Security was tight at the Embassy. But before the band was allowed to enter the gates, their musical instruments had to be checked by armed guards. During the performance, helicopters circled the grounds several times.
"It was the first time we've had our horns sniffed by a security dog," said conductor George Foreman. And performing for the first time before more than 3,000 dignitaries from the United States and top ranking military officials, politicians and other guests on the front lawn of the well-groomed grounds was a treat for the band
"It was very exciting," said Foreman.
Ambassador Thomas J. Miller and his wife, Bonnie, greeted the band and posed for a quick photo. "No, this is not a wedding," he commented, jokingly, after the photo. The Millers will return to Chicago when his assignment ends later this year.
Foreman had no complaints about the performance although the band played without five instruments that were misplaced at the airport by Air France. The instruments arrived the next day.
One of the more interesting parts of the annual Fourth of July celebration was watching the guests parade down the walk to the embassy mansion, where dinner was served on the lawn. The military personnel from several countries left their hats on shelves at the entrance gate.
Prior to the performance, the band had dinner on a patio in back of the ambassador's house. Waiters and waitresses in white coats served the chicken and pork dinner on marble-topped tables.
Yasmin Kahele, liaison office coordinator, said Kathleen Kacarother of Kansas, who works at the embassy, helped organize the event which takes a year to plan and get sponsors.
Kahele also said the embassy has the pool open to the community during the summer and also for parties. The Millers also are involved in the community and have open house for new commerce people twice a year. Mrs. Miller is a professor in a university in Greece.
"She's been doing tremendous work in the social work programs," said Kahele.
While in Greece, the band was welcomed to Markopoulo, a city of 11,000. Welcome signs were posted along the city streets. The second concert in a Markopoulo amphitheater had a beautiful setting overlooking the Albonia Mountains.
The small amphitheater had the stage at the bottom where the musicians performed. This time a dog (not a guard) came on the stage and sat in the trombone section, then moved on to the drum section. A large group gathered for the concert.
Foreman received an olive leaf headpiece in a silver-plated case similar to the ones champions received in the Olympic games from Markopoulo Mayor Fotis Magulas. A traditional Greek dinner of beef and mutton, salad and bread was held in a local tavern after the concert.
Church in Kalavrita was most beautiful setting
Foreman said the most beautiful setting for a concert was in front of a church in Kalavrita, a small community located in the mountains in northern Greece.
The town, which was destroyed during World War II by Nazi forces, has been completely been rebuilt and is now a ski resort. All the men and boys in the town were killed, but the women and children were saved by an Austrian soldier, who was killed for his bravery. After the slayings, the town was burned.
A large monument is located at the site of the slayings and a small church cemetery displays tombstones of the people who were killed. The stones showed that several men and boys from the same family were buried there.
Kalavrita is a community-oriented place, said Foreman. The town square is a gathering place for the young and old.
The official concert time for the band concert was 9:30 p.m., but Greece time is much different than Danville time. Schedules are never on time. It was almost 11 p.m. when the concert was over and the band had dinner.
"Of all the places we've been, I like this one the best," the conductor said.