by Dennis Dalman
Jeff Schreiner and his band, Sweet Siren, returned recently from Europe where they performed eight shows for troops at seven military bases in four countries.
Schreiner, 51, grew up in St. Joseph and attended St. Joseph Lab School. He now lives in Sartell. Besides being a guitarist and singer, his “day job” is driving a truck for Sysco Food Service.
Sweet Siren’s European road tour was the second for the band. A couple of years ago, they performed four shows at two U.S. Army military bases in Germany. This time around, the band gave eight shows at seven bases in four countries– three Air Force bases, four Army bases. The musical road, like the previous one, was arranged by Armed Forces Entertainment, which is an agency of the U.S. Defense Department. The band left on their tour June 23 and returned July 5.
Schreiner is lead guitarist and a singer in the band. There are three other members in the band. Jethro Arola, who plays bass guitar, manages a lumber yard in Menagha where he lives. Kent Christen, the band’s drummer, lives in Sauk Centre where he is manager of Welle Motors. Carolyn Curfman, Sweet Siren’s lead singer, lives in Cold Spring and works at Advantage One Insurance in St. Cloud.
Also on the trip were the band’s sound technician, Jason Baumunk; and stage-lighting technician, Greg Schreiner, who is Jeff’s brother. Vanessa Schreiner, Jeff’s wife, went on the tour and took thousands of photographs.
On their flight to Europe, band members brought just their instruments and some electronic equipment. All the rest of needed equipment was provided at their musical gigs.
Sweet Siren specializes in playing rock ‘n’ roll and pop music, as well as some modern country songs. On their set list of songs, there were, for examples, the Black-Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga and Bruno Mars.
After landing at London’s Heathrow Airport, the band was able to see a bit of the city and took a trip to Berkshire County near London where they visited Windsor Castle, which was for centuries a royal residence of kings and queens and still is. Schreiner said he and his bandmates were overwhelmed by the experience.
Back in London, band members’ jaws dropped when they discovered that the tour’s arranger, Armed Forces Entertainment, had rented for the band’s use a double-decker tour bus.
“It was fabulous,” Schreiner said. “We stayed in hotels, but during our travel time we could rest in it. Very comfortable.”
In England, the band put on two shows. One was at Croughton Royal Air Force Base, which is also a U.S. Air Force communications station in Northamptonshire, north of London. The other was at Lakenheath Royal Air Force Base in Suffolk County northeast of London.
Then the band and their tour bus were transported on a huge ship across the English Channel. They spent part of day in Paris before heading to the Netherlands. There they performed at the Volkel Air Force Base before proceeding into Belgium for a show at Klein Brogel Air Force Base. Both bases included American military personnel in the audiences.
Moving on to Germany, Sweet Siren entertained big crowds at three bases. One show was at the U.S. Army Garrison Baumholder Base, which is home to the largest number of U.S. military forces outside of the United States – more than 13,000 personnel. The base is located in Baumholder, in western Germany.
Next, the band gave two shows at the Wiesbaden Army Base in central western Germany.
The band’s final performance was U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwohr Base in Bavaria, southeast Germany.
After their exhausting but exhilarating blitz tour, the bandmates boarded a plane for the flight home.
Schreiner described the two-week experience as “amazing.”
The shows’ audiences ranged from only about 25 people (the small base at Klein Vogel, Belgium) to more than 8,000 (the final show on the Fourth of July at Grafenwohr Base).
“At Klein Vogel, (the audience of 25) they loved the show,” said Schreiner. “They told us they hadn’t seen a show in years.”
Schreiner said that at all the shows, audience members – some in uniform, some not, cheered and screamed, and so many danced up a storm – men, women and children.
“We were so happy to bring those people a piece of home – America,” Schreiner said. “A good show helped them break up the monotony. It was so great to be able to meet all those people and to perform for them. We met some people who had just recently joined the military and some long-timers, like colonels, who were ready to be leaving the service soon.”
Sweet Siren, which was formed about four years ago, is a dream-come-true for Schreiner.
“It’s hard to beat this combination of bandmates,” he said. “They’re the best.”
The band is often on the road to traveling to one gig after another in the five-state area and into Canada. In fact, for this story, Schreiner was interviewed via a telephone while he was driving through and beyond his boyhood hometown of St. Joseph. He was heading to yet another gig, this time in Canistota, South Dakota.