Hello. My name is Glen Wright. By way of introduction, I joined the Tomato Soup Band as a trombone player 16 years ago. Tomato Soup Band news has been reported so well, and so faithfully for so many years by Terry Toll, I feel like a guest reporter at best. We appreciate, more than we can say Terry’s very fine work and dedication.
While Wright is not exactly a Dutch sounding name, I had two Dutch grandmothers, Gurtrude Pieters and Wihemina Dewees, who lived in the late 1600’s. They part of the family when my German Mennonite ancestors left Germany and spent two generations in Amsterdam before moving on to America. From the middle of the 16>th century, Mennonites were persecuted in many countries in western Europe, but the Dutch welcomed them with open arms. So, a belated but heart-felt thanks to the Dutch in general and to Gurtrude and Wilemina in particular. If they had not been there, chances are I would not be here.
Our Tomatosoup Band got off to a lively start after a Jan-Feb. break. It was at the CPR Hotel (The Ceeps) for the St. Paddy’s Day celebration. With most band members decked out in a variety of green hats for the occasion and with music loud and lively, the move from Dutch to a tip of the green hat to the Irish was not difficult. In fact after a couple of numbers a student came up to me and in a heavy accent said, "Are you an Irish band?" "No" I said. "We are a Dutch band, fashioned after carnival bands in Holland." "Ahh!" he said with a big smile, "I know those bands, I am from Germany." We had just given a German student a little bit of home. It did not seem to matter that most of our music was written at least two decades before the students’ grandparents were born. It is a long way from the DJ’s Hip Hop music to our Tipperary, but no one seemed to notice. No matter what we played, the dance floor was filled.
Our next engagement was made for us. It was also with students, this time at Ontario Hall at Western. We were invited to play at a cultural event featuring the food and customs of Ireland, Portugal, Italy, Croatia and Holland. Judging by the shouts and applause and the number of students who stopped texting and turned their phones into cameras and recording devices, we were a hit. One can guess that the pictures and films were not just for the students but for the friends and families back home.
After the 40 minute concert, we were more than ready for the five food groups. Although Holland’s food booth was at the end of the line, surprising number of band members having filled their trays with food still had room for a croquette. We boarded the bus with an invitation to return next year and with the renewed conviction that old or young, music, a universal language, has a way of bringing people together and lifting their spirits. What a privilege it is to help that happen.