The Mis-Making of A Fourth of July Band

Clive Osbrun knew one note for one tune. And it was C-sharp.

Let me be clear, the note Clive knew was C6-very-sharp, and most people do not recognize the tune it came in.

His flute was capable of other wonderful sounds, even whole orchestras of lovely sound. But whatever the sheet music told him and wand-waver orchestrated, Ole Clive always managed to make sure C6-very-sharp was one of the sounds his flute managed to tweet.

Midge Hugs was the wand-waver, and she tried to accommodate Clive. She did not have much choice. There were only eight musicians in all of West Bend, Montana, and Clive was the only one of them that owned a flute. And Midge was determined to have a band for the Forth of July Parade in Great City. She was also determined, being the patriotic sort, that the entire band show off the wonders of West Bend, Montana—a place she had known since birth. No foreigners from Low Bench or Osborn City need apply.

So Midge accommodated Clive, by orchestrating the band to his strength. She prepared renditions of “O Beautiful for Spacious Skies,” “The Star Spangled Banner,” and a few other good marches that included a few appropriately placed C-sharps. As I have said, Clive’s C-sharp was one of the high ones. It was a c-sharp that wakened the musicality of Midge’s four dogs and whenever, during rehearsals in Midge’s and Lou’s garage, Clive managed to squeal out his C-sharp-very-sharp, the pups came in as a chorus of howls, yips, and cries.

Almost all the other seven musicians Midge had assembled grumbled about the her revisions being not really how the tunes should be tooted. They grumbled because the dogs’ chorus had no idea what on-key meant. But they really griped about how the high key affected their own playing. The Trumpet and French Horn in particular grumbled. They complained not only because of off key dogs but also because “playin’ that high is gonna rip my lips off.” The bassoon just piped something in or below the Bass Clef that may or may not have harmonized with C-sharp-very-sharp. She did the best she could. Midge also managed to find two fiddlers for her violin section. They really grumbled, but adjusted by just jazzing in where and when they thought a good fiddle sound should be. They were never off key, but always stopped playing when Clive went for his C-sharp-very sharp. They stopped playing and clapped their hands over their ears, bow dangling from one hand and fiddle from the other.

The percussion section, Lyle Osborn, did not complain. Lyle barely heard the dull thud of a damp drum-head, so he wasn’t bothered by Clive’s C-Sharp-very-sharp. Lyle brought several interesting and wonderfully limber and noisome drums to the band. Also, as part of his repertoire he brought along a metal spittoon modified to echo out a very loud and vibrant TWANG that was sometimes in harmony with any C-sharp. Lyle prepared a chunk of Red Man the size of Arizona in his left cheek. When Midge signaled it was time to harmonize with C-sharp, he worked up a vast slobber of brown spit and putuied into the spittoon. It was hit every time. And the fuller the spittoon became, the higher the harmonizing with C-sharp became.

Let it be said that that Fourth of July Parade, in spite of all its many entries and wonders, including at least seven other bands and orchestras from as far away as Idaho Falls and Missoula, was dominated by a squealing flute, a choir of vagrant Great City canines, and the rising pitched ‘Ptwang’ of Old Red Man juice hitting the spittoon.


There may be some among you who actually understand music. Unfortunately, you have a bassoon on me there. So, apologies for any rakes across the good old fashion black board this little piece may have caused those with more sensitive ear.

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