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Williamsport Community Band to perform at national shrine during Heritage Days

June 27, 2013|By CALEB CALHOUN | caleb.calhoun@herald-mail.com
  • The Williamsport Community Band is scheduled to perform at the Basilica of the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, Md., on Sunday
Submitted photo

Tracy McCleary said she remembers playing music at cathedrals in Europe when she was a member of her high school concert band.

So, when the Williamsport Community Band performs at the Basilica of the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, Md. on Sunday, it will be like stepping back in time for her.

“It’s an excitement to get to return to fond memories,” McCleary said. “I think we’re all a little nervous.”

The band was chosen to perform at the national shrine as part of a three-day Heritage Days festival being held to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the events leading up to the Battle of Gettysburg. The band will perform Civil War era music on Sunday at 4 p.m.

McCleary, 47, plays the bass clarinet in the band.

“It’s a great honor for the band to be chosen out of many community bands in the area,” she said.

The band will play a Carmen Dragon arrangement of “America the Beautiful,” and pieces that relate to the Civil War.

“We have taken their theme, and our music will revolve around the Civil War,” Band Director Susie Kunkle said.

Kunkle said the performance will be challenging due to the venue.

“A basilica has a dome ceiling, and we have maybe half an hour to adapt to the acoustics in the building,” she said. “It’s a little tense, but it’s also an honor.”

Marked as one of the events commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg on the Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau website at www.gettysburg.travel, Heritage Days at The National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is scheduled to run Friday through Sunday.

“We were wanting bands to play period music from Civil War times, and the Williamsport Community Band is a band whose roots are in this region,” said Amanda Johnston, marketing manager for the shrine.  “They have a long-standing tradition and following in this area.”

Johnston said the concert is a way to end the festival, which will include a Civil War-themed walk through St. Joseph’s Cemetery, a tour of the shrine and a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Charity Afire exhibit, which depicts a hospital and battlefield scene.

The exhibit has a U.S. map that documents where members of the Sisters of Charity founded by Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton served as nurses during the war. Elizabeth Seton became the first native-born United States saint of the Roman Catholic Church.

“A lot of the events happened here on the ground before the battle,” Johnston said. “Union troops kind of arrived and encamped here before they went to Gettysburg.”

The Williamsport Community Band was started in 1997 by Kunkle, who was the band director at Williamsport High School until 2002. Her husband, Noel, who was the band director at North Hagerstown High School until 1997, is the assistant director of the band.

Eighteen musicians showed up for the first rehearsal, and the band now has 75 members, with performers ranging from age 12 to 93.

The band performs a spring concert and a Christmas concert every year, as well as holding various performances throughout the summer. It rehearses in the Williamsport Springfield Barn, when the weather is nice, and at St. James Brethren Church otherwise.

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