It wasn’t lost on anyone who attended the annual German-American Friendship Concert in downtown Kaiserslautern Oct. 3, that the date coincided with the anniversary of the reunification of East and West Germany.
Approximately 600 German and American attendees, both military and civilian, packed the Kaiserslautern Fruchthalle to hear the U.S. Army-Europe Band and Chorus play for almost two hours. But the concert was just the catalyst, as it has become the largest community relationship building event for the garrison.
“This concert helps to build bridges between our communities as it is a symbol of friendship,” Col. Jason Edwards, USAG RP commander, told the packed hall during his opening remarks. “Most importantly, this is our opportunity to say thank you to this great city that provides a home-away-from-home to our Soldiers, civilians and families.”
The Lord Mayor of Kaiserslautern, Dr. Klaus Weichel, echoed Edwards’ sentiment of the concert being a bridge to friendship.
“It is great to continue this tradition of having this friendship concert on Oct. 3. I appreciate this special gift from the U.S. Army on our Unification Day. This proves our German-American friendship,” he said.
Local dignitaries were invited and the public cued up two hours before the free public tickets were scheduled to be given out at the German-American Community Office in downtown Kaiserslautern. The almost 500 tickets were gone within an hour, setting a Friendship Concert record.
“This year’s concert showed the deep friendship between our two nations. Whether on stage or in the audience, we could feel the positive spirit that was flowing through the Fruchthalle at Kaiserslautern,” Ralf Hersina, mayor of Sickingenstadt Landstuhl said.
The first half of the show was made up of German and American traditional music, even switching out conductors from Maj. Randall Bartell, commander of the USAREUR Band and Chorus, to Hauptmann (Captain) Wolfgang Dietrich, German Army Music Band from Koblenz, as each nation’s music was played.
The energy, enthusiasm and audience participation was ramped up after intermission as the chorus opened up with back-to-back Motown hits, followed by an Elvis Presley hit. Germans feel close to Presley after “The King of Rock and Roll” was stationed in Friedberg, Germany, at the height of his popularity in 1958-59.
“The idea of getting connected, especially through music, was present at all times. I personally feel friendship by and for the Americans, who are stationed here and work here,” said Sigfried Doll, Gruenstadt chief of police.
When the first guitar notes of the popular German song “Tage wie diese” began, the largely German audience cheered as if at a soccer game, held lighted cell phones above their heads and waved their arms back and forth while singing along in their native language.
“I was thrilled about this concert. But that’s what I am used to hearing from the USAREUR Band, they are always great. I have seen them several times already,” said Bernd Alsfasser, mayor of Baumholder Union Community. “I also liked the fact that there were some musicians from the German Bundeswehr. This really emphasizes the German-American friendship.”
As the audience filed out of the Fruchthalle, several happy concert-goers could be overheard saying they will make sure to be in line early on the day tickets become available for next year’s performance.