Since Memorial Day, the Ramona Town Hall Brass Band has been leaning into the red white and blue wave of excitement, says Bandmaster Ken Serfass.
With the summer weather and the end of the school year, band membership grows for the Civil War re-enactor season, also, said Servass.
“As college and high school terms end, some of members come home or find they have some free time, and that makes it possible for us to focus on the re-enactor season,” he explained. “We have a lot of gear to maintain for our camp impression and also there is uniform acquisition and the music side which needs attention.”
At the Civil War events, the band serenades for the visitors and also accompanies the presentation of the Gettysburg address by an Abe Lincoln impressionist, playing “Hail To the Chief” to lead into his speech.
The band has been invited to a “Tall Ship” event June 25 and 26 in Oxnard, where they will provide a living history encampment as a Marine detachment sent ashore.
Some Ramona High School band members are looking forward to the event. Recent RHS graduate and Royal Alliance drum Major, John Villagrana said,
“There will be cannon fire from the sailing vessels and some land battles, and our band members may even storm ashore in long boats as Civil War Marines,” said John Villagrana, who graduated RHS last week and was drum major for the school’s marching band. “There will be a ship arrival each day that the band will play for, and of course we will serenade President Lincoln before he gives his address.”
On July 4, the brass band will represent Ramona in the annual Julian parade. Before band members march the one-mile route, they will give a brief serenade on Main Street near the reviewing stand and there is a short concert planned for the Julian American Legion.
From Julian, the band will head to Ramona for the Rotary Fireworks and Family Picnic behind Olive Peirce Middle School.
“The band will do a flag ceremony...before playing some of the best marches by John Philip Sousa and other American favorites,” said Karl Fitch, Ramona resident and retired music teacher. “Ken does such a great job programming music for this event. It really makes you feel like you stepped back into the days of the little town band.”
The end of July will be a Civil War weekend at El Dorado Park in Long Beach, and the brass band will be in full combat mode along with its band duties in support of President Lincoln. Serfass said the living history events get better each year because the musicians become more dedicated to the hobby and focus on giving as real an impression as they can. We really step back in time for these things and it’s cool to me that kids today are willing to suffer the lack of modern life to touch history,” he said.
Old Town State Park in San Diego is hosting a “Military Day” as part of its annual Stagecoach Days celebration, and the brass band has been invited to participate on Aug. 6.
“We used to play in Old Town San Diego just about every month, so it will be fun to be back down there to do our thing,” said Ramona resident Andrew Smith, a trombone player in the band. “When we go to the Civil War events, we really feel sometimes like we are back in time, and going into Old Town in our period uniforms helps give that feeling, too. I can’t think of anywhere else in California I could be that would make this so real to me.”
The summer season will wind up for the band with its annual participation at the Civil War weekend in Huntington Beach’s city park.
“The rolling fields of green grass and surrounding pines really give it a great look for the actual locations of the battles in that war, and we always enjoy seeing our re-enactor friends both on and off the field,” said Serfass. “It’s always sad in a way as we strike the tens that weekend, because we know we are all back to our schools and jobs soon, but at least the band goes on.”
This summer the band also will prepare for the second annual “Ramona’s Got Talent” show on Sept. 10. A 10th anniversary tribute for Patriots’ Day/9-11 will be held before the show.
“We have a lot of work to do, and Ken in particular, because he is already working on the special arrangements for the band’s participation with the various talent acts and as the musical anchor for the show.” said Fitch. “I don’t know when he finds time to sleep because when he’s not writing for the band, he’s recruiting or searching out just the right pieces of gear the band needs for all its historical work.
“That hard work pays off because the band always looks and sounds good and we can see how much an audience appreciates us.”
The brass band rehearses at Ramona Town Hall, 729 Main St., most Monday nights from 6:30 to 8:30. For booking and other information about the band, go to firstname.lastname@example.org.