Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The Kampen Band

Before the moment passes, I want to describe the parade I went to (and marched alongside of) through Bahama Village last night. The parade of the band to Bahama Village was to have marched from the courthouse complex to Petronia St., but they took an early turn from Whitehead and bypassed the Coffee Plantation where we were waiting. By the time I realized it, the band was already three blocks away, in front of the band building, and playing a stirring march tune. The 60 or so members of the band were lined up in front of the drum students of the Bahama Village Music Program, about a dozen kids.

After the Kampen band played, the BVMP drum corps put on a show of their own, demonstrating what they've learned, and (I may be biased a bit here) they were quite good. Mr. Jerome was setting the basic rhythm on several bass drums, and Miss Katchen was helping out by keeping the kids focused on what they should be doing. Then, both bands moved into marching formation and set out on Emma St. for the march through the Village.

The parade almost didn't happen. The Kakmpen Band's performance here is sponsored by the Founders' Society, a group affiliated with the Tennessee Williams Fine Art Center. The program under which the band was brought to the U.S. requires the band to perform a parade in each city where they give performances. Some fumbles along the way led to that event being overlooked, and Catch, the Business Manager for BVMP grabbed the baton and accomplished every thing necessary for the parade -- permits, police coverage, and getting the kids and parents together for the parade -- on short notice. The parade event was firmed up too late for the pre-event publicity to mention it, so there were not many who even knew that it was being held.

It was quite a sight, the 60 marchers, and members of their families and of the kids' families marching alongside. People came outside to watch this mostly unexpected event in their neighborhoods. I fell in alongside. It felt like I was back in high school band again. The Kampen Band played their brasses, reeds, and percussion instruments, and the BVMP students marched along behind, keeping mostly in step and on beat with the far larger band. We marched by both public housing projects on Emma Street and I noticed for the first time how many houses on Emma are being re-habbed, redecorated, and/or are currently for sale.

As we made a left turn past the Community Pool, we passed the senior housing on Amelia St., came to a halt at the intersection with Whitehead St., and stayed right there for about 15 minutes. I wondered what the hold-up was. Finally, it became clear when the entourage of sheriff's cars and the prisoner van passed by with sirens blaring. As they turned left on United, the Key West police vehicles that were leading the parade, and clearing the road ahead and behind, moved out onto Whitehead for the short march to Southernmost Point and around the corner onto South St. The parade ended there and the band members and their families walked the short distance to the Southernmost Motel, apparently their quarters during their stay here. They perform a concert on Thursday at St. Paul's Church, then go on to their next venue. It's an interesting way to see America, and probably the rest of the world. I had expected to see a relatively young group, but in fact they were an older group for the most part. Most seemed to be in their 40's and 50's.

At the end, I approached one of the accompanying men and asked him if he was, in fact, associated with the group. He was, so I thanked him for what the band did for the city, for the Village, and for the kids, and asked him to pass those thanks along.

I walked back home, along Duval St., feeling much entertained and fortunate to have had the chance to witness this unique event.

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