Amidst all the change we’ve undergone as a family since coming to Marblehead from Wyoming last fall, it’s been comforting that a few things have remained the same. To wit: winter is long.
Opening Day is cold. Each March, my Creighton Bluejays will decide they don’t want to play basketball anymore and get booted from the NCAA tournament. The wind will blow — it has proven to be much windier here in Marblehead than I would’ve thought. And this is saying something, hailing as I do from the state that invented the word “windstorm.” The other consistency: kids everywhere have school concerts.
In common with parents everywhere, I’ve attended recitals since my kids were old enough to toddle on stage. Dance, band, choir, theater — if there’s a show, I’ll be there. They’re great fun, these shows. You get all the pride of watching your child perform and you also get a closet full of ballet outfits, cute little tap shoes and musical instruments. I collect programs to be carefully filed away later, clap with pride and then we all take a trip to the Dairy Queen for a sundae.
So I was expecting much the same when it came time for my sixth-grader to have his spring band recital, even if there is no DQ in Marblehead (I can put a plug in for Terry’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream Shop, though. The black raspberry is to die for). But the show went beyond my expectations.
The format featured all the local school bands from fourth grade to high school. Waylon’s combined fifth and sixth grade band played “Colliding Visions.” The crowd was rip-roaringly enthusiastic.
You could really feel the appreciation for the kids and all the nerves that accompany performing in front of a packed auditorium at 12 years of age. In the case of my kid, he’d never so much as touched a trombone before we moved to Marblehead. On several occasions, the sounds emanating from his room as he practiced proved it. But there he was, gamely playing, and though I didn’t catch a clear view of him up on the stage, I do think I detected a few trombone notes coming through.
Afterwards, Waylon told me he didn’t think the audience would cheer so loud.
Well, I asked him, what did you expect?
Just ice cream, he said.
At which point I tousled his hair and said, “All right, buddy let’s go.”
I must mention the fourth grade band. First off, I was impressed by the director’s ability to corral many fourth graders into sitting still … and then they played a dozen songs! I performed at a similar age at my tiny little country school out west, up on the stage in the gym. We were only a four-piece outfit, because not many of the sons and daughters of farmers had time for music. My mom played piano and is a singer, however, so in our house, music appreciation was a required subject. I knew from an early age that I’d be up on that stage at the earliest opportunity. I was so nervous I couldn’t even hold my trumpet up straight because I was too afraid to look out into the crowd as we plodded through “Three Blind Mice” and ”Row Row Row Your Boat.” Here, though, the fourth grade band brought down the house with a rendition of “Seven Nation Army.”
The other highly endearing thing about the evening? The entire ensemble, fourth grade through 12th, assembled to play “Marblehead Forever.” Some of the musicians, including a couple ‘bone players, even stood in the aisles to bring the tune home. The audience clapped along in time. And though I’d never heard the tune before, by the end I was ready to strap on a football helmet and run through a brick wall for dear old Marblehead.
It was only later that I learned this tune isn’t just a school fight song. Marblehead actually has its own town song. Sure, it may be a bygone relic of the temperance era, but I’ve never lived in a town someone composed a song over, just as they compose art.
So kudos to the band directors, especially Greg Harris at Village School, as well as the kids and this community, for turning out and then showing out for our kids. It’s a rite of passage, a spring band concert, just as special for a kid whether it is their first or eighth time.
Marblehead Forever, I say, Marblehead Forever.
As always, if you’ve got an idea upon which I can embark for a Marblehead First Time, drop me a line at email@example.com.
Wyoming transplant Court Merrigan is a new Marblehead resident. His column “My Marblehead First Time” appears regularly in the Current.