Friday, January 31, 2014

Home of the Brave

In 1814, the British ship HMS Nimrod threatened to attack Falmouth if they did not surrender their two brass cannon.  The town refused the demand and suffered hours of bombardment from the ship - but never backed down and the Nimrod moved on.
On Tuesday evening, the Fife and Drum Corps was invited to participate in the Falmouth Historical Society's celebration of the 200th Anniversary of this event. Due to some scheduling conflicts, a few of us "alumni" were asked to play. We pulled together uniform parts from various current members - (the main objective being finding something we could fit into!) - and brushed up our chops on the fife. It was going to be a short event for us - a couple of pieces while marching amongst the tables of guests, then stand and play the National Anthem and march out.  We rehearsed and walked though it but it's impossible ever to know exactly how it will go.
We arrived at the Inn and unloaded and got ourselves ready.  Coming up the stairs to the hall outside the dining room, the excitement in the room was palpable - People talking and laughing and greeting eachother - some in period costumes, a detailed replica of the Nimrod standing proudly on display.  A brief introduction and ringing of a ship's bell and the doors swung open.
We marched in to phones and cameras flashing - beaming smiles on faces as we wove among the tables. People clapped along to Yankee Doodle - I felt a burst of energy and pride - we were honoring history, and the lives that benefited from the courageous stand of a small town. You could feel the pride in the Falmouth residents.
We arrived at the front of the room and turned to face everyone as we began the National Anthem. And I was hit with a wave of patriotism that took my breath away. Every person leaped to their feet as the first notes sounded, and then they started to sing - not the tentative half-singing we often do in a crowd when you hope the person next to you doesn't hear you - or the rowdy singing that obliterates the words in a stadium. This was the kind of singing done by people who knew what these words meant and were singing with all their heart. I looked around as I played, starting with the older man about 4 feet from me who could have given Pavoratti a run for his money, and I realized there were veterans in this room. These were people who had probably seen "the rockets red glare" and had been spurred on by that beautiful banner yet waving! And my next thought was that this is a generation we are losing - men and women whose love for this country flowed in their veins - fired by personal experience. And I felt proud and moved and humbled and so grateful. There were tears in a few eyes as we marched out - including mine.
Later in 1814, Francis Scott Key caught a glimpse of those broad stripes and bright stars over Fort McHenry and was inspired to write what would become our National Anthem.  I hope we will never as a county lose the meaning of these words - so hard earned every day.

The Star-Spangled Banner

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream,
’Tis the star-spangled banner - O long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto - “In God is our trust,”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.