Serendipity. There’s a good word. No, not “serenity,” although a sense of serenity often accompanies serendipity. Merriam-Webster defines serendipity as the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for; also an instance of this. Thus, sometimes things just seem to fall into place, like winning the big bucks in the Daily Numbers game which consists of correctly guessing four independently sorted numbers ( 0 to 9 ) in exact order when the actual odds of doing that are one in ten thousand (=one in ten to the 4th power, or 1/10 x 1/10×1/10×1/10).That’s hopeful serendipity at least according to thelaws of probability, and the reason why games involving strictly chance events always favor the state, the casino, or whoever is taking the bets.
Anyway, there have been at least two instances of genuine serendipity involving the Brass Band lately, and that’s what this latest column is all about. In a sense, these instances involve a fusion of old and new, past and present, always with an eye toward the future.
The first example involves a recent discovery by Noble John Wilder, a member of the Minutemen Unit as well as Aleppo Temple’s Historian. Noble John contacted me several weeks ago with news of an exciting treasure he found among Aleppo’s archives.
This was a march written in 1906 by Noble Eben Richardson of Lynn, Massachusetts, arranged as a piano solo, and dedicated to Illustrious Charles C. Henry, Aleppo’s Potentate at that time. The copy was somewhat tattered and very frail, but the notes were still readable. Noble John sent me a scanned PDF copy, asking if it would be possible to arrange this march for the Brass Band in order that it might be played at a future Ceremonial.
After some adaptive changes of key, the band parts were developed, the piece was rehearsed, and is now ready to be played. In fact, its 6/8 rhythm provides that easy gait which was typical of many marches that once moved marching bands and other parade units down the street a century ago. Noble Richardson thus left a real musical legacy to Aleppo some 112 years ago, and the Brass Band will be proud to present his composition as an accompaniment to a future Grand Entrance of Uniformed Units.
To accompany the music, Richardson penned some inspired poetry in the piano edition; and, although Brass Band music is not generally very suitable for a vocalist, the lyrics convey Noble Eben’s dedication to the ritual of the Mystic Shrine and thus bear some repeating here:
In the East, shines a light, centuries old knew its gleam. Lo! Our path winds the height, as we see it afar. O’er the sands of the desert, our proud pennants stream, As we follow the bright guiding star.
Another example of serendipity in the Brass Band is the “discovery” that the Band (or at least a contingent thereof) can still produce some good music even at off-site Ceremonials, such as the one recently held at the Burlington Marriott where the facilities cannot readily accommodate the full Brass Band, nor a Grand Entrance of the Uniformed Units. Inspired by some recordings by the famous Canadian Brass Quintet, Noble Dan Madore, Aleppo’s Assistant Bandmaster, has organized our own brass quintet composed exclusively of Aleppo Nobility. Thus, we have called ourselves, “Noble Brass.”
The five musicians in the Noble Brass ensemble are all members of the Brass Band and include the following instrumentalists:
Dan Madore, Director and 1st Trumpet
Al Downey, 2nd Trumpet
Rick Fardy, Alto Horn
Jack Austin, Trombone
Elliot Farnsworth, Tuba
The Noble Brass Quintet made its performance debut at the January Black Camel Memorial Service where we played Mozart’s “Ave Verum Corpus” and also accompanied Noble Carl Wickstrom who played the organ for the singing of the processional and recessional hymns.
Later that month we also played at the Burlington Marriott Ceremonial. During the luncheon we played a potpourri of selections and styles including “Avalon,” “Bye Bye Blackbird,” “Cwm Rhondda,” and the “Beer Barrel Polka,” to name just a few. During the ceremony, we, of course, played “I Am Proud to Be Shriner” in a special arrangement adapted from the full band version along with the “Star-Spangled Banner” and the Canadian National Anthem (“O Canada”) during the Presentation of Colors. We look forward to enlarging our brass quintet repertoire with some Broadway show tunes together with some classical and even some ragtime and Dixieland pieces as well, along with new performance opportunities for both the Noble Brass Quintet and the full Aleppo Brass Band.
As always, the Brass Band is recruiting new instrumentalists to fill our woodwind, brass and percussion sections. Perhaps you played a band instrument in high school and would like to give it a try again. There is a very small time commitment as we rehearse only on the second and fourth Thursdays each month from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. The rehearsals are very relaxed, as making music should always be enjoyable. We also function as a community band, being joined at both rehearsals and performances by non-Shriners who enjoy making music. In addition, there is much camaraderie during both the actual rehearsal as well as afterwards, where we often share good conversation and refreshments, harmony being the strength and support of all institutions, more especially this of ours!