Leave it to Harry Eichorn to come up with a concert that celebrates America while covering the gamut of music, from Dvorak to Irving Berlin and, of course, Ocean Grove’s sentimental favorite, John Phillip Sousa. Perhaps you are wondering what a wind ensemble is, and how is it different from a band. Well, there’s not much difference, but “wind ensemble” tells you what to expect, while a band could be anything from the Foo Fighters to the Neptune High School Marching Scarlet Fliers.
I guess a wind ensemble contains musicians who blow into their instruments. This definition , or course, doesn’t hold up for the percussionists. After all, did you ever try to blow into a snare drum? But Harry Eichorn’s group of about 45 musicians and 35 choristers turned on the charm for an audience of mostly senior citizens, some of whom might have actually heard Sousa perform live when he conducted the Marine Band here back in the day. Harry looked great in his trademark pressed slacks and starched shirt. If he were running for office, he would win by a landslide, even if Lawrence Welk himself were on the ballot.
The concert was predictable with the veterans rising to their feet (those who could actually still stand) and clapping to the rhythms of their theme songs. As always, the smallest group to get up has the most unrecognizable song—the US Coast Guard. But I think that their song is the most beautiful. Sometimes only one or two Coast Guard vets stand. They should wear something special like a life vest. I get to stand with the U.S. Navy as they play Anchors Aweigh, but I wasn’t a warrior—-my weapon was a stethoscope, but I did get to wear an undrawn sword for dress inspections. I actually keep that sword in my OG bedroom in case a Barbary pirate were to invade my house. Yet I do feel proud getting up during this ritual which is always met with enthusiasm by the crowds that come to Harry’s patriotic musical tributes.
It really doesn’t matter what Harry plays—it will delight the folks, especially when a euphonium player sitting in the back, Ted Freeman, stands to announce the program using his 1940′s era radio voice. I wish, just once , that Ted would say, “”From out of the west with the speed of light and a hearty hi-yo Silver.”
The whole experience of going to a concert like this in Ocean Grove encompasses a lot more than Harry’s merry band digging into one old-fashioned medley after another. The unique ingredients that create that “old feeling” include the Great Auditorium itself, the sea breezes, patriotism, the town’s history, people sitting on the lawn, kids playing in the park, and the polite crowd lined up outside of Day’s.
The third piece on the program was the Liberty Bell March by Sousa. It is not well known, but Ted told us that it was played by the Marine Band at the inauguration of the last three US Presidents. So here is the US Marine Band playing the Liberty Bell March: