Official website of the Spasskaya Tower International Military Music Festival
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Official website of the Spasskaya Tower International Military Music Festival
30 May 2020

The Central Military Band Goes to the Western Front

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In September of 1941 the Central Military Band received a regular order to go to the Western Front. But for twenty-eight musicians of the ensemble’s jazz and variety music brigade that travel turned out to be a tragedy.

Following the remembrances of Tovmas Gevorkyan, Soviet saxophone performer “Over a month we’ve been performing at the very front edge, sometimes at a distance less than 800 meters from the battle line. A few times we even performed to the sounds of violent shelling, literally feeling the bullets whistling and swirling past us. We never performed standing on a vehicle, so that Germans couldn’t see us. Small clearings with several logs or recently floored trees served us as a stage. We knew all the melodies and songs by heart. Soldiers fresh from the battlefield — exhausted to the extremes, all covered with dirt and dust — went straight to listen us showing their unfeigned pleasure. We usually performed for about 40 minutes. Sometimes we even had to perform on the phone. At one side of the line my fellow comrade and I were performing on the saxophone and key accordion with the vocalist singing, on the other — soldiers and officers were listening, preparing to rush into battle. When the connection was cut, we knew that the shelling had already begun. Those were the concerts for the heroes fighting out there in the trenches”.

In October of 1941 the concert brigade got surrounded by the enemy near the city of Vyazma. The artists received the orders to break through the enemy circle and get back to Moscow. But it was not destined to happen. The vehicle with the musicians onboard got caught in the crossfire opened by one of the Nazis motorized armed units. Nine musicians died immediately, the other ten went missing.

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Tovmas Gevorkyan was the first Soviet saxophone player who was awarded the Honored Artist of the RSFSR title. In 1940 he was called to active duty and served under the command of the legendary Semyon Tchernetsky within the Independent Exemplary Band of the People’s Commissariat of Defense of the Soviet Union.