Crowd Whipped Into A Frenzy.
On Wednesday night, the President’s Own United States Marine Band produced a colorful and patriotic performance underscored by brass notes punctuating rapidly paced reeds and roaring percussion to pieces arranged by some of the nation’s most well known composers. The audience, housed in the Frank “Buck” Shaffer Theatre was pleased, evidenced by their hearty applause and standing ovations throughout.
OK, the crowd was not really whipped into a frenzy.They were generally mystified that outsiders had stumbled into Porterville to entertain them, but politely pleased that they did.
The performance was enjoyable, akin to a Pops Concert almost. In Porterville, any outside performance is a big deal, and this one was well done.
We were a little nervous arriving – the tickets made plain that everyone needed to be seated by 7:15 even though the show was not until 7:30. Thoughts of the fate of a certain Georgian theater crowd at the hand of the Russians crept through my mind. And, well, we saw “Inglorious Basterds” too ….
In the end there was no violence or no explanation for why the public had to follow marching orders from the Marines. At least there was no speechifying either, all joking aside, that is what I thought those 15 minutes would be used for. At least 3 City Council members were present, but they simply enjoyed the show as everyone else did.
Overall, I’d say the age of the attendees was skewed towards the Korean War and Vietnam War veteran era.
I was really only joking to myself when I thought, during the opening rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner”, that some of the attendees may very well have been fighting in the War of 1812. They were old, but not that old.
And, since our National Anthem was written in my home town of Baltimore, I feel a special pride when I hear it. I also, having attended hundreds and hundreds of baseball games, found it extremely difficult to repress the Pavlovian need to shout “O” during the final verse of “Oh say can you see”. I stifled it OK, but I lost sleep as a result of the internal effort.
That was interesting because it has been decades since those days. And it was almost as interesting that I similarly expected the band to break out of its formal posturing during the intermission and break out into a rousing “Thank God I’m a Country Boy”. Ironically, of the hundreds of times I have heard that song sung along to by a crowd, it has never been a crowd of “Country Boys” as it was last night.
One of the most enthusiastic standing ovations mentioned in the article above (they weren’t really “throughout” but at scripted predictable places) occurred as Bennear emotive sang the lines “Let Freedom Ring” from “My Country Tis of Thee”.
My thought at the time was how ironic that probably 80% of the standing audience voted less than one year ago to remove *existing rights* from a minority of people under the schoolyard guise of “majority rules!!! nyah nyah nyah!!!”.
Most of the other 20% was the high school students that reporter Chandler mentioned above by the way, too young to have voted lat year, but who will be the votes that restore the rights to their, well, rightful place soon enough.
Also curious: The program, provided by the Band, says that they perform 500 times a year outside of Washington on tour of the US. That struck me at odds with Bennear’s well rehearsed comments that we all learned the patriotic tunes in the ending medley during grade school.
I did learn them, at a time in the late 60s when I have since learned there were riots in the city across the river that was at the bottom of our hilly block.
But I am out in the real world and I know that the demographics of America are such that in our lifetime we have had a huge influx of immigration from around the world, and not all citizens or even visitors who might attend a performance of this historic band somewhere in America learned patriotic songs as a kid.
I found that comment rude and insensitive and so did my girlfriend who is not originally an American Citizen and so did not receive her earliest schoolgirl indoctrination in American schools.
I was personally disappointed that the last piece was “God Bless America” for two reasons. One, of course is that there was the triple-whammy of both Federal and Local governments stretching the First Amendment’s Establishment clause.: A Federal Band singing about God and America? In a public school funded by the state and local citizens?
No public event in Porterville is complete without the First Amendment Establishment Clause being stretched to its limits of course, but I am sure the crowd would have been just as thrilled and roused by a tune written by Woody Guthrie, musical hero of the Dust Bowl Refugees (hello all you 70+ year olds-in the audience, might that be you or your family?).
“This Land is Your Land”, which I have written about before, is the tune he wrote in response to “God Bless America”‘s religious pleas and jingoistic overtones. The lyrics, are more inclusive and equally grand and well known “This Land is Your Land”. That song would have been a far better choice to send the crowd out with. It is a truly beautiful song, maybe the most beautiful of all patriotic tunes.
And I am not saying the Band itself was lily-white – I recall noticing an Asian guy on a woodwind instrument, but other than that, it sure didn’t look like the face of any part of America I have ever seen. This band has been playing since 1798 – yes that is not a typo – and this is the best they can do equality wise?