Anyone who thinks the Air Force Band is all pomp and circumstance, reserved for serious performances like presidential inaugurations, need only look at one of the band’s performance last week to see that just because they’re members of the military doesn’t mean they don’t know how to orchestrate a flash mob in epic style.

It started in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, a fitting location considering the band’s branch of the military. A cellist walked through museum visitors milling about the hall and took a seat on a lone chair in the center of the museum.

air force band flash mob

Image source: YouTube

He started to play Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” drawing the eyes of curious visitors. Quickly, other members of the band start stripping off their outer garments disguising their uniforms and joined in the classical song.

Before long the whole Air Force band — or at least a large portion of it – filled the museum floor and upper balcony as spectators gazed in amazement.

air force band flash mob

Image source: YouTube

air force band flash mob

Image source: YouTube

air force band flash mob

Image source: YouTube

Before we get into the details about what it took to actually pull off, see how it all came together:

While those watching the video saw it seamlessly build in flash mob style, there was quite a bit of behind-the-scenes practice. The Air Force told all about it in a blog post a few days later.

It all began Nov. 26 with practice for the “first-ever holiday flash mob.” Not everyone was confident about the stunt.

“Some musicians are excited, some are leery–everyone wonders if the Band can pull this off,” the blog post stated.

On Dec. 2, the band held a final rehearsal. While confident in their skills, the blog post pointed out that some members noticed how tight space was in the museum — and that was without visitors.

air force band flash mob

Image source: YouTube

But then the day of filming came and every thing appeared to go off without a hitch. Here’s how the blog post put the play-by-play of the Dec. 3 flash mob:

Dec. 3, 7:45 a.m.
The National Air and Space Museum is closed, and it’s time for the final rehearsal of the flash mob. After checking the sound and recording equipment, the Band successfully runs what will hopefully be a stunning performance at noon!

Dec. 3, 11:20 a.m.
Five buses arrive outside the National Air and Space Museum. Musicians file off, attempting to conceal their instruments and uniforms under civilian coats. As they enter the museum, they quickly make their way into designated “hiding spots.” Many take the escalator downstairs to the parking garage below the museum. Here, musicians hand their instruments over to members of the United States Air Force Honor Guard who will keep them hidden until their exact entrance in the performance.

Dec. 3, 11:53 a.m.
The Air and Space Museum is buzzing with excitement. The United States Air Force Band members disguised in civilian coats roam the museum, acting as tourists. Observing a sign stating that there will be filming in the area, a group of tourists asks an employee what is being filmed. “Something big is happening in here in seven minutes–stick around!” the employee replies. A group of children speculate what the big surprise could possibly be. “I think they might be launching that rocket!” a young boy chimes. “Maybe we’ll get to try on a space suit!” The crowd noise heightens as the clock inches closer to noon.

Dec. 3, 12 p.m.
A man walks to the center of the museum carrying just one chair and places it in an open area. Nobody seems to notice. Suddenly, one cellist removes a civilian coat to reveal his ceremonial uniform. He sits down and begins to play “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” A few close spectators turn and begin to listen. The cellist is joined shortly by the Band’s commander and conductor, Col. Larry H. Lang, as well as a bassist and a handful of winds and strings who are each presented with their instrument by a member of the United States Air Force Honor Guard. The small group slowly turns into a mass of airmen musicians, each adding a new texture to the tune. From the balcony, two solo voices begin to float out over the crowds. They are joined by a host of singers lining the balcony railing. As “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” draws to a conclusion, the music changes. The tempo accelerates and as the key changes, a group of brass players in ceremonial uniforms sound a glorious fanfare from the balcony of the museum. This fanfare leads directly to a rousing rendition of “Joy to the World.” The music fills the National Air and Space Museum and lights the faces of the audience members. At the conclusion of the performance, the final triumphant brass chord lingers in the museum long after the musicians have stopped playing. The audience erupts into applause.

The blog post stated that it was rare such a majority of the Air Force band was gathered in one place.

A surprise not captured in the Air Force video of the flash mob but mentioned in the blog post was Senior Master Sgt. Eric Sabatino allowing a talented girl take up and play his harp, as the musicians were showing children their instruments after the stunt.