By MAUREEN PICHÉ
POTSDAM – A recently resurrected Potsdam tradition, the Potsdam Community Band, has proven to be such a popular pastime for area musicians of all skill levels and ages the winter concert location had to be moved.
The band’s personnel manager, Ron Berry, said participation in the concert, slated for 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 8, was so high, they were forced to change locales from the high school stage to SUNY Potsdam’s Hosmer Hall.
“It’s been a wonderful experience, a great response by musicians, a great turnout,” Berry said, noting 80 musicians came forward to play in the concert, despite the hectic nature of the season.
The band consists of people from all walks of life, primarily school music teachers and Crane alumni and professors, but also high school students, retirees, and people who have decided to dust off their old instruments after years of storage.
Berry himself is a retired civil and structural engineer who wanted to refresh his skills on the tuba.
“The player next to me is a large-animal veterinarian. We’re hoping he doesn’t have an emergency the day of the concert,” Berry laughed.
He said amazingly, despite the no-audition, open-call process of pulling the wind band together for each concert, no section (woodwinds, brasswinds and percussion) goes under-populated. “We have in general a good balance of musicians,” he said. “It just worked out that way.”
For those who may be a little rusty or new to their instruments, Berry said the experience of playing alongside some of the top professionals in music is very rewarding. “Learning music is really an osmosis process,” he said.
The repertoire for the third concert, conducted by Potsdam High School band director Theresa Witmer, will include what Berry calls a fun mix of music, some with a winter theme. Holiday tunes include “Jingle Bells,” Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride,” and what Berry calls a very challenging sacred piece called “Russian Christmas Music.” He promises it has an incredible climax of cymbals, bells and chimes that will thrill the audience.
Other pieces include Frank Ticheli’s classic “Shenandoah,” the catchy, danceable “Bayou Breakdown,” and “Assembly Concert March” by local composer and Crane Emeritus Arthur Frackenpohl.
“We have a very full program, and I believe we may have an intermission,” Berry said, noting the concert could last 90 minutes.
The listening public has been very supportive, he said. At their inaugural concert in Ives Park in July, an estimated 300 people tapped their feet to the upbeat music, and at a second concert at the end of summer on the Potsdam High School lawn, 150 spread out blankets and sat in lawn chairs.
“The financial support from the public has been very encouraging,” Berry said, explaining that the entirely volunteer band passes the hat at each concert to cover venue and royalty expenses.
“This is truly a community band,” he said.