|Posted by Anne Siren on September 14, 2012 at 1:55 PM|
When this string band of ornately costumed, volunteer musicians march up to the stage, the audience often responds with standing applause. This one-of-a-kind band rolls out its talent, energy and songs in concert, and normally restrained people break into song as they clap hands and tap feet. One song like the “Beer Barrel Polka” will set the mood, and as one fan said, “This is like a tailgate party at a football game.”
The Broward County Mummers group was founded 35 years ago and currently has 54 men and women members between the ages of 49 and 88. The musicians play banjos, saxophones, clarinets, guitars, accordions, drums, and glockenspiels. They are a dedicated and hardy bunch who drive themselves to weekly rehearsals at the Moose Lodge, 6191 Rock Island Road in Tamarac, and at least 35 concerts during the season. Members arrive from as far as Miami on the south to Delray on the north every Thursday because they want to keep this music alive and they enjoy the camaraderie.
Captain Jack Hultman took the top job 13 years ago and is still filled with enthusiasm for the Mummers.
A retired divorce lawyer from Long Island, Hultman, now 82, started a Mummers group there 50 years ago. When he settled in Florida, he quickly became active in the Broward County Mummers and soon assumed leadership. He says, “My job is many faceted. I keep busy behind the scenes with office detail, recruiting musicians, getting bookings and keeping members informed. During performances, I’m the one who fires up the audience and gets folks on their feet strutting, dancing and singing.
“We used to be a marching band, but our musicians have aged so we now settle for fast strut to the stage.”
He goes on to stress, “None of us are paid. We charge fees on a sliding scale and the money we earn is basically poured into expenses and costumes which cost about $8,000 each year.” This year they’ll be decked out in red, white and blue.
Hultman describes Mummer music as “river boat style, done to a Mummer beat which has its own unique sound.” The five musical directors who rotate responsibility are Scotty Johnson, Mike Moe, Martin Miller, Carl Castle and John Lolli who is 87.
Vice President Jan Little serves as lead strutter. “I remember seeing and loving the New Jersey Mummers as a child, so it’s great to now be part of a Mummers group. My husband, George, plays the bass fiddle, and being in this together means we share a lot in common, including time.”
Hultman says, “I’m having a marvelous retirement. When the Mummers aren’t taking my time, my pets are. I have a dog, a cat, two tanks of fish, two outside iguanas and 27 outside ducks.”
When asked if this isn’t a lot to manage, the retired divorce lawyer quips, “It’s easier than having a wife.”
The Mummers have pitched in to raise funds for 9-11 victims, March of Dimes, cancer funds and more. Thanks to you, Mummers, for keeping song, dance and strutting alive.
To become a Mummer or to schedule a concert, contact Jack Hultman at 954-956-7212.
The Mummers supposedly made their American debut parading in Philadelphia on January 1, 1901. Then a mix of costumed male musicians from many national backgrounds, they became famous on the Northeast coast.
According to Captain Hultman, the group evolved from an old Swedish custom.
He explains. “King Momus was a fictitious God of Evil long ago in Sweden. On New Year’s Day, Swedish musicians, dressed in weird costumes, had fun scaring off the evil King Momus.
“They managed to scare the current population as well,” he laughs.
The next performance of The Mummers is Oct. 21 at Temple Kodesh in Boynton Beach. Call for a complete schedule.