Port De­posit bu­gler brings tears with ‘Taps’

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By CARL HAMIL­TON


— When some peo­ple lis­ten to Ed­ward Webb play his bu­gle, they get tears in their eyes.

That’s un­der­stand­able con­sid­er­ing that they are lis­ten­ing to Webb’s ren­di­tion of “Taps,” a solemn bu­gle call re­served pri­mar­ily for mil­i­tary fu­ner­als and flag cer­e­monies — like the one he played Tues­day night at Amer­i­can Le­gion Ma­sonDixon Post No. 194 in Ris­ing Sun.

“Taps” is Webb’s sig­na­ture song, one that he clearly knows by heart and plays with heart. Webb, who es­ti­mates that he has in­toned that song thou­sands of times in the past 64 years, is a gifted bu­gler who de­liv­ers emo­tion with each and ev­ery note that he blows on his sil­ver, valve­less horn. “Taps” is a short, plain­tive piece com­prised of 24 notes.

“My job is to make grown peo­ple cry,” said Webb, who per­forms “Taps” as a mem­ber of Post 194’s honor guard and as a con­tracted bu­gler with the Mary­land Na­tional Guard honor guard. “If I get tears, I did my job.”

Born and raised in Havre de Grace, Webb, 77, started play­ing the trum­pet as a fifth-grade band stu­dent at Havre de Grace Ele­men­tary School. As for the bu­gle, which is the trum­pet’s cousin, one in which notes are cre­ated solely with var­ied lip com­pres­sions and air flow, he learned that in­stru­ment on his own.

He was drawn to mil­i­tary calls on the bu­gle be­cause his fa­ther, the late Har­vey Webb, served 30 years in the U.S. Air Force be­fore re­tir­ing with an honorable dis­charge.

“I taught my­self most of the mil­i­tary calls, “Rev­elry,” “Taps” and oth­ers, and I got to be pretty de­cent,” Webb re­called.

Word got out that Webb was quite pro­fi­cient with “Taps,” to the point that he was called upon to play that bu­gle call dur­ing mil­i­tary


events, in­clud­ing the an­nual Me­mo­rial Day cer­e­mony at Mil­lard Ty­d­ings Me­mo­rial Park in Havre de Grace.

“They would come and get me out of school, so I could play ‘Taps’ at mil­i­tary fu­ner­als,” Webb said, not­ing that it started when he was in the sev­enth grade and in­creased in fre­quency through­out his high school ca­reer, which ended when he grad­u­ated from Havre de Grace High School in 1958.

Even at such a young age, Webb could ap­pre­ci­ate the rev­er­ence of those cer­e­monies and his key role in them.

“When you’re sin­gled out to be part of it, you feel proud. You want to play it cor­rectly and evoke emo­tion,” he said.

Af­ter high school, Webb’s bu­gle play­ing of “Taps” and other mil­i­tary calls con­tin­ued while serv­ing in the U.S. Air Force from 1958 through 1962.

The same is true when Webb served with the Army Na­tional Guard from 1966 to 1967; again with the Army Na­tional Guard from 1975 through 1978 and with the Air Force Na­tional Guard from 1978 through 1990, when he re­tired with a to­tal of 21 years of mil­i­tary ser­vice.

Amid his stints in the mil­i­tary re­serves, Webb worked for 37 years as an in­spec­tor with a Havre de Grace com­pany that man­u­fac­tured aerospace prod­ucts.

He re­tired in 1999, free­ing him up for more fam­ily time. Webb has lived in Port De­posit with his wife, Muriel, since 1963, and they have an adult daugh­ter, Glenda, two grand­daugh­ters and one great-grand­daugh­ter.

His re­tire­ment also freed him up for more bu­gle play­ing, which he has done pri­mar­ily with the Mary­land Na­tional Guard honor guard since 2001, along with vol­un­teer ap­pear­ances with area veter­ans or­ga­ni­za­tions.

Webb has been play­ing “Taps” at mil­i­tary fu­ner­als in Mary­land an es­ti­mated 300 times an­nu­ally for the past 15 years, mostly with the Mary­land Na­tional Guard.

“I’m out there quite a bit,” Webb said, out­lin­ing, “It varies. Some­times I’ll do three mil­i­tary fu­ner­als in a day. Other days, I may do only one. Some days, none.”

Webb, who faith­fully prac­tices his bu­gle ev­ery morn­ing, is aware that his play­ing of “Taps” causes some peo­ple to weep amid the solem­ness of mil­i­tary fu­ner­als and other cer­e­monies.

But what im­pact does his bugling of “Taps” have on him?

“I’ve been do­ing it so long that it doesn’t af­fect me. It never has be­cause I’m more fo­cused on the notes and the tone of those notes,” Webb said, ex­plain­ing, “You play ‘Taps’ from the heart, but you’re honoring the veter­ans who have earned that re­spect. You want to play it well.”

The same clin­i­cal per­spec­tive is there when Webb hears other bu­glers play that mil­i­tary call.

“I lis­ten to how they play it, how they phrase it,” Webb said.


Ed­ward Webb bu­gles “Taps” dur­ing the Me­mo­rial Day cer­e­mony at Amer­i­can Le­gion Ma­son-

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