PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — The clanking and thuds of agogo bells, castanets and boom-whackers in unison marked the sounds of a gathering that would have been unimaginable six months ago.
But Bob Pitts would get his moment in the limelight.
“What do you want me to do?” he asked, as he sat, leaning over a plastic Ace paint bucket.
Music instructor Nancy Fairchild asked for a solo.
The 93-year-old tapped out a drumroll using wooden sticks.
The experience was not unlike his playing in the high school marching band more than 70 years ago.
Pitts later managed the Wisconsin National Guard band for 11 years.
“The company commander, he couldn’t even start out on the correct foot,” he said with a toothy grin.
Pitts, along with 20 other residents at Park Place Senior Living, an assisted living and nursing home in Platteville, continued to thump and whack their percussion instruments from their seats inside a sunny recreation room.
The play-along kicked off Monday’s celebration of Make Music Day, an event that occurs annually in conjunction with the summer solstice.
“There are 700 cities all over the world, from Paris to London,” said retired music professor and Nancy’s husband, Dan Fairchild. “But most important of all is Platteville.”
This is the sixth year Platteville has joined in the event, which originated in France in 1982. It was conducted virtually in 2020 when social gathering was not possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nancy helped organize Platteville’s festival, which is sponsored by Platteville Main Street Program and local businesses.
Other activities included harmonica lessons, live performances, a fireside folk jam and an instrument “petting zoo.”
Midday, the public was invited to strike a gong outside the Mining & Rollo Jamison Museums to mark the losses that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic and those who died.
At least 87 deaths in Grant County were linked to the coronavirus, according to state data.
“Part of Make Music is making music in your own way,” Nancy said. “Being able to come together and participate together I think is a milestone in where we’ve come in the last 15 months.”
At Park Place, the group joined in singing a repertoire that included “America,” “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America,” songs the Fairchilds believe people at any age can remember.
“It puts a smile on your face when you listen to it,” Dan said. “You’re never too old to listen to music.”
Adelia Campbell, 82, shook a set of sleigh bells.
She was almost apologetic when she confessed that her favorite genre of music is pop, like The Beatles.
“I have a body that moves around,” she said with a laugh. “As old as I am, I like to dance around my room. … I don’t care what my age is. If I feel young, I am young.”