Minutes after the Bastille Day attack on July 14, my son called me while I was standing just outside of Local 802 speaking with Tino Gagliardi. The information was very sketchy at that time. I was devastated not knowing if the many friends and the family I have in Nice, my hometown, were OK. It wasn’t until the following Wednesday that I found out that all people close to me were accounted for.
After speaking with some of my colleagues, I decided that it might be a good idea to put together a musical tribute to the victims of this horrible act, which killed 85 people and wounded more than 300, and which affected all of us.
My original thought was to gather as many brass players as possible to perform in Times Square – the crossroads of the world – at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 21, which marked a week, to the hour, after the attack . I had to figure out how to get the authorization to perform in Times Square with a large group. At Local 802, Tino and Chris Carroll helped me. I also got help from Lisa Boyle, Annik Klein, Damian Santucci and Gary Winkler at the Times Square Alliance, NYPD Detective Mike Dugan from the Midtown North precinct, and Hugo Moreno.
The goal of this event was to let the people of Nice and all of France know that we were thinking of them and sending support in their time of grief. Nice is a gorgeous city filled with wonderful people who all know and appreciate how blessed they are to live in such a beautiful part of the world.
The piece “Nissa La Bella” is the hymn of the city of Nice. Bob Christianson wrote an arrangement for us. It’s a beautiful piece much like “America the Beautiful” and was perfectly suited as a quiet tribute to the victims.
“La Marseillaise” is the French national anthem. Charles Porter arranged this familiar, upbeat melody, which was intended to lift our spirits. We wanted to look forward in the face of tragedy and not let the “bad people” gain the upper hand on our freedom, our way of life and all the positive things humanity can accomplish.
The video was posted to YouTube and a French newspaper site and other places, and has been viewed more than 300,000 times. The comments from the people of Nice were especially appreciative. It does show that music can make a positive impact!
Our message of hope was also intended for everyone who has been affected by terrorism or tragedy all over the world. Hope beats fear, and love conquers all.
I’d like to thank all the 50 wonderful musicians who showed up to play and the many more who volunteered but who we had to turn away due to logistical constraints at Times Square. I’d also like to thank Maestro Anton Coppola, who conducted “La Marseillaise.”
Trumpeter Dominic Derasse has been a member of Local 802 since 1986.