Military bands aren’t often considered cutting-edge. But the United States Air Force Band has officially gone viral with its first-ever flash mob. Last week, 120 Air Force musicians came together at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., surprising more than 400 museum guests with an impromptu performance. The resulting video — which was shot and edited by band members — has received more than 1 million views on YouTube as of Tuesday.
“We were hoping for 100,000 hits,” Col. Larry Lang, commander and conductor of The United States Air Force Band tells Yahoo Shine, noting that he is surprised by the overwhelmingly positive response from around the world.
The challenge with the mob format was building the music from a single instrument to 120, says Lang. The score — which included original treatments of two pieces, “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” by Johann Sebastian Bach and “Joy to the World”— took two months to write and the musicians received the final pieces to memorize just over a week before the flash mob gathered. “We wanted mature and beautiful quality music,” says Lang. The band members practiced the score only three times as a group before the live performance, and, according to Lang, they really had no idea if it would work until the final dress rehearsal the night before. “We were concerned that the massive nature of the museum would make it impossible to play together,” says Lang, who has been a bandleader in the Air Force for 24 years and the conductor of the U.S. Air Force Band for nearly two. Another hurdle was figuring out where to hide 120 musicians. To help blend in, the musicians wore coats over their uniforms prior to the performance, to look like museum visitors, and just before they started playing, members of the United States Air Force Honor Guard exchanged coats for instruments for each musician.
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The performance went off without a hitch and, Lang says, he was thrilled to see that the music made an impact on the audience. "There were people in tears who came up to us to tell us they were moved by the performance," Lang tells Yahoo Shine, adding that the musicians spent nearly an hour after the performance talking to audience members who had gathered on the museum floor. “The flash mob is a microcosm of what we do every day,” he says. “It’s a medley of two pieces of music that represent excellence and quality and the kind of men and women who serve in our Air Force every day all over the world.” The band came up with the idea of doing a flash mob in June, says Lang, in part because budget cuts have limited the amount of advertising the band can have for its public performances.
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The U.S. Air Force Band is hoping to keep the momentum going with the release of 15 new music videos for the holiday season. The videos feature the band playing classic Christmas carols, including “Jingle Bells” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” One song will be released daily on the band’s Facebook page every day until December 25.