End of the Journey for On the Road to Malmö


20110522-Malmo-0961Hard to believe that we arrived home from Sweden just one week ago today. MCV is already back in the regular summer season swing -two parades this weekend for Memorial Day and many more performances over the next several weeks in the Boston area.  So, it is with some sadness that we must close this latest MCV journey and our "On the Road to Malmö" blog.  


Thanks again to our gracious hosts the Royal Fire Brigade of Malmö and the City of Malmö for the invite.  A toast to all of our new found friends in the HMKG of Norway and other performing groups at the first Sweden International Tattoo. 



But as one door closes another is about to open.  Stay tuned for a new blog later this year that will chronicle our preparations for our next great journey overseas.  Until then, we wish all of our new and old friends a healthy and happy 2011.

George March, MCV Webmaster/Fifer


Breakfast in Sweden, Lunch in Denmark, Dinner in London, and Crashing in Boston!

WHAT A WEEK! From playing drums in Malmö Sweden, to dancing in Denmark, to avoiding volcanoes in Iceland; this week it seems I have seen it all!


Last Monday, May 16th, I set out on my first ever Tattoo performance with the Boston-based fife and drum group the Middlesex County Volunteers. I’ve referred to this group in earlier posts. For those of you who are not familiar with a Tattoo (neither was I before heading out on this one) it is a 3 hour, arena performance showcasing the talents of MILITARY based music from a variety of countries. These performances can include just music, music with an accompanied marching show, or sometimes dancers and stunt shows involving motorcycles and vehicles. It seems all of these elements came together in Malmö, Sweden this past week!



The trip started with some firsts, as this was the first ever time I flew through the country of Iceland. WOW. The area around the Reykjavik airport seems to be lifted from the moon landing videos. Crazy boulder fields surrounded by the most beautiful mountains. This is an amazing and exotic place I definitely MUST get back to. From Iceland, I departed to Malmö, Sweden. Malmö is Sweden’s second largest city and an amazing place to visit. I am absolutely in love with the feel, style, attitude, and overall lifestyle of Europe! The people and architecture combine for a truly romantic feeling.


Because of only being here for a week, rehearsals started almost immediately! Middlesex is one of the most professional groups when it comes to rehearsing and “getting it right”, so we spent a great deal of time running marching and moves. I never realized how sought after the group actually was until seeing the reactions from people from all over the world including Norway, Sweden, Scotland, and Germany.



The rehearsals culminated in three performances:  a parade and two shows showcasing our music and marching routines. It was such a thrill to get to march down the small road of Malmö performing for the local crowd. People totally dug our drum solo! The two Tattoo performances went equally well, even though I had a stick drop in front of 8,000 people. Good thing for those quick hands! You can check out the show from the live performance here.  I’m the snare drummer to the left of center in the video.




When not performing, I had the awesome opportunity to check out the sites in both Copenhagen and Malmö. I am TOTALLY in love with the seaport town of Copenhagen, which has a unique mix of old and new within the city. From the many shopping and party districts, to Tivoli (a huge amusement park in the middle of the city) Copenhagen really does “have it all” for everyone.

Malmö, while not quite as big a city, has its own hidden jewels. After doing a little online research I came across a club called Babel located in a renovated church. GREAT CHOICE! The place had great DJ’s and an attached concert hall showcasing some of Sweden’s best bands. Their tap beers also made my list.


After great times and performances, Iceland decided that it didn’t really want us to leave yet. The explosion of another Icelandic volcano almost extended our trip (which I don’t think would have been that bad =) Thanks to the great employees of SAS airlines, this wasn’t a problem as we was redirected through Heathrow.


To conclude, I feel absolutely honored to have been asked to perform and accompany the Middlesex County Volunteers on this trip. This is truly an extraordinary group composed of talented musicians who do it for THE LOVE OF THE MUSIC. All of them have “regular” jobs and choose to spend their free time making wonderful music with each other and, more importantly, sharing the music with the world.



Small thoughts, such as remembering my missed graduation from the New England Conservatory, all combine to show the true integrity or the group. Thanks again for the good times and memories and stay posted for next year, since I will be accompanying the group in Basel, Switzerland in 2012!



Rich Chwastiak, drummer




The Payoff

Let's face it.  Tattoo shows are a lot of hard work.  Hours and hours!  We civilians sacrifice our vacation time and time with our families to do a job for which we do not get personally paid!  So, why the heck would we do this?  It's all about the opportunity to travel and see new lands, to perform for new enthusiastic audiences, and making new friends amongst the rest of the cast members. Here, I think we really found our reward!  Not only did we have returning friends there from the Malmö Fire Brigade band and the Royal Regiment of Scotland, but we made a whole bunch more new friends in the charming and talented young folks in 249731_10100770527887783_5251247_69211041_6155427_n His Majesty the King's Guards Band and Drill Team from Norway.

 Even though their group is world famous and always spot-on in terms of performance, these young soldiers are only in the group for one year, so, as individuals, this was their first arena show!  We had a pretty lively mutual admiration society going as we watched each other warm up and rehearse.  

(^His Majesty the King's Guards [HMKG] Photo credit: Barbi Risken)
(>The tall and the short of it.  MCV's Barbi Risken and friends from HMKG.)


(His Majesty the King's Guards' drummers from Norway and MCV drummers pose before the last show.  Photo credit: Evan Hodges-LeClaire)

Drummers are kinda the same everywhere, I think, and drummers love to swap equipment and check out how it all works within the context of what they do.  We had lots to compare and admire with each other.   Jim
I know that many of the drummers were impressed with our clean performance.  Some even have said they found it inspiring!  What a great compliment!  It's one thing to play for the the paying audiences, but we know that the real folks in a position to fully embrace all aspects of what you accomplish are your peers.  They are the most critical audience.  We know how many hours it takes to make big long lines straight and all of the details fit exactly right.  So, when you see those qualities in others, you can't help but burst out into applause!  And there was a lot of cheering each other on the rehearsal floor and backstage.  There are those moments when you say to yourself, "Man, I know how hard that is to do and they just nailed it!"  I think it's a great energy we give each other. 

(^Director Jim MacConduibh with the drummers from the Band of the Royal Swedish Army and the Royal Swedish Navy Cadet Band. Photo credit: Carrie Geldart.)


(^MCV/HMKG snare drum bonding.  L-R Gerard Cortese/MCV, Lasse Thorgersen/HMKG, Trond Vambeseth/HMKG, Andrea Wirth/MCV.  Photo credit: Kate Bolcar)

I'm very proud of all my new-found friends.  Travel experience involves adopting bits of new cultures into your own.  This new patchwork quilt of my life will have lots of Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, and Polish bits in it.  I will carry you with me where ever I go!  I hope you'll remember us as well.  Tinybrokenheart

-Andrea Wirth, drummer


Truly an American Ambassador

First, introductions.  I am one of the newest members of MCV, having been invited to beef up the fife line for the Sydney Tattoo last year, and afterwards, having "drunk the punch", continued to show up and help out whenever I could.  I have been honored to be counted among the excellent musicians who comprise the fife line of MCV, and I look forward to continuing to support them and represent America whenever possible.

I speak of Ambassadorship.  Our soft-spoken, yet fearless leader, Jim MacConduibh, started us off on arrival in Malmö with the usual pep talk, reminding us that we are, and are expected to be, ambassadors of the United States.  For many whose paths we cross, we will be the first Americans they will meet.  First impressions being the most important, it was stressed to us to remember that whether we are in uniform, acting officially as members of MCV, or out of uniform, simply being ourselves, out and about town, we must remember we are representatives of our native land.  Good advice for any American traveling abroad.

That said, I was fortunate to have that opportunity during the intermission of our final performance on Sunday afternoon.  This was when our support staff (Huzzah!) was out in the public area amidst food, ice cream and beer vendors, selling our CDs and other MCV swag to any who were interested (conveniently, MCV was the last performing group before the finale in the first act, so we would be fresh in their memory).  They thought it would be a great idea to have uniformed members out at the sales table to attract attention, and to give the Swedes an opportunity to get up close and personal with the group.  For the most part, the Swedes were fairly shy about approaching us, but there was one interaction I had which I felt compelled to share via this blog.

I found myself the subject of the attention of a young boy of probably 10 years of age, along with another boy who was presumably his older brother.  We caught each other's eyes, and I smiled, not sure if the boy's English was good enough for us to actually converse.  It turns out we didn't need many words.  He was armed with a digital camera, and indicated that he would like to take my picture, so I posed for him.  He approached, and I shook his hand, and his shyness began to recede a bit.  He asked me, "Do you play for Obama?"  Touched by the sense of wonder in his voice, I had to reply sadly that no, we do not, but that we have some people who occasionally play with us who actually DO play for Obama.  I'm not sure he fully understood my answer.  He thanked me, then went back to his parents.  A few minutes later, the boys returned, and this time, our support people gave them small American flags to wave during the finale when we came out.  They were thrilled.  This time, there were more photos to be taken, and they took turns with the camera and posing with me, and I took the liberty of allowing them to wear my hat to be photographed.  I will never forget this moment:  The younger of the two took the first picture.  When I put my hat on his older brother, the boy's hand was visibly trembling as he took the picture.  The boys then traded places so the younger could have the opportunity to wear my hat.  The sense of wonder never left this boy's face.  I wish I had that picture.  After the photos were taken, the boys went on their way, but as they disappeared into the crowd, the younger boy turned back to me with a smile, and said, "We love America!"

"So do we!" I replied.  So do we.


-Chris Myers, MCV fifer

Seven Days in Malmö


MCV's first tour of Scandinavia was truly a whirlwind. We arrived on Tuesday, May 17th (after flying overnight from Boston) and started rehearsals early on May 18th. After morning rehearsal we had an excellent afternoon tour of Copenhagen and then an evening in Tivoli Gardens.  Rehearsals resumed first thing on Thursday and went all day until our first chance to march the actual Malmö Arena. Friday featured a Tattoo cast parade through downtown, afternoon rehearsals and then the first Tattoo Finale rehearsal.  Saturday was an all day affair (two rehearsal run-throughs of the entire 3.5 hour show) and then opening night! MCV played to a sold out house of 8,000 and we had a blast.  Sunday featured our second and last show and then it was to the airport on Monday to begin our long journey home.

MCV-HMKG-drum We made many new friends with the international cast members that hailed from throughout Europe and the UK. I wanted to give a special shout-out to our new friends in His Majesty the King’s Guard of Norway. Members of MCV and HMKG formed a great bond during our tour and we hope to see our Norwegian friends again in the not too distant future.

-George March, Fifer/MCV Webmaster

Attention to Detail

I'm soooo excited about being given the honor of representing the United States at the first Sweden International Tattoo in Malmö.  We've worked for months and months crafting the show and the performances.  Now is time to let all of that hard work pay off.  It's always intimidating because most of the other bands on the show are professional military bands.  Here we are, the Yanks, only doing this part-time, struggling to balance a 40-hour work week, plus our own studios and hobbies, and let's not forget our families and loved ones, trying to make it look as though we live and breathe this music every moment.  When you're talking about peers, these groups are the some of the best in the world.  So, to be a fife and drum corps, which is already pretty obscure, to be the sole US representation at the event is pretty extraordinary.  But hey, that's why we're all here.  We love to play music.  I'm really excited to meet some new drummer friends from Scandinavia.  Can't wait to put the show all out there for the world to see!



-Andrea Wirth, snare drummer

T minus 4 days and counting

  640x480_Malmo Arena, Sweden The MCV in Malmö team assembled State-side one last time the weekend of May 7 & 8 for an intenstive drill & music rehearsal in Bedford, MA.  We are ready to go (except for personal packing) and depart on Monday, May 16th.  Our performance home will be in the brand new Malmö Arena (see photo).  Stay tuned for many more postings once we arrive in Sweden!

For a quick online tour of our host city please visit their official website: Guide to Malmo

-George March, MCV Webmaster/Fifer

The Countdown to Sweden Has Begun

MalmoDrill-block MCV held an intense two-day music & drill rehearsal for our Sweden Show the weekend of April 16-17 in Bedford, MA.  Our full-time local members were joined by our remote performers from across the country (California, Wisconsin and Virginia), allowing the entire Tattoo cast to run the show as it will ultimately be presented in Malmo.
We finished the weekend off with Patriots Day parades in Concord and Lexington, MA.

Next up is our "Packing Party" on May 1st: the day that all of our uniforms, gear and drums are MalmoDrill-drumsalute
packed for freight shipment to Sweden. Then we will focus on our second and final Drill rehearsal weekend, to be held May 7-8.  Stay tuned for further updates after our May rehearsal weekend.

George March, Fifer/MCV Webmaster

Introducing the Performers in the Sweden International Tattoo


As we await the first signs of Spring and our big April Sweden Tattoo Drill Rehearsal weekend, here is a run-down of the other performing groups joining MCV at this year's Sweden International Tattoo:




  •  Royal Fire Brigade Band, Malmo, Sweden
  • Bands of the Royal Swedish Navy and Army
  • The King's Guards Band and Drill Team of Norway
  • Band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland
  • Malmöflickorna, Sweden
  • Central Band of the Polish Army
  • Polizei Motorcykelshow, Germany
  • The Tenors (vocals), Denmark/Sweden
  • Brenna Conrad (vocals), Canada
  • Helsingborgs Koncert Hall Choir, Sweden
  • and many more local groups

Stay tuned for further updates as they become available.