... Wakefield Retired Men at MassBank, Melrose
It was early afternoon on July 3rd and the traffic on Main Street, Melrose, Mass., had tripled with cars and vans trying to beat the crowd heading to vacation cottages for the long holiday weekend. The weatherman cooperated by predicting temperatures in the high eighties with lots of tan-producing sunshine. The backyard of the MassBank on the corner of Main and West Foster Streets was filled with two sections of folding chairs, one roofed with the green foliage of a spreading tree and the other section shaded by a festive canvas.
A third section was occupied with about forty members of the
Wakefield Retired Men's Club Band holding their polished musical instruments and dressed in their light blue visored hats and blue string ties held with attractive wooden bow ties. In the flute section,(below, l.& r.) 93-year-old Huntington Howard sat beside his niece, Louise Bouchard of Boxford, Mass. Beside her was the only other woman in the band, 81-year-old Pauline Heaney of Peabody. Mr. Howard thought I was young. I didn't contradict him.
Diane Brisson (not shown) and Ken Masson,(left) both on the MassBank staff, who had been in charge of these Senior Citizen festivities for 20 years, directed elementary school-age children in the serving of cold drinks, ice cream, and a delicious cake made by Carven Caterers in Chelmsford.
Two of the talented members who seemed to enjoy themselves with the festive audience were Bob Foucht, Conductor and Larry Keegan, flutist and Announcer.
Our musical Melrose Mirror staff person, John Averell, sat in the front row shown beside 98-year-old (yes!) George Angrisano and his clarinet. (It's known as a licorice stick among musicians and 98 is known everywhere as truly venerable.)
Dan Nager, Business Manager and saxophonist, expressed how pleased the member musicians were to be performing "right next door" to Wakefield. The audience quieted expectantly, in anticipation of a signal from Bob Foucht, Conductor, and the band burst into "The Star Spangled Banner." It was sung loudly and proudly by the now-standing audience.
This was followed by flourishes of trumpets and drums that produced "National Emblem" and the clapping in rhythm by the audience. Those who weren't clapping were waving their American flags with gusto. William Eckerson's trombone slipped and slid to the beat. Songs went from "People Will Say We're In Love" to "Surrey With the Fringe On Top." Throughout, the brass blared with authority. Some of the three blues arrangements overflowed with "soul" while others, like "Those Old Piano-Roll Blues" continued to uplift the audience's already high spirits.
By this time, our modern Melrose Mirror photographer, Shirley Rabb, who exhibited latent supervisory characteristics, had been put in charge of flag distribution to those who were empty-handed. Dick Putnam (right) was seen to rest between pieces, along wtih his over-heated baritone saxophone.
Headlines should include Ken Lewis' (far left) beautiful baritone voice as he delivered two heart-felt gospels. Also, John Averell's E-Flat alto horn solo, a part of the entire band rendition that followed, nourished the audience's pleasure. Phyllis Gorman (above) was dressed as Lady Patriot of The Day.
Bruce McGlashan, (left) a 73-year old from Byfield, told us that his mother, when she heard him playing the clarinet recently, advised him to continue practicing.
The whole program was certainly special with amazing performances by all of these mature musicians ... especially when both audience and band ended this traditional community celebration with their rendition of the oh, so appropriate "God Bless America!"
August 1, 2003