And The Night Shall Be Filled With Music!
And The Night Shall Be Filled With Music!
by William L. Bulla
The conductor walks onto the stage, taps his baton on the podium then raises it toward the night sky. The talking in the audience is hushed to a murmur, then silence. The conductor rapidly swings the baton downward and a great crescendo fills the air. That will be the scene in Hagerstown City Park on the evening of Sunday, June 11, as the Hagerstown Municipal Band opens its 92nd season.
Who are these band members? Butcher, baker, candlestick maker? Well, not exactly! But they do come together from various professions for a passion they all share. It's their love of music. And they bring it to Hagerstown City Park each summer as a gift for the public. The Band will perform on Sunday nights from June 11 through August 20 at 7:30PM.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, an American poet, educator, and linguist during the mid-1800s, may have been thinking about this type of concert when he wrote, "And the night shall be filled with music, And the cares that infest the day, Shall fold their tents like Arabs, And as silently steal away."
Residents, who have been enjoying these Sunday concerts over the years, are urged to note one important change in this year's schedule. "After all these years of starting the concerts at 8:00PM, we are changing our starting time to 7:30PM," stated Lynn Lerew, director of the Hagerstown Municipal Band.
This summer marks the 92nd year for the Hagerstown Municipal Band and the 70th year of playing in the Peter Buys Band Shell in the City Park. The Band was formed in 1915, through the efforts of the Chamber of Commerce. Competing with four other city bands and six bands in surrounding Washington County communities, the founders realized the need for professional direction. From an ad in a musical journal, Vermond Knauss, of Allentown, Pennsylvania, was selected to serve as its first conductor. Under his direction the Band played its first concert on July 15, 1915 in the Maryland Theatre. Of the ten other bands in the area, only the Rohrersville Band remains.
Over the years, the Hagerstown Municipal Band has had eight music directors. Three of them, Vermond Knauss, James Riley Wheelock, and W.H. Eberle served in the first five year period. In 1920, Dr. Peter Buys, for whom the band shell is named, began a tenure that lasted 39 years. Directors Kenneth B. Slater, Joseph M. Leptich, and Michael A. Maglio served the period of 1959 to 1975 when the baton was handed over to its current director Lynn Lerew.
Lerew joined the Band in 1963 and performed as a member and Euphonium Soloist until becoming director 32 years ago. A native of Bendersville, Pennsylvania, Lerew holds a B.S. degree in Music Education from Susquehanna University and a Master of Music Education from West Chester University. He has done advanced study in Educational Administration and holds certification from Shippensburg University.
"The secret of the Band's success is two-fold," Lerew said, "first, it is the commitment of our city fathers...I'm referring to the mayor and council. It's their moral and financial support, plus providing a beautiful park where we can perform. Second, it is the quality and dedication of our musicians. They come to us in a variety of ages and experience. Many have given a lifetime devotion to the Band."
"The Mogensen family has been represented in the Band through three generations," said Lerew. The late Max Mogensen was an early member with a long tenure playing the alto saxophone. His son, Rick, plays both clarinet and saxophone, and now his son, Mike, is involved as composer, arranger and French horn player. Mike Mogensen was recently commissioned to compose for the U.S. Air Force Band in Washington, D.C.
The fifty plus members of the Band come together from as far away as Virginia and Western Pennsylvania. They represent many professions and occupations. Maybe not butchers, bakers and candlestick makers, but there are educators and military personnel, both active and retired. There are engineers, draftsmen, accountants, and many other fields represented. Some have backgrounds as professional musicians. Some are students, both high school and college. What ties them together is their love for music. It brings them together for rehearsals and weekly concerts throughout the summer.
The City of Hagerstown provides the members with a modest allowance for uniform maintenance and travel expenses.
"Music is my first love," said Christopher Stockslager, a tuba playing accountant. "I always loved the big, bold sound of the tuba. I still do! Playing with the Municipal Band and the Brass Ensemble is exciting for me."
Stockslager started playing the tuba in 1986 at North High School. His school band director, Noel Kunkle, a member of the Municipal Band, got him an audition in 1990. Stockslager has been an active member ever since. He is currently serving as treasurer for the Band organization.
He related this story about Dr Buys, "The highly coveted spots in the Band had people waiting in line to audition. After the audition, if accepted, the musicians had to attend rehearsals on Mondays and Thursdays, then appear in uniform on Sunday nights. However, they did not get to play, but had to sit together in the front rows at the concerts for about two years before actually getting a spot in the Band. I'm happy my audition wasn't like that."
Bradley Neisser began playing the French horn in the fourth grade. Over the years his parents took him to the Sunday night band concerts. "I always thought what a great thrill it would be to be playing my French horn with that band," he said. Neisser, now thirty, has been a member of the Band for the past ten years. "It's really an honor to be part of an organization with the history of this Band. One of the things I love most is how the people in the audience enjoy it."
David McFadden, 85, retired after 50 years as foundry superintendent, said, "I have been the tuba section leader for at least 30 of my 56 years in the Band." McFadden has many fond memories of Dr. Buys. "I treasure those years I played under Dr. Buys direction," he said.
McFadden, also, praised Lerew saying, "He's a great director. All the musicians enjoy working with him."
McFadden's wife, Sue has her Masters degree in music and taught all aspects of music at Fannett-Metal High School before going into banking. She is the percussionist section leader of the Band, in addition to being the president of the group.
Among the other female musicians is Karen Hart, clarinetist, who serves as the Band's librarian. Hart is a teacher at Smithsburg Middle School, where she teaches chorus and general music. She joined the Band in 1974, but left after five years because of other commitments. She rejoined the Band seventeen years ago. Hart taught band for a number of years in Martinsburg, then at Western Heights for ten years as chorus and general music teacher, before moving to her current position. "Washington County is blessed to have a band with such history. Over the years it has continually had a number of fine musicians providing a place for so many kids to continue pursuing their musical dreams," she said. "The Hagerstown Municipal Band has such a rich history, I tell my students about it as part of their studies."
"We play a wide variety of music," Lerew said. "We have two rehearsals for each concert. Each week we do a different program of marches, overtures, Broadway show tunes, Dixieland, and many other musical selections. Each week we end the program with the Band playing a hymn. Our performances also features soloists from the Band members."
In years past, the Band has performed with the Elks Club during its annual Flag Day ceremony. "Since Flag Day is June 14, the Elks Club will join us at our first concert on June 11. The flag ceremony will be held at 7:00PM. We will then begin our concert at 7:30PM," said Lerew.
Yes, once again "...the night shall be filled with music."