Marching band looks for enthusiastic, irregular musicians

The Claremont Irregulars have been a regular presence in the city’s Fourth of July parade since 1977.

The marching band was first started by Jim Basher, who felt the patriotic promenade didn’t have enough music. He put an ad in the COURIER looking for interested musicians, and got a dozen takers.

“We’ve been marching ever since,” says Philip Dryer, one of the founding members and a trombone player with the Claremont Symphony Orchestra.

Mr. Basher moved to Maryland shortly after starting the Irregulars. Mr. Dreyer took over as the leader of the band, which nowadays typically has about 25 participants. They show up and launch into the same two pieces they always play, the Souza march “The Washington Post” as well as John N. Klohr’s 1901 composition “The Billboard March.”

The Claremont Irregulars don’t compete with the El Roble and Claremont High bands, which generally lead off the parade. Instead, they get started halfway down the route, when the strains of the school bands have faded.

A lot of the Claremont Irregulars are older people, so each year the group loses some participants to retirement. As a result, the Claremont Irregulars are always trying to recruit new members. It’s a challenge, Mr. Dryer said, because it’s been so hot in recent years.

“You have to be able to take the heat,” he laughed.

For Mr. Dryer, who began playing trombone at age 12, the Claremont Irregulars is a family affair. His wife Janet always leads the pack, carrying the ensemble’s banner.

Despite soaring temperatures, the marchers have a lot of fun. The parade, for one, has small-town charm in spades. “This is straight out of Norman Rockwell,” Mr. Dryer said.

Adding to the appeal is the fact that the musicians are received with all the fanfare of local dignitaries.

“People are very excited and very happy. We get compliments all over the place,” Mr. Dryer said.

Are you a brass, percussion or woodwind player who wants to join Claremont’s most irregular musical family? Meet at 3 p.m. on July 4 at the corner of 10th Street and Yale Avenue. Sheet music will be provided. Simply bring your instrument and, for the sake of the holiday spirit, dress in red, white and blue.

Mr. Dreyer gets a lot of people coming up to him in the days and weeks before the holiday. “People always ask me, will the Irregulars be there? And I always say, of course.”

For information, call (909) 624-9877.

—Sarah Torribio


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