IDYLLWILD, Calif. --
The Combat Center Band performed for approximately 1,500 Idyllwild, Calif., residents as a part of the town’s 11th annual Summer Concert series, at the Idyllwild Community Center, Aug. 19.
Though the summer concert remains a tradition for the Combat Center Band and the residents of Idyllwild, the performance was anything but routine.
During the past several months, the Combat Center Band has welcomed a new band officer as well as many new musicians.
“We have a lot of new talent, and they are meshing well with what we already had,” said Gunnery Sgt. Richard Nunley, the enlisted conductor with the Combat Center Band.
The band’s music selection has seen a change as well.
The band still performed many patriotic classics such as “Stars and Stripes Forever,” “God Bless America” and the “New Colonial March,” but added pop-culture classics including “The Blues Brothers Review” and “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder, and a selection of songs from the Big Band Era.
During the second half of the performance, as the jazz ensemble’s melody persuaded a few residents out of their chairs to dance, the lights and PA system lost power, leaving the entire park in the dark.
The crowd cheered wildly as the Marine musicians disregarded their sheet music in the near-total darkness. From memory, the show went on.
“When the lights went out, I thought, ‘Well here we go,’” said Cpl. Nick Tritz, a French horn player for the Combat Center Band. “I was leaning in to see the music, and I couldn’t see a thing.”
The band didn’t miss a beat as audience members with flashlights rose to the occassion and provided lighting for the drum line.
“The concert was exciting. People were out digging in their cars for flashlights, to give the band a little light, and people were laughing and dancing,” said Sonya Callahan, a resident of the mountain town for more than six years. “We love the Marines. Even if we don’t go to any of the other[concerts] we always come to this one, and I’m glad we did.”
And just as the Marines assumed the proper finger placement on their instruments for the next song, the lights flickered on. Staff Sgt. Jeffery Higgs stepped up to the microphone.
“You thought you were coming to a concert in the park, but it’s really more like a concert in the dark,” the small ensemble leader said with a smile, receiving laughter from the audience and a few members of the Marine band.
“It’s great to play for the people that appreciate us, like the residents of Idyllwild.” said Tritz, as an elderly woman stuffed a pink box of cookies into his hands after the show.
The uniforms were as pristine as the music the band played that night, but when the lights went out, the music was all that mattered.