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Ryan & Brennish Thomson

Updated Feb 2, 2024

Marching, marching, and more marching:

Ryan Thomson plays accordion for the 

Boston First Night celebration

by Ryan Thomson

A friend of mine built large animated puppets and stage costumes. He had an idea for a "samurai warrior on horseback theme." The costumes featured clever high wooden shoes on a hobby horse type frame which created a realistic semblance of a person riding a little horse. The riders had swords and wore tall cone shaped hats. He felt a need for something more and contacted me to play my fiddle. I'm usually up to try anything once and agreed to perform. 


There was a catch. We were to be performing on New Year's Eve, in Boston, outdoors. The temperature that night when I left my home in Newmarket, New Hampshire was hovering around 0 degrees, Fahrenheit. Just before I left my home to drive the hour to Boston, I remembered my old ski gloves and quickly cut off the fingertips, leaving the rest of the gloves intact. I wasn't sure how long I could play outdoors at that temperature and needed to stay as warm as possible. I tossed my accordion in my truck at the last minute. I knew that Boston would be a little warmer than at my home.

Boston Globe article on the 1996 First Night celebration mentioning the cold temperature.

Boston Globe, Jan 1, 1997

When I arrived in downtown Boston It turned out that I was to lead a parade of Samurai warriors down a street lined with thousands of spectators. Even at a toasty 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6.7 C) I ruled out out playing my fiddle. My fingers were too stiff. Fortunately I had my trusty accordion! It was hard to decide what type of music to play in such a situation, but I surmised that “loud and lively” was good. 

We were on a street lined by tall office buildings, and my very loud Frontalini Italian accordion echoed nicely from building to building while the crowds seemed to enjoy the sight, even if they weren't exactly sure what it was we were trying to do. Several people asked me if the costumed riders on horseback represented the Ku Klux Klan, since they were wearing cone shaped hats. I quickly reassured them that the riders represented samurai warriors. 

My story might have broken broke down at that point since I couldn't think of a credible reason to explain why I was leading Samurai warriors down the streets of Boston with accordion music. Fortunately no one raised that issue.


I found that by walking fast, and playing loudly, I  generated enough heat to keep my fingers comfortably warm for the duration of the parade. I probably had as much fun as the people watching, and since I was wearing a mask, I'm sure that no one recognized me. See me playing my red accordion on the left side of the photo below.

Click on the image below to enlarge it.

Ryan Thomson playing his accordion while "Samurai Warriors" prance around him on hobby horses during the 1996 Boston First Night Parade

Written by Ryan Thomson, 1996

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