Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Summer Concerts...music in the park

My father raised me to appreciate all sorts of music. I grew up listening to Glenn Miller, 101 Strings, Pittsburgh Symphony, barbershop quartets (my favorite album as a kid was one by the Buffalo Bills...NOT the football team, the quartet who sang Lida Rose in "Music Man"), Doris Day. I advanced through the years to Peter,Paul&Mary, Herb Alpert, The Association, Blood,Sweat&Tears, Chicago, Nilsson, Manhattan Transfer, Willie Nelson, Jimmy Buffett and even a bit of Frankie Valli (Can't Take My Eyes Off You). During my high school years, my friend Mary and I were the number one groupies for a group from our school called the Wellingtons. Joe, Rick, Jimmy, Kenny and Bob were idolized by us, and we followed them from gig to gig around western Pennsylvania to sit moon-eyed in their presence! We spent my birthday for several years' running at the big 4th of July community picnic at Kiwanis Park where the highlight of my day wasn't the fireworks, but when the Wellingtons broke into the Beatles' "Birthday." (Photo of the Wellingtons, ~1969, July 4th Kiwanis Park, Glenshaw, PA) Of course, we finally got past the teen idol stage, and the guys in the group moved on to the rest of their lives around the country. In fact, at our high school reunion last year, I learned that Kenny actually pursued his career in music and worked with some big names in the rock industry. Mary and I scraped the money together to go to the Chicago concerts, and I once blew off a day of work to see some of the members of Blood, Sweat and Tears at a promotional appearance at a store in Pittsburgh. I saw ShaNaNa in concert in Pittsburgh, Manhattan Transfer at Chautauqua Institute, and Jimmy Buffett, the king of the live concert tours, at Blossom in Ohio and Star Lake in Pittsburgh. Summer concerts became a tradition for me since my teen years...a tradition that carries through to today.

My parents discovered the concerts on the lawn at Edinboro University back in the 1980s. The Concert Band of Northwest Pennsylvania, directed by John Fleming (who became my boss at Baron-Forness Library in the 1990s), offered a series of summer concerts that featured marches, popular, classical, circus and other varied music genres. I often attended these evening concerts, sitting in the shade of the big maples on campus enjoying the glorious sounds wafting over the audience as the sun lowered in the sky. During my years working with John in the Audio Visual Room, part of my duties included assisting with the clerical tasks for the Concert Band. John also founded the Band Camp for Adult Musicians, with which I was also involved alongside the CBNP. The climax of the week-long Camp was a concert in Memorial Auditorium. Wonderful music in small-town Pennsylvania, drawing musicians from across the US and even as far away as Australia. Charlie and I moved to Tidioute two years ago in 2007. It was an hour's drive to Meadville for the CBNP concerts in Diamond Park; they repeated the concerts that were held in Edinboro at the park in Meadville, to carry their music to a wider audience. Since I don't drive far at night because of poor night vision, I wasn't able to attend many of their concerts any more. But last summer we discovered that the Titusville Council on the Arts sponsors a series of Monday Night Concerts in the Park in Scheide Park, Titusville. When I saw that my favorite bluegrass band, Generic Grass, was scheduled for a concert in June, 2008, I went. And that was how I discovered the Monday series and some of the wonderful bands that the TCA brought to the gazebo in the park. My brain gears engaged: if I can't get to the CBNP concerts, maybe I could bring a CBNP concert to me. I contacted the TCA and after a little coaxing, and going-between messaging, we finally brought them to Titusville this past Sunday.

Along with the Band came Tr

"Trudy is a band organ built by David F. Wasson who plays euphonium in the Concert Band. It is similar to automatic organs built during the first part of the 20th century that were used to provide music at fairgrounds and other outdoor events. Many organs of this type are given names, this one is named after David's grandmother. The tuning system used on this organ is based on a type used by pipe organs about 300 years ago. This lets the organ play well in seven major keys and three minor keys. Construction of this organ began in 1985. The sound and appearance of this organ has changed over the years as new pipe work has been built and added. With a few exceptions, all of the music is arranged by Mr. Wasson, and is punched into paper rolls on a automatic music roll perforator of Mr. Wasson's design and construction." (JZFleming)

Although I had been to Titusville on Sunday and didn't plan on going back over right away, the next day a friend invited me to bicycle with her on the Oil Creek Bike Trail. Since it was Monday, and time for another Monday Night Concert in the Park, I figured we could make an afternoon and evening of it. We biked the trail in the afternoon, met Charlie at Perk Place for dinner, then hied over to Scheide Park for a concert by the Loose Change Band, a country group out of Erie that was back by popular demand. Hundreds of people sat in their lawn chairs eagerly anticipating the start of the concert when we arrived. As I hunkered down in my chair, Charlie said, "That drummer looks like Dan. Get his picture." (I was there with the camera to take some shots to send to the TCA.) As I rounded the gazebo shooting photos, I finally made it around to the drummer, who looked up, flashed a big grin and nodded "hi" to me. Yes, it was Charlie's cousin Dan! Small world, eh?

Well, we are only partially through summer, with a lot more concerts coming up. In two weeks we'll be back over at Scheide for the Top Cats, a group out of Indiana, PA, who play music from the 50s, 60s and 70s. We heard them last year and I was so excited when they played many of the old songs that the Wellingtons played that I called Mary in Ft. Wayne and held the phone up for her to hear the music. Yes, Mary and I had come full circle, mooning over the music of our youth that has lasted through the years to become the classics of our generation.

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