Image: Jacket of the Wenham Community Band with sash and Regimental Band patch.
David Clark Archive of the Wenham Community Band
“The band’s primary… purpose is to help perpetuate a live presence of traditional military band music… provide an opportunity for residents to participate for pleasure and community service… and provide a wholesome community endeavor… through respect, encouragement, proper guidance, [and] self improvement…”
– David Clark (1932-2011), founder of Wenham’s community bands
The Community Bands of Wenham
David Clark’s love for military music likely started when he would listen to march music on Saturdays with his grandfather who was the village baker. His sense of country likely came from his military service and as an employee in the National Park Service. His sense of community came from a desire to nurture tradition and bring people together through music.
Moving to Wenham during the country’s Bicentennial stimulated many of David Clark’s ideals, and he quickly became involved in the community’s festivities. He was a meticulous man: everything he did was researched and planned to the minutest detail, and his organization of the various community bands in Wenham was no exception.
For more than 30 years, his love of country and his love of music merged on every Memorial Day (and most other holidays, patriotic or otherwise) to provide the music that entertained or supported the occasions for which he and his fellow musicians were asked to play.
Despite the hurdles he faced in his life – including the loss of an arm to cancer in 1968 – he prioritized his dedication to public service and made sure that he passed this dedication on to his sons and to those he influenced through his service. The bands he formed welcomed musicians of all ages and abilities and provided Wenham and many other communities with the sound of an American tradition.
Different hats helped identify which Community Band was performing or marching on a given occasion.
Wenham’s Various Community Bands
The community bands in Wenham had many incarnations and various names, and they overlapped one another as the performed at a wide variety of venues throughout the years, but they all had one thing in common: David Clark.
David formed, directed, and managed these bands, doing everything from booking events to designing uniforms to directing the music – and pretty much anything else that needed doing – all for the love of the music, ceremony, and the satisfaction of giving back to the community in which he lived.
Formed in 1976 – Flags and Drums of Wenham
The Flags and Drums was a youth group that was founded specifically for the Bicentennial Celebration of the Declaration of Independence in 1976. David Clark hoped to foster their patriotism and civic pride and give them the opportunity for community participation. They played at the Bicentennial Flag Pageant, Memorial Day and Bicentennial Parades, and Veterans Day Observances in Wenham and the surrounding communities.
Formed in 1978 – Clan Wallace Pipes, Bugles & Drums
Clan Wallace performed music and drilled at the same time, which is often seen in British band music. They played at the Acadian Scottish Festival, with the Castle Hill Gaelic Drums, Veterans Day Observances, Wenham’s Evergreen Community Christmas Carol Sing here in Wenham, and Fort Knox, Maine.
Formed in 1974 – Enon Brass
The Brass was founded to support Wenham’s Evergreen Community Christmas Carol Sing. They also worked with the Salvation Army Kettles, the Herald Trumpets,
Formed in 1980 – Regimental Band of Wenham Museum
The Regimental Band was formed at the request of the organizer’s of Boston’s 350th Anniversary Parade. The event planners wanted as many cities and towns as possible to be represented, so David Clark was asked to take on the task of representing Wenham. He meticulously designed the uniforms, which were modeled after a British style worn by the Scots Guards at the turn of the 20th century, with white pith helmets and red coats in hopes it might help revive traditional military music because he enjoyed the ceremony and regimentation of these performances. Through the years they played at Boston’s 350th Anniversary Parade, but also Independence Day and Memorial Day parades, the Acadian Scottish Festival, worship services, the Queen Elizabeth’s Birthday Celebration in Boston, town picnics, and more.
Unknown Date of Formation – Enon Oom-Pahs
The Enon Oom-Pahs were formed to be a little village band and played at Wenham’s Firemen’s Muster, Beverly’s Santa Parade, Dixie Land concerts, Independence Day parades, and town picnics.
Formed in 1975-1976 – Community Band of Wenham
The Community Band was formed from an expansion of the Enon Brass (formed in 1974). In 1976 it expanded even further to include 34 musicians and 56 singers who performed at the Bicentennial Celebration for the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1976 at Buker Field in Wenham and at other bicentennial celebrations in surrounding communities. Over the years the band played at annual town concerts, the Wenham Museum Summer Fair, the Roberts Bros. 3-Ring Circus in Pingree Park, Civil War reenactments, and Wenham’s own 350th anniversary in 1993.
David Clark played the baritone when performing with his bands. His baritone is now owned by the Wenham Museum and is shown in these photos.
The History of Community Bands in the United States
Before the American Revolution military bands often played at public concerts in the American colonies. In addition, town bands in Europe were a long-standing tradition which American settlers brought with them when they immigrated.
Over time, the traditions of the military band and the town band inspired colonists to form civic bands which performed in taverns, coffee houses, and theaters.
When George Washington* toured the country after he was elected president in 1789, he was welcomed by civic bands everywhere he went. These bands were the first truly American community bands, and they performed at all types of social gatherings.
*George Washington is generally considered the first president of the United States, but there had been 14 Presidents of the Continental Congress (1774–1788) before the US Constitution was ratified in 1789.
As the 18th century waned, community bands were formed all over the country from the 19th into the 20th century. Musicians got together to fulfill their communities’ musical needs for both joyful and solemn occasions, from Memorial Day and Independence Day parades to veterans’ funeral services and holiday carols, and everyday entertainment.
Community bands flourished in part because they were true representatives of the communities they served. They set few limits on who could become members and therefore usually ended up with a very diverse group of men and women of all ages. In addition, they offered musicians a chance to sharpen their skills, promoted a sense of community among themselves and the people they entertained, and gave band members a chance to give back to their communities.
With today’s lifestyles so different from what they were even 50 years ago –
with home entertainment, easy and inexpensive travel, and more people working outside their home communities – community bands are not as prevalent as they were from the 18th–20th centuries. However, in 2003 it was estimated that there are still about 2000 community bands active in America – that’s about 40 in each state – although it’s a very rough estimate as there are no licenses or other forms of formal registration required.
Most of us have enjoyed community bands playing at parades, on holidays, and at other community events. They do this for free, with only their love of music, the appreciation of their audience, and the sense of community they bring as compensation for their efforts; most community band members agree that’s enough.
Thank you to Barbara Clark and the Clark family for sharing David’s legacy with us and for making online access to this collection possible.