Skip to comments.In Praise of Sweetness
Posted on 08/30/2008 1:15:26 PM PDT by Congressman Billybob
I thought of Sweetness last week. He was the Drum Major of the Yale Band, back when ice covered the Earth and I was in college. Im not saying that the Yale Band was inadequate. But they did run onto the field like a rabble, rather than march.
The Co-op Book Store did have a card which said on the front, Today, in your honor, the Yale Band will play.... Inside, it said, ... in tune.
But one part of that organization was absolutely perfect. That was George Levendis, a 6-foot 4-inch Drum Major who bent over backwards until the top knot of his high hat almost touched the ground behind him. Then, with a high kick above his head, he threw his staff high into the air, caught it neatly, and led the band into its first number.
You dont see absolute perfection very often in this life, not even with 65 years of watching. When you saw Levendis just once, you knew why he had the nickname of Sweetness.
What reminded me of Sweetness was the Tattoo we saw at Edinburgh Castle in Scotland, last week. There was a hard, driving rain that night. Each of the 8,000 tickets to that event state on the back the refund policy in the event that an evenings performance was cancelled die to weather. After that, it says, No performance has ever been cancelled.
And that is understandable. Most of the people taking part each evening are 8n the military. No one refuses to go onto the field of battle because the weather doesnt suit their clothes. Those who were not military, were trained in the military manner. So, every unit came out and performed as expected, regardless of the chilling rain. I especially sympathized with the Scottish dancers who went through their routines under such severe conditions.
A trumpet and drum corps from Southwestern Missouri State soldiered on through. When the young women kicked their feet above their heads, they threw a spray of cold water off their shoes into the air and into their own faces. They never missed a step.
There was a group of precision marchers from New Zealand. They were women, not men, And they did a manoeuver Ive never seen any other marchers do. Youve seen marching units divide into two parts, and then march through each other on opposing diagonals. It is not an easy marching move. Ill wager youve never seen that interfiliation done by marchers who are marching backwards and cannot see the opposite and approaching marchers, who are also coming in backwards.
Most of the people watching were soaked to the skin. Many left early, in shivering misery. Im glad I stayed to the very end. All of the units who had performed that night came back into the marching area, a paved arena about the size of a soccer field. The announcer read four powerful lines from Robbie Burns, Scotlands greatest poet.
And then the massed drummers, pipers, trumpets and other instruments launched into the final tune of the night, Scotland, the Brave. Leading it was a single Drum Major standing on a platform in the middle of the musicians and dancers. He was precise, and he was apparently oblivious to the cold, driving rain in his face. It made me think of Sweetness, and then some.
The two aspects of the entire trip which were most impressive were the age of the civilizations whose remnants we saw. On the coast, we saw a 2,000-year-old pre-Celtic fortress. In the center of Ireland, we saw the remains of a monastery and city which was first constructed in the seventh century, and which was attacked, burned and destroyed more than eleven times.
These are hardy people, with a long and bloody history that they somehow survived and surmounted. The grit and excellence of those musicians, including the legendary Black Watch, are symbols of that long and difficult past.
Id read about these ancient histories of the long march from barbarism to civilization. But theres no doubt that history means more when you stand iu the middle of it, rather than read about it in books.
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About the Author: John Armor practiced law in the US Supreme Court for 33 years. He now lives in Highlands, NC, and is working on a book on Thomas Paine. John_Armor@aya.yale.edu
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John / Billybob
Affirmative, Congressman. Affirmative.
Thanks a lot for "putting us there." Nothing like bagpipes. Not on earth. Maybe in hell. Definitely in Heaven.
Everyone should, somewhere at sometime, stand in the middle of it. And become aware.
Good reading here.
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