If you’re not stirred by the sound of a drum cadence bouncing off city buildings or watching forty horns simultaneously burst into glorious sound, you’re not quite alive. Today I watched the Lancers Drum and Bugle Corps play a concert before the St. Patrick’s Day parade in downtown York. The corps (never call it a band—oops, learned that early on) is stunningly good. They are clean, precise, incredibly musical and smash the stereotype of drum and bugle corps as a bunch of old guys honking horns, pounding on drums and drinking a lot of beer.
The corps members are from all walks of life—some professionally trained musicians and some not, but they come together to create well-executed performances played to the absolute best of their ability. For the Lancers, it’s all about the music and the music is serious business as is their dedication to each other. Their theme, emblazoned on their jackets, is “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” and I’ve seen corps members live that theme many times over. I don’t just say these things because I’m married to one of their leaders and to be perfectly honest, I’m not a big drum corps fan. But I am a huge fan of music lifting people up out of the muck, even if it’s for just a few moments.
And lift them they did today. Wow. People were smiling and laughing. People were joyful. When’s the last time you stood in a crowd of people who were joyful? Everyone cheered and clapped, and the little kids waved and danced to the drumbeat. It was a glorious March day, cold and windy compared to the brief taste of spring we had earlier this week, but no one cared. People bundled up and wore their green scarves and shamrock sunglasses as they hurried up the street towards the sound of the music. There was energy and anticipation of something wonderful happening that they didn’t want to miss. How often do we find ourselves, especially these days, filled with excitement and running toward something wonderful?
Sometimes you need to see vendors creating balloon animals for kids who are wearing leprechaun hats. Sometimes you need to smell Bricker’s French fries and watch news anchors from local TV stations handing out promotional materials and spinning prize wheels. You need to see a man getting out of the car parked next to you who’s wearing a kilt and adjusting a set of bag pipes over his shoulder. Elderly ladies in wheelchairs sporting green tinsel necklaces clapping along with the music. A little girl hoisted up on her dad’s shoulders so she could watch mommy playing her horn. A teenaged boy with an instrument case on his back (my guess is a trumpet) staring spellbound at the corps. (Yes, you can play that trumpet even after high school.) A former teaching colleague who has struggled with serious health issues absolutely beaming between tunes as he performs for the first time with the Lancers.
Parades are small-town throw-backs to another era. They’re more Norman Rockwell and Andy of Mayberry than they are hipster cool. But they draw all of us in and make us feel good regardless of our political persuasion or the color of our hair. They make us look up from our screens long enough to enjoy the dancers and the bands and the floats and talk to the people standing next to us on the sidewalk. So here’s an Irish toast to those who make it all happen—the planners and the fire police, the musicians and the majorettes, the float-builders and the bagpipe-players, the ones who scrounge for the funding every year and the ones who sweep the streets after it’s all over. Because now more than ever, we need to gather in our town squares accompanied by the sounds of blazing brass and thundering percussion and celebrate something wonderful. Together.