MCV am mym Rhy

Fifers warming up next to Rhine RiverIt is hard to believe that our farewell party in Basel was just two weeks ago.  MCV’s experience in the Basel Tattoo was phenomenal and we all miss our friends and the city of Basel itself. There were many experiences during our two week stay that I could write a book about, but this post will try to list just a few of my favorite moments.



MCV’s daily warm-up routine:  tuning up in the Kaserne was too noisy (tho we did do so during some of the rainy nights) so MCV headed down to the Rhine River, which was literally steps away from the venue.  The fifers took up residence on the pedestrian path with the drummers a bit further down under some shade trees.  We often ended up surrounded by dozens of passers by that stopped to see what the heck was going on! This was a knowledgeble audience and it was reassuring to receive such positive feedback from the locals.
MCV drummers warming up There is a famous song “z’Basel am mym Rhy”, which loosely translates to Basel on my Rhine (River).  MCV were fortunate to have this experience first-hand.





MCV in the Basel Tattoo Cast BarBasel Tattoo Cast Bar: this was our first Tattoo that had a dedicated Cast Bar. It was just a dusty concrete room when we arrived but by opening night the space had been transformed into a sparkling Party Central for the 1,000+ performers.  Each night a different band would take the Cast Bar stage and show off some of their hidden talents not seen during the Tattoo.  Props to all the groups for entertaining the assembled masses.  MCV braved the stage one night and were received with open arms.


Making Friends: I’m sure this point was assisted by our ability to mingle with other groups at the Cast Bar, but this is the main pay-off for performing at Tattoos.  Where else would you get the opportunity to connect with musicians from Denmark, Finland, Russia, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland, Scotland, South Africa and the USA in one place?  And for the more adventurous souls, there were impromptu runs down to the Rhine to go swimming between shows.  MCV and DenmarkMCV and the Band of Flutes and Drums & Drill Team of the Royal Life Guards, Denmark, made a lasting bond, and a photo of our group photo on the last night of the Tattoo is posted here.  We hope to see our new friends again in the not too distant future.

The Roar of the Crowd: despite two shows per night, it was always a thrill to go through the gates of the Kaserne and out into the arena to perform for a sold-out house.  Our 7 minute set seemed to go by in seconds and was always well received by the 8,000 in attendance, whether the show was in the sun (early shows), the glow of the spotlights or in the rain (the show must go on…).  Always an honor.

Stuart Highlanders: our friends in the Stuart Highlanders Pipe Band did a terrific job for their first ever Tattoo and were well reviewed not only by the audience but also the production staff.  I am sure we will see the band back for other such events in the future.

That is it for me; it has been a great honor to participate in MCV’s latest overseas adventure.

-George March, Fifer/MCV Webmaster



Stuart Highlanders in Basel Tattoo

Stuart Highlanders in Massed Pipes & Drums



MCV marching out of the Kaserne


MCV Drum Feature


MCV exiting the arena

Basel Tattoo Finale - Full Cast

The Cast of the 2012 Basel Tattoo


Lone Piper at Basel Tattoo


Last Day in Basel

The Basel Tattoo for 2012 came to a successful end last evening after a very eventful run. We will have many stories and photos to share once we return home. The one photo with this story was taken this past Monday in Freiburg, Germany…our very own Andrea Wirth is posing with her Tattoo publicity shot on our bus.

George March, Fifer/MCV Webmaster

Last Day in Basel

Departure Day..minus Eis

Basel2012shirt-final-jpgToday is Departure Day, minus Eis (one) for MCV!  We get on a jetplane (OK, more than one) and arrive in Basel on Tuesday, 10 July.  I will be flying over this evening as the advance team and to meet up with our friends in the Stuart Highlanders, who will arrive in Basel tomorrow.   Please bookmark this blog and stay tuned for frequent updates once MCV arrives in Basel.  Our Basel Tattoo Bloggers will be:

  • George March, MCV Fifer/Webmaster
  • Chris Myers, MCV Fifer
  • Tom Vandervort, MCV Bass drummer
  • Andrea Wirth, MCV snare drummer

-George March, MCV Webmaster/Fifer


Temporary Locals

MCV is going to be in Basel, Switzerland for 16 days, which is longer than this corps has ever been in a non-English speaking country, assuming you don’t count Scotland :-D.  In addition to the alumni joining DSC_4953_2our ranks from within the USA, we have three folks who are local Baselers who will don the wig as well.  DSC_5107They have only limited rehearsal time with us in the USA and they must learn most everything on their own from afar.  We’ll show up on their doorstep in July and we’ll be joined together again as one team.  I suspect it will be a bit strange for them, marching in their own city while under the flag of another country.  They’ll be temporary foreigners in their own land.

The trick is that they transform into MCV members so well, that you don’t even notice that they haven’t been in rehearsal with us all of these weeks.  They just show up and make it happen.  This seems effortless, but, on the contrary, I know how much extra work these folks have to put in through self-motivation in order to assimilate with the group.  And, on top of all that, they are dealing with a different language and culture from their own, with its own politics and pitfalls. 

With this in mind, I, too, made a cultural exchange with Basel earlier this year.  Through our MCV DSC_5113Baselers, I was invited to play with a fife and drum corps in Basel (a Clique) called Déjà Vü, for their pre-Lenten festival called Fasnacht.  This annual festival involves hundreds of Cliques with thousands of fifers, drummers, brass bands, floats, poets, all scaring away winter in a non-stop 72-hour festival.  Oh, and did I mention it’s all done in costume with masks?  It’s social commentary though street performance on a very grand scale.  When you are going to play drums in a city with about 14,000 drummers, it’s always intimidating!  This is a highly-educated audience when it comes to the rope drum!

With this new identity, I did my best to become a temporary local Basler.  I worked hard to use my DSC_5075limited foreign language skills when I could as I knew it would be vital for an insider cultural experience.  I prepared on my own a completely new repertoire using equally logical but different drumming systems.  I tried to memorize a lifetime’s worth of common musical knowledge in a very short few months.  But, I had lots of help and encouragement from my Swiss friends and they were kind to give me a chance to join in the fun!  Through proper preparation, I felt successful that I had not completely embarrassed myself in my new group and might have actually made some music!


In the end I appreciated the dedication of our MCV remote members, both foreignDSC_5359 and domestic, much more.  I got to experience a group though a new set of eyes as a rookie, rather than a 20-year member, navigated the social scene in a foreign language, and learned valuable lessons about managing expectations from others and myself.  MCV Temporary Locals, ladies and gentlemen, my hat is off to you!  Together we will form a band and make music.  We will be, quite literally, the states united!

-Andrea Wirth, drummer


Photo credits: Michael Szkolka and Matthew Noell

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




MCV Live from Malmö!

MCV in concert in Malmö

MCV has successfully completed another tour and have returned from Malmö, Sweden safe and sound (despite a very big detour due to the volcanic eruption in Iceland!).  We had hoped to have frequent live blog postings from Malmö but due to the unique compressed tour time of this trip (6 nights on the ground) that was not possible. However, we will have blog postings from four different perspectives this week: from two MCV veterans (Andrea Wirth and George March) and by new members (Chris Myers and Rich Chwastiak).  Stay tuned for frequent updates this week.  Video coming this afternoon!


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.