a sign stating that there will be filming in the area, a group of tourists asks an employee what is being filmed. “Something big is happening in here in seven minutes—stick around!” the employee replies. A group of children speculate what the big surprise could possibly be. “I think they might be launching that rocket!” a young boy chimes. “Maybe we’ll get to try on a space suit!” The crowd noise heightens as the clock inches closer to noon.

Dec. 3, 12 p.m.

A man walks to the center of the museum carrying just one chair and places it in an open area. Nobody seems to notice. Suddenly, one cellist removes a civilian coat to reveal his ceremonial uniform. He sits down and begins to play “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” A few close spectators turn and begin to listen. The cellist is joined shortly by the Band’s commander and conductor, Col. Larry H. Lang, as well as a bassist and a handful of winds and strings who are each presented with their instrument by a member of the United States Air Force Honor Guard. The small group slowly turns into a mass of airmen musicians, each adding a new texture to the tune. From the balcony, two solo voices begin to float out over the crowds. They are joined by a host of singers lining the balcony railing. As “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” draws to a conclusion, the music changes. The tempo accelerates and as the key changes, a group of brass players in ceremonial uniforms sound a glorious fanfare from the balcony of the museum. This fanfare leads directly to a rousing rendition of “Joy to the World.” The music fills the National Air and Space Museum and lights the faces of the audience members. At the conclusion of the performance, the final triumphant brass chord lingers in the museum long after the musicians have stopped playing. The audience erupts into applause.

Immediately following the performance, Colonel Lang wished spectators a happy holidays and invited them to come forward and meet the members of the band. Airmen musicians showed children their instruments, talked to tourists, and wished all a happy holiday season. One young talented girl even took a seat to play a tune on Senior Master Sgt. Eric Sabatino’s harp. There was no denying it—the National Air and Space Museum was filled with the spirit of the season.

PHOTO 1: The  United States Air Force Band partnered with the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. to host its first holiday flash mob Dec. 3. (Courtesy photo)

PHOTO 2: The  United States Air Force Band perform holiday songs during a holiday flash mob Dec. 3 at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Tara Islas/Released)

You can view the video of the band’s performance here.

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Air Force Band surprise museum guests with holiday flash mob