The U. S. Army has its Own Praise Band? By Pr. Rossow

The morning news shows will often feature military bands on patriotic holidays. This weekend the U.S. Army is celebrating a birthday and true to form the morning show on Fox News featured a military band. Only it wasn’t a marching band, it was a pop band much like a church praise band and it really did not fit the occasion.

I don’t care if military people form a band and play pop music. I don’t care if church people form a band and play pop music. What is out of place is when military people, outfitted in full dress uniform play patriotic music with a pop sound and when church people dressed in whatever, play pop music in church.

I did notice a difference between the two however. The military praise band was very talented and sounded really tight and good. I have yet to hear a Lutheran praise band that is any good. (There was the house band at the Atlanta LCMS National Youth Gathering about fifteen years or so ago with the lead singer in the slinky dress with spaghetti straps that was really good, in more ways than one, but it turns out they weren’t even Lutheran.)

Military music is most appropriately played by marching bands and orchestras and not with a pop sound. Church music is most appropriately played with churchly instrumentation and not with a pop sound. Pop music is pop music. Military music is military music. Church music is church music.

Just to round out my point here’s a story from the World Cup soccer coverage. I was clicking through the TV channels during a commercial on the U.S. Golf Open coverage when the opening ceremony of the Uruguay/Costa Rica match caught my eye. (I did not watch the game since the U.S. Open was on. “Hello,” no comparison.) They played the national anthems for each country with thousands of fans and the players singing along. They were played in traditional style with full orchestration. It was fitting. It would have been silly to have the military praise bands from each country do the anthems. Several of the players were tearing up during the playing of their national anthem. It was an appropriate sound that elicited an appropriate response.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


The U. S. Army has its Own Praise Band? By Pr. Rossow — 8 Comments

  1. Odd (and inconsistent) that dignified respect and reverence is due to the American flag but not to the God of creation.

  2. Even Pershing’s Own Army Band changes with the times. The Soldiers they support are on average 18-24 and they really appreciate the music they listen to. I recently had an opportunity to see Twilight Tattoo at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, VA. An Hour long live action Military Pageant presented by The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) the same soldiers that guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Pershing’s Own was there and performed Traditional Military Marches and Tunes from each Era of American History including now. In the context of this post I guess you could call it a “blended service “.

  3. “Change” was the mantra in the presidential campaign. “Change” is the mantra of liberals within the congregations. Throw out traditions, reverence, and doctrine. We juswanna have fun and feel good. Who are we hurting?

  4. I am afraid the analogy being used above is only useful if one’s only exposure to military band’s is Sousa (or the like). The fact is the use of military musicians runs a very broad gamut, sometimes in the public eye, other times outside of its view. Small ensembles like brass bands, rock bands, and jazz bands serve to not only provide entertainment at a variety of functions, such as base family gatherings or Marine Corps Birthday Balls, but also provide community outreach at local schools and events.

    Military bands playing pop music is nothing new. In November and December of 1941 Navy Band 22 competed in a “Battle of Music” at Pearl Harbor. The band won 2nd place in the semi-finals and was scheduled to compete again in the final event on Dec. 20 along with other Navy and Marine bands in port. The final never took place. The men of Navy Band No. 22 went down with their ship on Dec. 7, 1941 – the USS Arizona. The picture of their dance band at the semi-final is the last known picture of their ensemble, and the Grand Prize trophy was awarded to the band posthumously, and remains on display at the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor today.

    I don’t write this to call into question the desire to defend the church’s use of liturgy and solemnity in worship. The type of music the church relies on should reflect what the Church has been called to do – namely, deliver the Gospel. I take issue with the analogy, however, as it reflects only a limited understanding of the vocation of what it means to serve as a military musician. In fact, one would realize that military bands have an excellent sense of what most churches do not. When its time to do ceremony, they use ceremonial bands; when its time to entertain, they break out the rock bands. The MARFORPAC Band (Marine Forces Pacific Band – my wife’s former unit) did both during the US participation at 2011 World Rugby Cup in New Zealand for example. The ceremonial band played the anthem and other ceremonies, the show bands entertained during other festivities. This sort of distinction has unfortunately been lost in many churches.

    I hope this sheds a bit more light on those who serve as musicians in our armed forces. A military rock band may seem strange if all one thinks military bands do is march and ceremony, but this is far from the case, and has been for many, many years.

  5. I grew up in the Hudson Valley of New York State and was privileged to visit West Point a number of times. To stand on the parade grounds and watch a cadet parade with the military band playing Sousa and other composers by the way, is a sight to behold. It fills you with a sense of patriotic pride that is hard to describe in words. In the setting of West Point as you overlook the Hudson and the Hudson Highlands, and recall from your history classes the Revolutionary War, it is just beautiful and you thank God for the United States, imperfect as it is.

    Jeremiah, you are absolutely correct. Military bands play all kinds of music – jazz, pop, broadway musical numbers, etc., but they play marches the best, especially The Washington Post March!


  6. Jeremiah,

    My point of comparison is that on a program to celebrate a patriotic event, a pop band singing pop music filled a spot that would normally be filled by a traditional band. I was not clear on that.

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