‘Old Glory’ brings 4th music


News staff writer

July 1, 2006

The Old Glory Marching Band isn’t worried about keep the beat — just their balance — during the annual Fourth of July Parade in Hood River.

“We’re all old and we were once glorious so that’s how we came up with the name,” said Eric Ohlson, organizer.

Most of the musicians involved in the group have dusted off instruments that were shelved for years. And hardly anyone knows how to march with precision — and the few individuals that do can’t remember how.

Being part of Old Glory isn’t for the fainthearted — or even a few of the stouthearted.

Hood River County School Supt. Pat Evenson-Brady dropped out after the first of two rehearsals. She said it was difficult enough just managing her clarinet after 44 years — let alone keeping step at the same time.

“I don’t have enough muscles anymore to keep my mouth in shape for even 20 minutes — it’s just been too long,” she said. “And I didn’t think it would be fair to march along and not play.”

Jerry Keith is undaunted by the prospect of packing his tuba at 10 a.m. on Tuesday from the intersection of 12th Street and Pacific Avenue to Jackson Park. But then Keith was once a member of the 1st Marine Division Field Band and spent plenty of time on the tarmac for graduations at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, Calif.

“As a precision unit I’m sure we’re not going to impress anybody but, hey, there’ll be a band,” said Keith.

His greatest fear is that Gorge winds will fill the bell of his tuba and make it difficult to stay upright.

“Oh well, no matter what happens it will be fun. I loved marching when I was in high school, college and the Marines,” said Keith.

He and most of the Old Glory members perform regularly with Gorge Winds Concert Band and/or the Columbia Gorge Sinfonietta. So, they haven’t had any difficulty learning their sole piece: El Capitan by Philip Sousa, the “March King.”

Ohlson gained volunteers for the band by sending out a few e-mails to friends. He also placed a few advertisements, and spread the word to known musicians.

“I’ve been going to parades for a long time and marching bands were always the highlight for me — so I thought we needed one,” he said.

Once Ohlson had enlisted the talents of a few good men and women, he gained a T-shirt donation from Don Nunamaker Realty.

So, Old Glory will have a uniform on Tuesday that is appropriate for the occasion —shirts in the colors of red, white and blue. Ohlson has been impressed with the harmony of the band — but maybe not so much with their one attempt at marching.

“We shall see what we shall see,” he said. “I think people are just getting a kick out of taking their instruments out and playing them again.”

Ohlson’s strategy to get the band on track is simple. He will rely on the five drummers to keep a steady cadence — and just trust everyone else to keep moving forward.

“I will blow a whistle to get us going and stop if we need to stop. But we’re in the front of the parade so I don’t think we’ll need to stop,” he said.

According to Ohlson, the placement of the band in the parade lineup is both good and bad. Good because most of the musicians will need a few minutes to “rest their lips” before joining Gorge Winds in Jackson Park. Bad since several horses will be trotting just ahead of them.

z And that might mean some high-stepping for a group that is having trouble just walking in a straight line.

In fact, during Tuesday’s marching drill, one of the musicians commented that maybe the band should be renamed the “Drunken Sailors.”

And then the notes from Keith’s tuba found favor with Cleo, the dog of snare drummer Tamara Shannon. Keith’s new faithful companion followed him for the rest of the evening. He is hopeful the parade won’t turn into a Pied Piper type of event — especially if he is already dealing with any type of a breeze.

Ohlson invites any and all Mid-Columbia musicians to join Old Glory. He said the whole idea is to have fun and perhaps inspire a few smiles from the crowd. He will gladly give more details to anyone who calls 490-0343.

”We don’t play enough, but we play enough for the time we have. This is all about having fun, we know the music and we’ll just wing it and see what happens,” said Olson.

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