The South Philadelphia-based band will bring their unique blend of music and pageantry to the Olde-Tyme Peach Festival on Saturday, Aug. 15, in the parade and in a separate performance at the Academy Building on North Broad Street at 11 a.m.
For Tom Loomis, being a Mummer isn’t a hobby or a pastime; it’s a passion that’s so deeply rooted in tradition and family that it’s become a part of who he is as a person.
“Some people bowl, some people golf – I ‘Mum,’” the President of the Woodland String Band said. “It’s what I love to do.”
This year, the South Philadelphia-based Woodland String Band will bring their unique blend of music and pageantry to the 22nd annual Olde-Tyme Peach Festival in Middletown on Saturday, Aug. 15. The group will be performing twice -- in the parade that starts at 9 a.m., on South Broad Street and travels to East Main Street, and also in a special show in front of the Academy Building on North Broad Street at 11 a.m.
Loomis, who also serves as business manager for the club, said roughly 25 members will turn out for the performance, which will include a number of songs from their repertoire.
That repertoire has come to include string band favorites like “Happy Days are Here Again,” juxtaposed against modern classics like “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars, which they played during the 2015 New Year’s Day celebration as part of their “One Heart, One Spirit” Native American-themed performance.
“You should see people’s faces light up when we do ‘Uptown Funk,’” Loomis said. “But that’s what we want – we want younger people to hear this style of music and think, ‘hey, this is actually pretty good.’ I dare anyone not to listen to string band music and not smile and tap their feet.”
The 2012 champion Woodland String Band formed in 1926, just 25 years after the first official Mummers Parade was held in Philadelphia, itself a tradition dating back to England and the Mummery Plays of the 16th century.
The annual Philly parade, and the blend of string music and rich pageantry, also has its roots and traditions in turn-of-the-century Mardi Gras celebrations – a feeling that Loomis says still persists in the modern performances.
Loomis said that while gigs like the Peach Festival are how they keep the club going (each club is its own independent agency responsible for raising its own funds), they don’t take every single opportunity they’re offered.
“The Peach Festival is new for us, so we’re looking forward to it,” Loomis said. “And it’s close by, so our boys will be home in time for a barbecue with their families.”
To learn more about the club, visit woodlandstringband.org.