Ian Jerry

Very sad moment. Attending the viewing tonight for Ian Jerry, Sr. , at Galzerano Funeral Home in Northeast Philadelphia. Ian was most recently a member of Polish American String Band. The band is here tonight to serenade and support the family. Stephanie and the kids will always have a large Mummers family to lean on. Members of other clubs are filing through the home, remembering Ian’s humor and regretting that he was taken at so young an age. 

Close Captaining

Mark Danielewicz

The leadership, dancing and overall entertainment value of the String Band Captains are  strong in the annual Mummers Parade.  The 2011 tradition provided the stage for exceptional performances.  Polish American String Band Captain Mark Danielewicz took first prize in his role as the Captain of a group of shipwrecked pirates.  Mark’s costume, his interaction with the band and his well-executed dancing were  awesome.  He got the highest score of the day in any category, an 18.950 out of a possible 20.00, in the Design category.  Mark won all three categories of Costume, Design and Effect. (Total score 56.450)  He did tie for first in the Effect category with another great young Captain, Jack Hee, Jr, of Avalon.

Jack Hee, Jr.

Jack was the energetic leader of Avalon’s “Holiday in Havana” theme.  This theme demands fast tempos and real proof of rhythm.  Jack finished a close second in the Costume and Design categories. In all, Jack Hee was behind Mark Danielewicz by 8-tenths of a point.(55.650) I’d give Jack the “cardio award” for the pace he maintained and the quality he maintained at that pace. That is what a Havana theme demands, too.

It was also close between second and third place.  Less than 7-tenths of a point behind Jack was Fralinger Captain Thomas D’Amore.(55.000)  Thomas’s Costuming and the Effect category helped capture third for him.  The competition was so close that only about 3 points separated  5th place from 1st place.  Ferko String Band Captain Anthony Celenza, lead prospector in his band’s Gold Rush theme, claimed 4th prize.(53.750)  Captain Celenza actually scored 3rd in the Design Category.  I was impressed with Celenza’s design and corresponding costume changes, (and not just Clementine), his immersion into each scene.  Hegeman Captain John Baron, sheriff of the day in his band’s western theme, collared 5th place(53.400) and actually scored 4th in the Costume category.

Thomas D'Amore

John P. Baron

Anthony Celenza


Denny Palandro

It is very difficult when looking at Captains to try to rate them.  So much of how you view their performances depends on factors outside of their control, including Costuming and Design.  Knowing this and seeing the work so many of the Captains put in, I appreciate each of them.  For example, I could easily have understood if either or both of the next two Captains in the 2011 Order of Finish had finished higher.  Denny Palandro (52.050), of South Philadelphia String Band, brought back in my mind “Showboat” and

Charlie Roetz

 the entire band performed excellently.  Coming in 7th (50.250) in the Captain’s category was Charlie Roetz, of Quaker City.  Some people are surprised Charlie did not finish higher, since Quaker took first prize.  His tightrope performance was innovative and fun.   I think Charlie’s 7th place finish has less to do with Charlie and more to do with the total design of the routine.  Charlie Roetz performed the role that was designed very well,  but several, perhaps all, of the Captains who finished ahead of him had more up front involvement and dancing.  The judges also looked at the costuming of the first six and scored them higher than Charlie’s.

Aqua’s Ron Iannacone(46.900), Greater Kensington’s Jim Tatar, Jr.(42.500), and Ryan Radcliffe(40.450), of Uptown, rounded out the top ten.  Here’s the rest of the list as determined by the official judges.

11th-Tom Robison, Woodland

12th-Joe Pomante, Durning

13th-Charlie Nicholas, Pennsport

14th-Joseph R. Kaminski, Trilby

15th-Peter J. Broomall, Sr., Broomall

16th-Ted Kudrick, Duffy

17th-Carmen Vitanza, Sr.

Thank you, Captains, one and all.

Wishing The Best

Courtesy PASB

Get Well Soon, Marty and Pete!

Two Mummers who are greatly loved are not feeling too well right now and I want to wish them the best for full recoveries.  Marty Rotindo, Jr., of Polish American String Band, fell ill at rehearsal and has been hospitalized.  Marty’s day job is teaching students at a high school in South Jersey.  At night and on weekends, he’s done great work with Polish American String Band and in spreading good cheer among Mummers.   Marty, the Duck needs you. 🙂

Courtesy Broomall SB

Another Mummer is recovering.  Pete Broomall, Sr., of National Park, New Jersey-based Peter A. Broomall String Band. Pete is getting better at home now after a two-day stay at Cooper.  The Broomall family is a strong example of the Mummers tradition.  Pete is a busy Pastor in South Jersey.  He serves two United Methodist Churches, one in Malaga and one in Porchtown.  His ministry, the Mummers and his family make him quite a busy guy.

Please keep these good men in your thoughts and prayers.

Anthony’s Gift

Briana,Sharon,Vince & Vince III and Bobby

Sharon Merlino-Kurczewski and Vince Kurczewski fell in love with each other before they even knew it. They met as Mummers. Sharon was 11; Vince was 13. It was winter and the place was the annual Show of Shows where the String Bands perform indoors a couple of months after the New Year’s Day Parade. Sharon was a young girl with Trilby String Band; Vince, a teen with Duffy String Band. Back stage at the Show of Shows kids tend to hang out together and it’s a time when they meet other young people who they otherwise wouldn’t run across.  So it was with Sharon and Vince.  Well, a couple of years later Sharon went over to Duffy and they got to know each other better, but still they didn’t acknowledge for a long time what would eventually be. They drifted apart after high school. Vince joined the U.S. Navy, serving as a Petty Officer 2nd Class cook. (Says Sharon today, “BOY OH BOY can he cook.”) Years later, Sharon and Vince would find each other and get married, sealing a relationship owed to Mummery and, really, to Sharon’s father, Anthony Merlino. 

Sharon & Anthony

Anthony knew Sharon had musical ability but at age 11, she also needed quality instruction.  Sharon admits, “I needed lessons outside of high school and my father introduced me to Herbie Smith.” The one and only Herb Smith, of Fralinger, taught Sharon flute and saxophone and also connected her to the String Bands. The path was set. The Show of Shows beckoned. 

More than a quarter of a century after they first met, Vince is a manager with an asphalt company; Sharon is a CAT Scan technologist at Methodist Hospital and is known for her charity work.  Sharon plays alto and tenor saxophone with Hegeman String Band and Vince now plays sax with Polish American String Band.

 Their 3 children have been raised with Mum music and in at least one case, almost born with it.  Sharon marched up Broad Street while six months pregnant with Briana. (There she was above with her father and to the right that’s little Briana.) “The drive and the motivation wanting to do this hobby doesn’t stop you from being a mommy,” says Sharon.  New Year’s is a hectic time for the Kurczewski’s but also a time to put aside wordly worries, to spend time together as a family and entertain hundreds of thousands of people. 13–year-old Briana plays the flute and piccolo and is doing well with the saxophone. This year, she was in costume with her mom for the first time. That’s important to Sharon and she thinks of her father, who not only got her involved in Mummery, but also went up the street with her for years.

Sharon & Briana

She says, “I would not be involved in the hobby and it is his constant interest that made it always a family-oriented activity. Now, I can pass it on to my kids. I want to thank him for that.” Sharon adds, “Oh, and thanks to my Mom (Brenda) for supporting me as well, driving and helping with the props.” Vince Kurczewski says, “If you say you are a Mummer, no matter what band or organization you’re in, you’re family.  Briana already gets the family importance. She says, “(The Mummers Parade) is not just for competition. It’s also for fun and I think it brings me and mom and my family together more.” Brother Vincent, the III, sings. Bobby plays clarinet but also is eyeing the sax and is learning with Polish American. Says Bobby, “What I like best about being a Mummer is I get to go up Broad Street every year and listen to the band play their instruments and I get a good education in music.”

Vince III and Big Vince

“It brings people together,” says Vince, who adds, “In a short period of time it helps them forget about all their difficulties in life.”   Like most of us, a share of the world’s worries have occasionally visited Vince and Sharon.  Anthony has been seriously ill of late.  But amid the struggles, they strut on, raising wonderful kids, serving their community and proving everyday what great people Mummers are.  And this year, their wedding anniversary, February 27th, falls on the same date as the Show of Shows.   Mummery has brought Sharon and Vince together, but THEY give Mummery its meaning.   Hey, Anthony, look at what you started.  Quite a gift, Dad.

The People Decide!

The people have chosen their favorite Fancy Brigades and String Bands in the 2010 Comcast Mummers Parade!   With a loud voice they have chosen South Philly Vikings Fancy Brigade and Polish American String Band!  

Capt. Mark Danielewicz

Here is the Order of Finish as determined by thousands of viewers:   The top 10 String Bands:  Number 1 by a wide margin, Polish American with its nostalgic theme that featured beautiful backpieces for each member, gorgeous suits, great music and a de-emphasizing of props.    “The Jokers Ball” wowed them all.   Second in the eyes of the viewers is Fralinger String Band, which finished first in the Official Judging.  3rd among viewers is Woodland String Band and its Harry Potteresque mystical ”PhilharMAGIC” theme.  South Philadelphia is 4th.   It was razor close between Woodland and South Philadelphia with less than one-percent separating the bands.  Quaker City finishes 5th in the eyes and ears of the viewers. 

Hegeman and Greater Kensington String Band tie for 6th.  Aqua is 8th, narrowly, over Ferko, 9th and Avalon comes in 10th.  A note:  Greater Overbrook was hot on the heels of Avalon in the voting and that’s another sign that these viewers appreciate the nostalgic string band sound and look.   The obvious biggest differences between the Official Judging and the Viewers this year is Polish American taking first among the viewers compared to 7th in the official judging, Woodland finishing in the top three, Hegeman and GK finishing stronger and Aqua rising.   All this had to come at the expense of others and Fralinger finishes second again and Ferko dropped the most compared to the Judges’ calls. 

Here’s how the rest of the String Band field played out to the viewers:  After Avalon, comes Greater Overbrook at 11th, then Durning at 12th, then Duffy is 13th, Uptown-14th,  Broomall is 15th, followed by Irish American and Trilby.

It’s hard to say what motivates or hits with viewers in any given year, but this year, the appreciation of what the soul of a String Band is played prominently.   Also, the musical precision sometimes matters less with the fans than the total entertainment value.  It’s also possible some folks are desiring a change in results.  Or, simply that they thought a club was better.

 The Viewer’s decision on the Fancy Brigades Finale was also loud and clear.   

South Philly Vikings

By a significant margin, South Philly Vikings, which also came in 1st in the Official Judging, finishes first in the minds of the viewers.  Captain Pete D’Amato tells me they knew they had to get back to their strength and that is creativity, especially when it comes to the “wow” factors.  There were plenty of them in the Vikes’ post-apocalyptic world!  Pete felt great about how his brigade  performed and the viewers agree.    Coming in 2nd in the viewers’ eyes and ears,  Shooting Stars, followed by Jokers in 3rd and 2nd Street Shooters, 4th.  5th in the viewers’ decision is Satin Slipper.  Golden Crown and Downtowners come in 6th and 7th.  Saturnalians, Clevemore and Avenuers round out the viewers’ choices.  The viewers and the judges agreed on the first two positions but the Jokers,  2nd Street Shooters, and Satin Slipper fared better with the viewers.

P-A got its trophy tonight in Port Richmond.  The Vikings get their trophy in a separate ceremony within the next week.   Congratulations to all!