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Weary Pilgrim – Taps

Memorial Day is a wonderful holiday – for one thing, we feel pretty good about ourselves because we spend at least one day remembering all those men and women who dedicated part of their lives keeping us safe….like my grandfather and my Dad, both of whom fought in world wars so that we could enjoy a wonderful holiday remembering them…..also, it pretty much marks the beginning of summer, it generally has one or more days of glorious weather, and above all else, …. Ti is serenaded by the wonderful melody of Taps.

I have a curious history with the call of Taps….it’s actually called ‘Call’… Taps is payed on the bugle, which is basically a trumpet without keys… and traditionally, bugle melodies afe not called ‘tunes’ they are called ‘calls’….

When I started out my long life in music, trumpet was my principal instrument. And , as luck would have it, Boy Scouts was my principal avocation.

Scouting was simply terrific – you learned about everything form knot-tying to sex ( not really, but here were a lots rumors ) – but once every body found out I could play the trumpet, I became the d-facto bugler of my first troop.

I won’t bore you with the musical math, but basically sound has harmonics, and every instrument has a series of harmonics, which is to say that hidden in every note are other notes….the bugle allows you to play a bunch of notes with only your embrachourte ( fancy name for lips )….I actually have a collection of old bogles, but the truth of the matter is that I always played Taps on my trumpet, which is to say, I used to like a bugle, simply not moving any keys,

It’s a lovely melody – haunting…..ask me how I know…

Once word got around I could play an okay version, things got out of hand – I attended th National Jamboree at Valley Forge in 1964 – as one of the designated buglers…..what could go wrong, you ask? Well, for one thing, buglers not only play ‘calls’ like retreat and Taps at he end of the day, they play Revellie – which is at the beginning.

So if the Buglers play Reveille to get thousands of By Scouts up ervy day, who gets the buglers up? I didn’t think this one through…really, I should have studied the piccolo – it’s much smaller , and you can sleep in..

.in high school I parlayed my talent into playing for VFW funerals….we always had two buglers – one to play the fast melody at graveside, and the other to play an ‘echo’, usually out of sight and over the hill……one at the funeral, we would get $25, and in my later years, I was invited to join the Boys at the Post for a pop before heading back to school…different times.

I, of course, preferred the ‘echo’….out of sight and out of mind….

The most famous ‘miss’ in Taps was at JFK’s funeral…the poor man had to show up 6 hours ahead of time stay out of sight, ad, without any warm up, play it perfectly in full view of the world – he missed a note….and he was the best in the world at that time – tough gig.


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