Air Force Featured Stories

AF Band performs new holiday flash mob

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Devon Suits
  • Air Force News Service
‘Tis the season where friends and family come together over a bountiful spread of food and drink -- the time of year where gifts are exchanged and memories and traditions are made. But it is also the time of year when the U.S. Air Force Band surprises the world with another musical flash mob.

This year’s performance, held at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center here, provided the perfect backdrop to the band’s commitment to positively impact the local community while reaching a worldwide audience through various online and social media platforms.

“Airman musicians are fortunate to serve our country in the Air Force by inspiring people through music,” said Senior Master Sgt. Robert Kamholz, the superintendent of band marketing and outreach. “The success of our first video is a testament to the power of music and the power of the U.S. Air Force.”

Giving a smooth and unexpected performance took a lot of meticulous planning and coordination, Kamholz said, so the band began preparing their winter surprise in July. The first steps were finding the location and scheduling the proper time in the band’s busy schedule.

Kamholz said the next step of the planning process was securing the rights to use the English lyrics for the songs “Greensleeves” and “Carol of the Bells.” With the publisher’s permission, the band was authorized to arrange the music as needed, perform it live, record the session and later release it.

After the selection was approved, Kamholz said the musicians in blue brought on retired Senior Master Sgt. Bob Thurston, the chief arranger from the 2013 flash mob at the Smithsonian National Air and Space museum in Washington, D.C.

“He wrote the one last year and he has the most experience writing these all-encompassing compositions,” Kamholz said.

From there, the music was taken through several read-through rehearsals and tweaked until the final composition was selected.

“Once the arrangement was completed, it was given to the instrumentalists and vocalists to practice and memorize,” said Lt. Col. Donald Schofield, the band’s director of operations. “The musical arrangement was modified slightly between each rehearsal to achieve the right balance between each musical line … For this year's video, there were four musical rehearsals at The U.S. Air Force Band's facility on Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C.”

The final practice included more than 100 military musicians and was held at the museum the night before the performance.

“Finally, some of our audio technicians and musicians served as videographers for the project,” Schofield said. “During the final dress rehearsal at the museum, they reacquainted themselves with the video equipment and practiced their camera angles while the audio crew adjusted their settings to achieve the perfect sound.”

According to band officials, the audio from the performance was recorded through more than 40 different wireless microphone channels and nine different cameras at various locations and angles.

“The Air Force is fueled by innovation and after the success of (our) viral flash mob video last year, we decided to expand upon that concept,” Kamholz said. “We use music to bridge language, cultural and societal differences.”

The nine reels were later edited to make up the final video. Once that was complete, the audio was then synced to the video, timing specific instruments’ audio during playback.

“There is an obvious tie between the Air Force and both of the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museums,” he said. “We’ve enjoyed partnering with them to demonstrate the U.S. Air Force Band’s commitment to upholding our mission in air, space and cyberspace.”

For more information about the U.S. Air Force Band, go to their official homepage.

(Charmaine Crutchfield contributed to this article)