Drive by the American Legion Post 182 on North Granby Road and you might notice a bus parked in the back, with Marquis of Granby lettered on its sides. It is the much-cherished transport of the local all-youth Ancient Fyfe & Drum Corps.
Along with the rest of the world, things came to a screeching halt last March for this active group of committed musicians and history buffs. Twenty-plus performances on the Marquis’ events calendar from March through November 2020 were all canceled because of the unfolding coronavirus pandemic.
With its destinations indefinitely on hold, the bus remained in “park” for over a year. And then, just last week I saw it going down the street! Instantly a feeling of hope: The Marquis of Granby has a performance to get to, and the bus is being readied for the journey.
In fact, the corps has six performances planned so far. On the last weekend in May, the Corps will perform right here in Granby and is invited to play in the Memorial Day celebrations in Simsbury, Enfield, New Britain and North Haven. And then in June, they have one of their favorite events, the Gaspee Days Parade in Rhode Island, which in years past usually culminated in a fun trip to Charlestown beach.
How much will be “usual” about any of the upcoming events remains to be seen. All are subject to change based on state and city guidelines. Plus, the pandemic may have limited the municipalities’ ability to raise money to cover the cost of the celebrations, so the festivities will be adjusted based on the available budgets. Whatever the level of fanfare, the performance by the Marquis of Granby will be of its usual high caliber, thanks to the remarkable commitment on the part of the corps throughout this difficult period.
Pre-pandemic, the kids had weekly one and a half to two-hour practices in the spacious Cook Hall of the First Congregational Church. When it was nice out, the practice would be held outdoors. Once everything shut down in March of 2020, it did not take the music instructors long to set up individual and group lessons on zoom, and practices continued with only a short break, albeit in a very different format.
Zoom was not conducive for working on flag line and marching maneuvers, so as the weather improved, the corps also held safe backyard practices. With all their scheduled performances canceled, with no knowledge of when things would get back to some semblance of normal, the Marquis of Granby, whose mission is to bring traditional music and pageantry to typically crowded events, continued on without an audience or even a remote promise of a well-attended event.
They did not stop practicing their music. They jammed best they could, determined to keep their mastery, precision and camaraderie. In the face of the tragedy of an unprecedented global pandemic, this group’s determination and perseverance was the face of pure hope.
It is hard to put into words what exactly makes the Marquis organization special. Perhaps it is a sense of purpose that its members have been carrying on through the 50-plus years the corps has been in existence. They have a respect for history, for the role it plays in today’s world and for the messages it holds for us. Through their meticulously rehearsed arrangements of traditional music and historically accurate costumes, they bring much needed pause and reflection to the fast pace of the modern world.
The members share a sense of responsibility. Take a look at the Marquis video gallery on their website, you will find recordings of two intimate performances the corps delivered in 2020. One on an eerily quiet Memorial Day, where senior members of the corps performed a special tribute to honor the Granby’s fallen on the town green, and another, in November—a small Veterans Day performance on the steps of the First Congregational Church. There was no fee for services, no crowds, no applause, just an intention to be honored.
As the corps’ calendar is filling up, the excitement of performing at familiar events is palpable among the members. Preparations are underway, and it’s not just getting the bus aired out and tuned up. A lot goes into getting the entire corps ready. Attention to detail has always been a defining characteristic of the Marquis. The uniform quartermaster for the corps, Heidi Daring, has her hands full. “Kids have grown in a year, and that means shifting the uniforms around, plus the white uniforms yellow if left hanging in a closet for an entire year!” But the shirts and the shoes and the tricorn hats, the drums, the fifes and the bus will all be ready. And the Marquis of Granby members will be marching and playing their tunes amidst the new normal, bringing excitement, pageantry and yes, pause, as they always have.
For more information on Marquis of Granby Junior Ancient Fyfe & Drum Corps or to find recordings of past performances, follow it on Facebook or see the website: marquisofgranby.org. Stay tuned for information on the new member recruitment event planned for early June.
Marquis of Granby is grateful to the community for its continuing support, especially during this difficult time.