"Notes da Capo" by John L. Puffenbarger

Spring Issue 2005

One summer evening during the late 1960’s the Clarksburg Community Band, under the baton of Joseph Henry, was performing at Clarksburg River Bend Park. Shortly after the concert began dark clouds began to form. Some in the audience left their lawn chairs and gathered around the pavilion where the band was seated. The wind began to blow music off the stands. Saul Fisher was seated next to me, and as we continued to play, one spectator stabbed Saul’s music with his umbrella, and held it on the stand. Such is the life of musicians when performing outside.

Weather at inaugural parades has caused bands much anguish in past years. According to Charleston Gazette reporter Tom Searts, inaugural parades for West Virginia Governors began on March 4, 1897 when an open carriage pulled up to the large porch of the Ruffner Hotel in Charleston. George W. Atkinson emerged from the hotel and got into the carriage. A drum and bugle corps marched in front of the carriage and proceeded to Capitol Square. Inaugural parades continued pretty much every four years afterward (Hulett Smith’s was canceled in 1965 because of snow) until after Arch A. Moore’s second term in 1973. For some reason, no one has hosted a parade in the thirty-two years since.

Jim Spencer’s Webster Springs High School band marched in the 1969 inaugural parade. He had his students spray Glycerin solution on the valves to keep them from freezing. Governor Moore sent each band member a gold coin with his likeness and a fancy letter. Jim recalled that the band stopped at a "Rocket Burger" restaurant near Montgomery where they had 15-cent hamburgers and 10-cent French Fries.

I took the Buckhannon-Upshur High School band to the inaugural parade in 1973. I was concerned that the cold weather might affect the valves of brass instruments, so I purchased some 91% isopropyl alcohol – a rubbing alcohol – from a local drug store. However the temperature was above freezing, so we did not have to use it.

Bob Dunkerley marched in the ’73 parade as a member of the WVU Mountaineer Band. The band formed a couple of blocks from the Capitol, then marched past the reviewing stand. The Inaugural Committee provided box lunches to all marching units. The longest part of the parade route was marching past the Capitol to the awaiting buses.

This year Governor-elect Joe Manchin revived the inaugural parade after an absence of thirty-two years. As Tara Tuckwiller observed in the Charleston Gazette, the day dawned with a temperature of eleven degrees. Thirty-five bands were scheduled to participate, but several canceled due to the cold weather. The parade was shortened by several blocks so band members could stay on the buses longer. Buses followed each band down the parade route.

A Ripley High rifle twirler tried to practice a few tosses, but she groaned in agony as the icy rifle hit her cold-numbed hand. Trumpeters in the Braxton County High band, situated toward the tail end of the parade, blew on their fingers to keep them workable. Majorettes in thin spandex mini-dresses huddled into a knot, marching in place to the beat of the percussion section, which was drumming to keep warm.

Most of the players wore gloves to protect their fingers from the cold. Some woodwind players cut the tips off in order to finger the keys of their clarinets and flutes. Several bands had capes that were worn over their uniforms. Many majorette corps and flag units wore long slacks.

Joe Manchin’s son sang the Star Spangled Banner. If the cold weather affected his vocal chords, it was not noticeable. He has a fine voice, and sang with great style. The Fairmont Senior High School Madrigals sat for several minutes on the steps of the Capitol before they sang My Home Among The Hills.

The 155 member Clarksburg Liberty High School band marched in the inaugural parade that was held for President George W. Bush in Washington, D. C. this year. The band passed the reviewing stand around 5:30 p.m., playing "America the Beautiful". The band members played with great enthusiasm in spite of the cold weather. Band director Eric Stoneking commented that, "It was an amazing experience to look at the band from my position and see the Capitol behind the band."

(Note: Notes da Capo articles are posted on the WVMEA Web-site. Presently all eighteen of Dr. Clifford Brown’s articles from 1983 to 1988 are listed. Seventy-three of John Puffenbarger’s articles from 1989 to 2005 will be listed by this summer.)