Pa. band plays home for the holidays

November 29, 2004|by DON AINES

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - After its final concert of the year Sunday, members of the Greencastle Community Band headed home to Hollidaysburg, McConnellsburg and Chambersburg, Pa., Keedysville and Boonsboro, and even down the street to homes in Greencastle.

"The core of the Greencastle Community Band is about 15 to 20 people, but as you can see, we have more than 40 up here," Director Pat Beard told the audience of about 100 people at the Greencastle Church of the Brethren. The Heritage Christmas holiday concert was billed as a performance by the band "and friends," some of whom traveled a good distance to make the show featuring guest conductor Dave McCandless.

McCandless, the band director at Greencastle-Antrim High School from 1964 to 1982, said some musicians have traveled greater distances for a performance.


"For the Old Home Week pageant, we had a guy fly in from Shanghai," he said of last summer's triennial get- together in Greencastle.

The newest version of the Greencastle Community Band was formed 10 years ago under the direction of W.E. Harvie, chairwoman of the music department in the Greencastle-Antrim School District, Beard said.

"I think the idea was to give other fun opportunities for kids and adults in the area to play," said Beard, the band's director of four years.

Many of the brass, woodwind and percussion players also perform with community bands in Hagerstown, as well as the Pennsylvania communities of Waynesboro, Mercersburg, Chambersburg, Carlisle and Harrisburg, Beard said.

"We've got lots of musical talent and we're here to share it with you," Beard said of the band, with members ranging from teens to septuagenarians. They performed smoothly through an hour-long set including Mel Torme's "The Christmas Song," Irving Berlin's "White Christmas," and a number of medleys and traditional carols.

The talent included Jim Hedges of Big Cove Tannery, Pa., who played for the U.S. Marine Corps Band, and Pam Schueremann of Reisterstown, Md., who has a master's degree in the French horn and also performed in a Marine Corps band, according to McCandless.

Melvin Van Orman, a retired music director from Hollidaysburg and "one of the friends," said he was to play baritone horn, but made the switch to trombone the night before at the behest of McCandless.

Percussionist Justin Dunkle, 16, a junior at Greencastle-Antrim High School, said he has been with the band for five years. His parents, Bob and Sandy Dunkle, also are members.

Beard said she laid her clarinet aside long ago, but picked it up again about a dozen years ago when her daughter began playing with the Mercersburg Community Band.

While the Greencastle band has played Christmas, Fourth of July and Old Home Week concerts and regular shows at area nursing homes for a decade, Beard said the town has a long and interesting musical tradition.

In 1896, James Brown organized the Willow Spring Band among members of the black community, Beard said, citing research by the late local historian W.P. Conrad.

George Lewis, a barber and member of the band, later formed a jazz combo and gave music lessons in Greencastle. In 1921, he founded the first Greencastle Community Band. According to the research cited by Beard, it was integrated and known as the "Holstein Band," a reference to the black-and-white dairy cows.

Beard said she is looking for people with information to fill in the gaps of the old band's history, as well as musicians to fill out the current band's ranks.

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