Exeter Community Band Growing and Glowing
Pulling out the old instrument and shaking up those brain cells a bit, joking around with buddies, giving pleasure to audiences, and making some pretty good music – is this heaven or what? “A community band is a lot like Heaven,” admits one of the band’s past presidents. “There is a place for everyone: different strengths, talents, experience, and ages.”
And so it seems to be for this nine year old non-profit concert band. Founded in 2002 by a high school band director, the Exeter Community Band rehearses weekly under the direction of a professional conductor who leads it for a tiny honorarium and a lot of fun and camaraderie. In its early days, the band’s members were from Exeter Township, PA and the immediate environs. However, now it includes musicians from a wider territory. Although the name retains the word “Exeter,” any adults who can read music and play even a little bit on a band instrument are welcome.
A Few Members
Performance venues are diverse. Between ten to fifteen times a year, the band performs for business promotions, charitable events, retirement communities, fairs, and church picnics. A partial list includes: Vist Bank, Boscov’s, Jazzfest at Hopewell Furnace, VF outlets, Weis Markets, the Oley Fair, the Optimist Club’s Community Days in Douglassville, Exeter May Days, Relay for Life, Reading’s Riverfest, Berks Jazz Fest (at Hopewell Furnace), Phoebe Berks Village, Outlook Pointe/ Elmcroft, and the Spies Lutheran Church Blueberry Festival.
Tuesday night is the magic night for rehearsals and frequently for socializing afterwards. Rehearsal is at the Reformation Lutheran Church on Perkiomen Avenue in Reiffton from 7:00 to 9:00 PM. Anyone interested in checking out the band is welcome to sit in. Even the 2-hour time slot has been adjusted for the needs of individuals. For years, one of the trumpeters worked at a local radio station during the very early morning slot. He could not stay awake until 9:00 Pm and attended rehearsal from 7:00 to 8:00 only. Out of consideration for this situation, the conductor covered all critical music during the first hour. Fine-tuning or work on non-trumpet parts occurred after 8:00.
The fun continues beyond the joy of playing music. For several years, anyone in attendance has the opportunity to win a scratch-off instant Pennsylvania lottery ticket pulled from a jar each rehearsal at the break. One must be present to win. The band reports, however, that no has won (or admitted to winning) anything big. Nonetheless, the anticipation of winning a few hundred dollars boosts one’s spirits. Furthermore, any member is “qualified” to declare a pizza and beer event after a rehearsal. Usually this is announced in advance by email or at a prior rehearsal so that those members needing to make arrangements for a later night can do so. There have been memorable moments, as described in the photo.
A Little Party Action
The music played varies greatly. In the early years, the selection leaned heavily towards marches (although the band does not physically march), patriotic songs and Broadway show tunes. Since then, the genres have spread to include jazz and swing, familiar opera arias, Leroy Anderson pieces, and concert pieces commissioned for talented public school band competition. The current director even arranges for the band and created a very popular fifties and sixties pop tribute. A percussionist shared, “We have had some very challenging ‘out there’ arrangements and some very simple and beautiful tone poems and popular arrangements. Musically, it is never a dull moment.”
If one is looking for a free listening treat, this band’s recommendation is the number times it is invited back by hosting venues. Equally important, if one is ready for a bit of tolerable challenge, making music, and suffering through mediocre jokes from band-mates, this could be the answer to a former musician’s itchiness to return to playing. Check this band out.
Percussion: The Real Crazies!
Photos and text copyright 2011 Maren Morgan