By Seth Daniel
A sad tuba has blown its last note.
After nearly three decades of making the trek from Philadelphia to the Town, the Mummers will not be coming to the Bunker Hill Day festivities and Parade this year. It’s a nod to the Parade Committee introducing something new with more energy and at a better value.
“There are no Mummers this year for the concert or the parade,” said Arthur Hurley, of the Committee. “The Committee decided that. It’s been 25 or maybe 30 years that they’ve been coming, except once in 2005 when their clubhouse burnt down and they couldn’t make it…Some people (on the Committee) thought the current quality wasn’t sufficient. The Mummers never went up on the price, though.”
In their place will be a large brass brand.
The Bridgewater Antiphonal Brass Society will be bringing its 22-piece band to the Monument in place of the Mummers and the Committee believes it will enliven the pre-Parade concert and the Parade.
It is estimated that the Mummers cost the Committee about $6,500 each year for their concert, hotel rooms and Parade appearance. The bands were marked by their ultra-colorful outfits and puppet-like characters that accompanied them. They were known for carrying big instruments like a cello, a baritone saxophone and many tubas.
The group hailed from Philadelphia and were a beloved part of the Parade week for some time.
However, in recent years some on the Committee had grown tired of the performance, and the group was bringing fewer and fewer performers each year and charging about the same price. The Committee also indicated that the quality of the music wasn’t what it was in year’s past.
After last year’s performance, where about 15 to 20 Mummers played, the Committee began exploring the idea of bringing in a bigger band.
According to the new band’s promotional materials, they are in the old New England Brass Band tradition.
“The Bridgewater Antiphonal Brass Society has brought back to life those wonderful times with an all brass, 22-piece ensemble in the grand New England tradition dating back over 100 years,” it read. “The ensemble began during the 1970s as a small group playing classical, Baroque and Renaissance music for area churches and civic organizations…Today, our concerts present a refreshing mixture of marches, American and international, polkas, big band jazz, ragtime, light classics, overtures, popular songs and Patriotic music. There is something for everyone, young and old, and in between.”
Hurley said the Mummers – who have no real connection to Charlestown – were the brainchild of the late Jim and Gloria Conway, the former publishers of this newspaper. The couple used to go to Philadelphia every year and were enchanted by the Mummers.
“Somebody suggested it, probably Jim Conway, and we did it,” said Hurley. “He and his wife used to go to Philadelphia for New Year’s where they have a big parade. There are a lot of Mummers bands there. Jan. 1 is the big parade with all the Mummers down there. Jim and Gloria used to go down and they probably got the idea down there.”
Hurley said the Parade is coming together and the last minute things are happening as usual.
“The Parade always comes together at the last minute,” he said. “All the sudden, people wake up and say, the Parade is only three weeks away.”
Hurley said his first memories are of the Parade, and it remains near and dear to his heart to continue it in the best tradition possible.