90 years of music

Hagerstown Municipal Band celebrates anniversary with a concert at City Park

Hagerstown Municipal Band celebrates anniversary with a concert at City Park

July 12, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL


With less than 30 minutes left before the start of a 90th anniversary concert, members of the Hagerstown Municipal Band had looks of excitement tempered with nervousness that intermittent rain would close the curtain on the special set.

But at 8 p.m., the band began its one-hour musical retrospective in front of its loyal fans, armed with umbrellas, which they eventually needed.

The band played to several hundred fans despite the rainy weather in the 90 minutes leading up to the performance. And though the set was halted, in progress, for several minutes because of more rain, the band was able to finish the entire hour of music.


"Everyone put up their umbrellas and waited, and we finished the whole program," said Richard Keesecker, who serves as the band's manager, secretary and treasurer. "We really have a loyal audience out there."

The set included a wide array of songs from sentimental favorites like "Hagerstown Song," written about various city businesses from the past, and "Gateway to the South March," which was created specifically for the band, to the first-time performance of the "Ninety Years March." Mike Mogensen was commissioned by the city to create the latter specifically for the performance, Director Lynn Lerew said.

Though an anniversary, Lerew quoted a wedding clich by saying the set included "something old and something new." Lerew joked that the band had nothing "borrowed or blue" for the performance.

"The program represents so many different eras," Lerew said. "This is an awesome concert. It really is."

Hagerstown resident Nancy Norment said she planned to go to the park, rain or shine, because she has been attending concerts since childhood and did not want to miss a special night of songs.

"A friend canceled, but I went right back in the house for an umbrella and came back out," she said. "I wouldn't have missed it."

The city-funded band was a combination of four concert groups - the Hagerstown Concert Band, the Western Maryland Band, the South End Band and the Silverine Band - that formed in 1915. Its first show was held at The Maryland Theatre on July 15, 1915.

The band has been performing at City Park for 69 years.

During its run of nine decades, the band has been led by eight directors.

Lerew was celebrating his 30th anniversary as band director Sunday.

"We've been talking about this since the winter, that it will be the 90, 30 at the same time," Lerew said.

Still, several in attendance were unaware of either milestone. They just wanted to see a good show.

"We didn't know. We come off and on," said Karen Spessard of Hagerstown. "The quality is great and the talent is unbelievable."

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