Remembering Annapolis – 1920’s

In the twenties there was a musical group of about 25-30 men who were self taught, but read music and played by the note. They rehearsed on Calvert Street in a community center building which belonged to Asbury church. They rehearsed with the windows open so there was a weekly band concert! They also had a smaller group, a combo. This group played each week when the black population, particularly the fourth ward, had what they called a moonlight cruise. This was every week in the summertime. And this group would go to different parts of the fourth ward on the corners to arouse the populace by playing jazz on the corner. Once a year there was an excursion down the bay to Cambridge or Port Deposit. People would stay up all night cookin’. The band would play for that cruise too, on this daytime cruise. Everybody went, whole families, and we ate and ate’ and danced, played cards, socialized. Everybody knew everybody. There was such food: crab cakes, fried chicken, potato salad, homemade rolls and all kinds of cakes and people exchanged food.

This group marched on holidays. They started down at Calvert Street. One year they marched with the Navy Band. They had on white shirts and blue pants. The drum major was Reddy Hall and he wore a tall hat. The leader was a mortician, Warnick was his name. When one member of the band died, they marched through Calvert, up West Street and into Brewer Hill Cemetery playing Chopin’s Funeral March. All of the instruments were draped in black crepe. Then in New Orleans tradition, they played somethin’ snappy goin’ back. It was very impressive when I was young; I’ll never forget it.

I guess that band played ten or twelve years. I remember some of the names: Joseph Harps and Emmet Nelson, James Snowden, Richard Embrey …

Nearly everything was church related in the black community.  At Asbury there were camp meetings, usually in the fall for two weeks. I remember one at Asbury. It would involve singing and chanting. These camp meeting were African in origin. There was singing and chanting, and praying hands.

Henry Holland in an interview with Beth Whaley for Remember Inc., April 1993

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