"She's a professional tambourine player," the choir director explained as he handed me that instrument to accompany our Palm Sunday music.
He was joking, of course, but I was serious in my response, "Actually, I'm a professional cymbal player."
If, that is, you call professional someone who gets paid for his work, and consider a free hamburger and can of soda to be qualifying compensation.
In church, we are known as mild-mannered, respectible singers: Porter is the tenor who leads the Psalm on most Sundays and is the choir's go-to guy for handyman jobs. I'm the alto with the over-ready tongue who tries to make sure that when the choir's not singing, we're laughing.
But there's another side to our musical lives, and it came to my attention recently that many of our fellow choir members have no idea what we morph into every July 4th. As requested, I'm now Revealing All.
It began back in 1993, when our then 13-year-old, trumpet-playing daughter read a column by Bob Morris in the Orlando Sentinel about an organization known as the World's Worst Marching Band, the official band of the (in)famous Queen Kumquat Sashay. When she proclaimed, "I want to join THAT," Porter immediately arranged to take her to one of their rehearsals to check it out. We were homeschoolers at the time, and eveyone knows that homeschoolers are weird and unsocialized and never go out.
Not really, but this truly was some of the weirdest and most wonderful socialization ever. The whole family became involved—and that IS typical of homeschoolers—despite the fact that our first impression of Maestro Tony "Stinky" Peugh was of him conducting the band with a cigarette protruding from each ear. You can read more about the band in this Sentinel article from 1993. Despite the name, most of the members were excellent, professional musicians—but they didn't discriminate against the rest of us.
It was so much fun. Not only did we march in the Sashay and many other local parades, but we also took road trips for Independence Day parades in Atlanta and Philadelphia. We played concerts for the newly-formed Fringe Festival, the Maitland Art Festival, at the Citrus Bowl, at several Disney events, even (in an absolute deluge) for the Santa Salutes the Soaps Parade—venues so eclectic I can't count or even remember them all now.
But as with so many good things, the World's Worst Marching Band eventually ran its course. Later, the intrepid Chaz Waldrip resurrected it, in the form of the ACME All-American Alumni Marching Band, which attempted to be a little more serious. It was still fun, but didn't last long. Finally, Richard Simonton, a band member from Geneva (Florida, not Switzerland), found a scheme that worked to keep us going. Richard is quiet, self-effacing, and brilliant. He's done a lot of good, real work in his time—don't look him up in Wikipedia, though; you'll get his much more famous father—but as far as we're concerned, the Greater Geneva Grande Award Marching Band is his magnum opus.
The GGGAMB operates on a much more modest scale than the WWMB: We have ONE gig per year. On the morning of July the 4th, we meet for a short rehearsal, after which we march in Geneva's short Independence Day parade and then perform for their wonderful, small-town celebration. In 2015 I wrote a post about some of the joys of that once-a-year performance.
For those who would prefer a shorter version, I've edited a video taken of that year's concert by Rick Hughes of the Community Church of God. In it you can see the band in action, with my award-winning cymbal performance. Award-winning? Hang in there till the end and you'll see what I mean.
The video also shows Porter in his even more important role as Gunga Dad, the man who keeps the band well hydrated. This is more of an act than a necessity in these days of ubiquitous water bottles, but in 1993, with the July sun melting the asphalt on Atlanta's Peachtree Street parade route, his tireless work gave us the distinction of being the only band in the parade not to have someone faint.
So there you have it. Our Secret Lives Revealed. Auditions are now open for this year's Independence Parade. That's "auditions" as in "let me know you're interested, and I'll slip your name to the right people.