Wehrmacht Military Musical Training…

“The essence of being a soldier, the inner and outer discipline, the readiness for action finds its most compelling expression in the march, which even today, we simply refer to as the ‘military march’. As a soldier is expected to think, speak, look and act, even when not on duty, he is similarly expected to sound like a soldier when making music”…so quoted the Handbuch für die Singleiter der Wehrmacht when first published in 1940…

Viewed with the same seriousness as combat or specialist personnel, career military bandsmen of the Reich were recruited from the following four backgrounds: firstly there were the professional musicians in civilian life or former musicians with the Imperial German Army or Reichswehr who answered adverts in the Deutsche Militärmusikerzeitung (German Journal for Military Musicians) for specific musical posts within the newly formed Wehrmacht and SS Musikkorps during the pre-war period of 1933 to 1939, or who applied to join a military band having been called-up for general military service after the outbreak of war in 1939.

Second category would be young, fully trained Hitlerjugend musicians or gifted amateurs spotted by a SS or Wehrmacht Musikmeister and subsequently invited to join the unit or divisional band.. whilst a third grouping were drawn from young soldiers and part-time ‘hobby’ musicians who, having undertaken their pre-war six months training with the Reichsarbeitsdienst, then joined the Wehrmacht and were spotted by their regimental bands as potential recruits and recommended for formal military music training.

The final group would be comprised of professional military bandmasters and musicians recruited upon completion of their musical training in the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS respective military music academies (Heeresmusikschule Bueckburg & SS Musikschule Braunschweig) or the elite Berlin Music Academy.

In the previously quoted Third Reich’s official German Army Musician’s handbook ‘Handbuch für die Singleiter der Wehrmacht’, Major Ernst-Lothar von Knorr on the staff of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (German High Command) confirmed in his writing:

“Only professional musicians or young men with substantial musical training can become Wehrmacht musicians; they are either recruited as volunteers or by the Wehrbezirkskommando (regional army administration), once they have reached call-up age. Posts are advertised daily in newspapers & specialised publications and musicians are tested in their musical ability by the Musikmeister. The new military musicians must have mastered their main instrument to such a degree of competence that they can immediately take up their place in the band, which they will do upon completion of their basic training.

If a post becomes vacant, they will be assigned to it after signing a 12-year contract and if showing the required aptitude, will be admitted to the training programme for musician NCOs. This admission depends on a favourable report by the Musikmeister. Apart from a wide-ranging knowledge of music history, successful candidates are required to play not only their main instrument but a secondary one as well.

If they show exceptional ability and leadership qualities, two further career paths are open to them: without reference to their previous length of service they can be made Korpsführer; in this position they will stand in for the Musikmeister and bear the rank of a senior NCO,which in the Wehrmacht is either a Musikoberfeldwebel or a Musikoberwachtmeister.

The second option is the training to become a Musikmeister: candidates are nominated by their own Musikmeister who will oversee their preparation for admission to the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik (State Musical Academy), in Berlin where they will enjoy reduced military duties to assist with their studies. The academic training at the university takes 3 years and music students follow a set curriculum which comprises both practical & theoretical subjects.

Apart from purely musical duties, students are also trained for the military leadership of a Musikkorps (regimental band), and a Spielmannszug (fife & drum corps), and the course culminates in practical musical and an equivalent military examination. Before they embark on this course of study, successful candidates have to sign up for an additional 6-year contract over and above the general 12-year one, and a Musikmeister can expect to progress to the rank of Obermusikmeister and Stabsmusikmeister.

The musical demands of young military musicians are high and the daily rehearsals are serious work, therefore their selection and training is a matter of great seriousness….”

And this is certainly borne out by the Wehrmacht & Waffen-SS musicianship evident on the original 1933-45 schellack 78rpm recordings, digitally re-mastered to CD and on offer in The Tomahawk Films WW-II German Archive…

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2014

The Music of Hitler’s Kriegsmarine…

Military bands in Nazi Germany’s Navy, the Kriegsmarine, were divided into two major categories. The first were permanently shore-based bands known as Musikkorps der Landmarineteile and were attached to the Naval Commands Ostsee (Baltic Sea), and Nordsee (North Sea), ship’s cadre battalions, NCO instruction battalions and the marine coastal artillery battalions or Küstenartillerie.

Often parading in the German navy’s standard field-grey service dress, with gold and field-grey swallowsnests, these land-based band marines were full-time, professional or career musicians who performed at all important formal Kriegsmarine functions.

With a complement of 26 full-time junior NCO’s & ratings, one senior NCO in the rank of Musikoberfeldwebel (Petty Officer) and one senior NCO in the rank of Musikmeister, the Musikkorps performed a cross-section of musical duties from the large ceremonial parades and official march-pasts to quay-side departures and arrivals of ships & U-boats, under the command of a Flottenadmiral (Fleet Admiral). Land-based Marinemusikkorps also operated fife & drum Spielmannszüge with one junior NCO acting as Abteilungstambour or Detachment Drum Major, and six drummers & fifers also drawn from the naval musician’s career branch.

The second category comprised bands attached to ships of the High Seas Fleet. Known as Bordmusikkorps, these ship-borne musicians were sub-divided into two further divisions: bands serving on the battleships & battle-cruisers such as the Scharnhorst or Tirpitz, and known as Geschwadermusikkorps or ships-squadron bands, and smaller bands serving with destroyer & minesweeper fleets, known as Kleine Schiffsmusikkorps or small ships bands.

Wearing the standard blue square rig uniform with ‘Donald Duck’ boarding cap, all major Fleet Commands or Flottenkommando had a Geschwadermusikkorps which normally consisted of between 26 and 40 junior NCOs & ratings drawn from the naval music career path, with a senior NCO Korpsführer, under the overall command of a senior NCO Musikmeister.

However, the size of the ship’s band normally related to the actual size of the ship so in the larger vessels, such as battleships or battle-cruisers, the Geschwadermusikkorps complement could be up as high as 26 or with as few as just 8 musicians and band-leader. Ship-board Spielleute were, like their land-based colleagues, drawn from the music-career branch and each Geschwadermusikkorps normally paraded 6 fifers and 6 drummers under the musical direction of an NCO Abteilungstambour.

The Kleine Schiffsmusikkorps were composed of 9 volunteer ratings & NCOs who played in the band in addition to their normal duties as seamen & gunners etc, under the direction of a junior NCO career musician in the rank of Musikmaat or Musikobermaat. Unlike their career musician colleagues, these ‘hobby’ musicians wore their main branch career insignia on their uniforms…

Naval bands on the smaller vessels could vary their musical complement to as low as just three members, quite often carrying only fifers & drummers on-board ship, with the addition of a lone signalling bugler or Signalhornister…..

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2013

 

German Military Music of the DDR…

Although our professional German Archive is predominantly Third Reich/Nazi-era based, we do also try to balance the whole picture of German military music as much as possible and so try encompass the whole story on either side of the 12 years of the Third Reich, right back in fact to just before the First World War and right up until the Fall of The Berlin Wall 1989 that led to the subsequent reunification of the two Germanys.

Indeed my book, The Military Music & Bandsmen of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich 1933-1945, takes the genesis of German military music right back to its inception in Turkey in the Middle Ages, so steeped in history is this wonderful music; however for the audio side of German Archive our CDs run the musical gamut from  around 1910 up to1989 and the end of Communist East Germany.

In fact the DDR was created on October 11th 1949 with a new Parliament sited in East Berlin and a new Nationale Volksarmee, whose musical requirements were provided by Staff (Stabsmusikkorps) & Line bands (Musikkorps). 21 Musikkorps were eventually established: from Berlin’s Zentrales Orchester and Stabsmusikkorps und Spielmannszug der Stadtkommandantur Berlin down to 19 Musikkorps across 4 branches of East Germany’s military service.

Stabsmusikkorps Kommandantur Berlin was the designated army band for the Wachregiment ‘Friedrich Engels’, undertaking all military functions at Schönefeld Airport and in the City of Berlin, whilst ‘officially non-military’ ceremonies involving Western dignitaries were undertaken by the orchestra of the ‘non-NVA’ Ministry of State Security’s crack unit tasked with defence of the Communist Party, the Wachregiment ‘Feliks Dzierzynski’.

The Army (Landstreitkräfte) had a Stabsmusikkorps and 8 Musikkorps, the Air Force & Air Defence Arm (Luftstreitkräfte und Luftverteidigung), a Stabsmusikkorps and a Musikkorps, the Navy (Volksmarine) 1 Stabsmusikkorps & 2 Musikkorps and the Border Troops (Grenztruppen) 1 Stabsmusikkorps & 3 Musikkorps and, to fulfil the state’s political demands, the ‘Erich-Weinert Ensemble’ was established in 1950 as an ‘artistic institution of the NVA’.

Many former-Wehrmacht ‘founding fathers’ of East German military music had served under Air Force Head of Music Prof. Husadel and that exciting Luftwaffe feel could still be heard in the superb post-war performances of Berlin’s elite Volkspolizei band, the Zentrales Orchester des MdI, (Ministerium des Innern), notable for its pre-‘45 strident janissary beat with distinctive high-pitched twirls and embellishments of the woodwind section’s clarinets & piccolos!

DDR Musikkorps details were a state secret and a band would often appear, record an album and disappear into the mists, leaving East German military music as something of an enigma during the days of the Cold War; but Tomahawk Films are pleased to release this exciting and definitive mix of new & old marches in the true German military tradition, including the unique sound of the Kamfpgruppen, (Communist Territorial Army), playing the Schalmei, distinctive multi horn instruments evoking memories of the Nazi & Communist street fighting days of the 1930s.

Thanks to our friends at Imperial & post-war German military music specialists, Eagle & Lyre, Tomahawk was able to acquire the rights to 18 incredibly stirring and rare military musical tracks which are featured on our CD: The Marches & Korpslieder of East Germany’s Elite Musikkorps 1949 – 1989.

Included is the very moving East German National Anthem, (at which no pre-1989 Olympic Ceremony was ever complete), and a secret and slightly eerie live recording of the Wachregiment ‘Friedrich Engels’ changing the guard at Strausberg Barracks…!

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2013