Patriotism, Band Music, and July 4th
Folks, earlier today I took part in one of the most patriotic things any non-United States veteran can do on July 4th: I played in the City of Racine parade with the Racine Concert Band.
Now, why is this patriotic?
Mostly, it’s because we play marches while sitting on the parade float. (Today’s three, for the record, were “Liberty Bell” by John Philip Sousa, “South,” an arrangement of various tunes by Hal Leonard, and an arrangement “God Bless America” by someone whose name I’ve already forgotten.) And in case anyone forgets marches are usually intended to be patriotic, we had flags all over our float, while most of us wore additional bits of red, white and blue on our uniforms (or, in some cases, in temporary tattoos on arms, faces, or hands).
The fun thing about playing in the parade is to see how people respond to this music. People of all ages clap their hands, bob their heads, wave at the band (we usually wave back when we’re not actually playing), some of ’em dance in the street, and a few even pretend to conduct the band (waving an imaginary conductor’s baton in the air).
Some of these folks on the Racine parade route may not see the Racine Concert Band (henceforth shortened to RCB for ease of reference) at any time during the rest of the year, though we play free concerts at the Racine Zoo in July and August and have three winter concerts for minimal prices at the three Racine high schools (Case, Park, and Horlick). So playing the parade does more than a few things…it helps remind Racinians that the RCB exists, and that we can still bring joy to people, just by sharing a bit of music with them.
The RCB’s first free Zoo concert of the year is July 5 (that’s today, as it’s ticked over past midnight since I started writing this). There’s a trombone soloist, a trumpet trio, lots of marches and patriotic arrangements…people will know nearly all of the songs that we play, and the ones the audience don’t know right off, they probably will by the time we’re done playing it for them.
See, there’s something about marches, show tunes, and patriotic arrangements that really hits people, emotionally. Even folks who don’t think they know “Liberty Bell,” once they hear it, ask, “Isn’t that the music from Monty Python’s Flying Circus?” (At which point, I reply, “Why, yes. Yes, it is.”)
And seeing a free concert in the park can be inspirational…which is one reason I’m glad my hands are doing well enough that I have resumed my chair in the RCB.
If you live in Racine, Kenosha, other parts of Southeastern Wisconsin or Northern Illinois, I urge you to come see the RCB tomorrow at the Racine Zoo for our first free summer concert of the year. The show starts at 7:30 p.m., and free parking is available.
Because, really…what’s more patriotic than a John Philip Sousa march or two on Independence Day weekend?