Remembering …and They Are Pleased
A canopy sits on the grass beside the road reverently protecting the town’s war monument. Forty folding chairs wait. An American flag flutters in the breeze. Birds chirp. A nearby stream gurgles as it flows placidly below.
One by one, musicians, carrying instruments and music stands, appear, walking up the steep grassy slope behind the neighboring church. Slowly the band seats fill. The quiet afternoon is interrupted by trumpets and flutes warming up. Interspersed, can be heard conversation and hearty greetings as the last of the band arrives.
A small contingent of town officials, a state representative, the local minister, the guest speaker and the soloist trickle in. A handful of town folk fill the remaining seats. Late comers gather around the outside of the canopy being careful not to stand in the street that is so very close by.
The gentle cacophony is finally interrupted by the opening bars of a patriotic march. The Eagles Band entertains the small crowd and gives notice to those not yet there that the ceremony is about to begin. The audience, albeit small, reacts enthusiastically.
As the final notes of the last march fade away into the bright blue summer sky, a hush descends. The sweet voice of a young soprano timidly begins “The Star Spangled Banner” gaining confidence and strength as her initial nervousness recedes. The American flag gently waves behind her and hangs in mid-air for a moment as she finishes.
The brother of a local war hero speaks softly, yet emotionally, about the bravery and sacrifice that his brother and the other men and women in the military demonstrated when asked to defend our freedom and way of life. The band plays “God Bless America” and some of those standing outside the canopy sing along with a glint of a tear in their eye.
Two trumpeters slowly rise and walk away. Soon “Taps” begins. The crowd stands…some salute as they were taught to do in the service… others place their hands over their hearts… and others stand with their heads bowed. Then the echo begins and a shudder passes through the crowd. The simple melody of “Taps” brings home the message of why we are there today better than anything else.
The benediction begins just as several motorcycles drive by and some of the words are lost. The ceremony ends with the band playing “America, the Beautiful”
The town turns its attention to the parade that will begin shortly on the outskirts of town and the picnic planned for afterward.
The day, by some standards, is quiet, unimposing, simple.
So what is it about a Memorial Day in Savoy, MA that leaves a lasting impression?
The Eagles Band, the community band from nearby Pittsfield, MA, played under that canopy for many years. Unfortunately, it no longer does. Several band members have commented that they miss playing that gig. Why? Could it be the subtle, understated touch and the quiet dignity this small community displays on Memorial Day? Is it the peacefulness that descends on the group gathered there among the Berkshire Hills or the sense that they who are there are doing something very special and that those remembered are pleased.