GREENWOOD TWP- Though originally written for a bugle, the simple tune of “Taps” also resonates beautifully on the trumpet. The short tune, composed of 24 notes, was written in its current …
GREENWOOD TWP- Though originally written for a bugle, the simple tune of “Taps” also resonates beautifully on the trumpet. The short tune, composed of 24 notes, was written in its current form during the Civil War to signal “lights out”, and became widely used for both military funerals and memorial services.
Out on Isle of Pines on Lake Vermilion, Jane Johns has been playing Taps overlooking the lake on her deck, every evening near sunset since early April. The impromptu concerts started just as COVID-19 was starting to take its toll in Minnesota. A close family friend, the organist from their church in Stillwater, had just died from COVID-19, and she wanted to do something in his memory.
“I had done this before to honor the memory of friends who had died,” she said.
But Jane soon decided this was something she could do to honor all those who have died during this pandemic, as well as to commemorate the sacrifices of the year.
“At this point it was something I could do,” she said.
Jane has been playing the coronet trumpet since she was 10.
“I’ve been playing most of the last 65 years,” she said.
She has played in high school, college, and community bands. She has been a regular player in the Mesabi Community Band, which had to cancel its summer season due to the coronavirus.
While Jane’s background is in early childhood education, she has always used and taught music, both in the classroom and in other community settings.
She was introduced to the color-coded handbells while living in New Orleans, where her husband Dan was a Lutheran pastor. These bells can be used by children as young as preschool (as well as by adults) to produce enjoyable and recognizable music with only limited practice times. As director, Jane stands in front of the bell choir, holding up color-coded flash cards which tell each bell ringer when to sound their bell.
She started using the bells with her preschool classes in Eveleth, and introduced them to other groups, including elementary students in Tower-Soudan, and adult members of the Tower Soudan Civic Club.
Music has always been an important part of both her and Dan’s lives. Dan, the son of a classical pianist, played the cello.
“Music is a mutual love of both of ours,” she said. Jane is on the board of the Arrowhead Concert Series, and is also a supporter of the Northern Lights Music Festival.
Concert on the deck
With Tower’s traditional Memorial Day ceremony canceled, neighbors asked if she could play a patriotic concert on her deck that evening, with the thought that friends could assemble in boats on Daisy Bay in front of their cabin to listen. The weather, however, did not cooperate, and only a few boats braved the pouring rain that evening as Jane played from under the eaves, trying to stay dry.
But on July 3, she tried again. This time, even with unseasonable warmth in the afternoon, the weather cooled down nicely, and about two dozen boats paraded in front of their deck while Jane played a concert of patriotic tunes, ending with Taps.
Jane has continued to play Taps each evening, only missing two nights since April, when they were out of town.
“This summer I couldn’t play in the band,” she said. “This has helped me focus on my music and helped me focus on the lives that have been lost due to COVID.”
“I am playing for COVID,” she said. “That is why I continue playing.”
The music has also meant a lot to several of her island neighbors who have also lost family or friends to the virus.
The tradition will end in September though, when Jane and Dan move from Lake Vermilion back to her hometown of Stillwater.
“We will miss the lake terribly,” she said, “especially all the people we have gotten to know. We are so invested in this community.”