July Fourth preview: The band comes marching in (7/2/09)

July 2, 2009

By Greg Duggan

Observer staff

The town band and the Trinity Baptist Church Choir have been staples at Williston’s Fourth of July celebrations in past years. Both will return this year, but they won’t be the only ones providing the musical entertainment.


    Courtesy photo
Hanaford’s Volunteers, a fife and drum corps based out of Underhill, performs at Fort Ticonderoga in 2005. The group will join Williston’s Independence Day parade on Saturday.

Hanaford’s Volunteers Fyfe and Drum Corps, along with a color guard and militia, will bring colonial era flair to the Independence Day festivities. The Underhill-based group dresses in green hunting shirts, white military pants and dark green berets, with musicians playing bass drums, snare drums and fifes. The militia uses authentic reproductions of firearms, uniforms and other equipment. The color guard carries flags and wears period uniforms.

Approximately 15 musicians will march in Williston’s parade, as well as six members from both the color guard and militia, said Bill White, a drummer from Williston. The numbers have dwindled in past years, White said, which led to the decision to march for free in Williston’s parade.

Though a nonprofit organization, Hanaford’s Volunteers typically charge to perform at events; the fees cover travel, uniforms and equipment. But in Williston, White and other members saw an opportunity to recruit others.

“We always wanted to do Williston, but shied away from it because Williston doesn’t pay for musical units,” White said. “This year we decided to do it, to get some additional exposure, and hope to create interest in the Williston area.”

Gerd and Ruth Sommer founded the Corps in Underhill in 1975, naming it after Capt. Nathaniel Hanaford, a drum major in the War of 1812. White said the Corps draws mostly from Underhill, but also has members from Craftsbury, Enosburg and Newport. At its peak, White said, the Corps had 60 children. Now membership is down to fewer than 10 teens, in addition to the adults. White, who is 72, said the majority of the adults are seniors.

“The recruitment process is never ending,” White said. “If not for some adults, we’d be in tough shape.”

Members meet regularly and perform 10 or 12 times per year. The group provides free music lessons to recruits, but White said it can take six months for a fife player to be ready to join the fife line. Drummers, as well as learning to play, must train their body to carry a drum at events.

Hanaford’s Volunteers aren’t complete strangers to Williston — White said a small group visited Williston Central School in May — but it’s been years, if not decades, since the Corps has performed at the town’s Fourth of July celebrations.

“We’re psyched to have them,” said Kevin Finnegan, Williston’s Recreation director.

White said Hanaford’s Volunteers have a dozen or so songs to play during the parade, and will then take the stage on the Village Green to perform its “stand piece,” a medley of songs played while standing.

“This year, because of the quadricentennial (a celebration marking the European discovery of Lake Champlain), we put together a medley of all French tunes,” White said.

He credited one of the group’s teens for arranging and composing the medley.