The Duncan Banner

July 8, 2012

Band a community treasure

Ed Darling
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN — Duncan’s Chisholm Trail Municipal Band was launched, I am told, in connection with the 1976 Bicentennial. Names like Priscilla and Merle Brandon, Wete and Joel Wilkinson come to mind when I think of that era.

Following a spirited concert under the Fuqua Park stars in 1982, the idea of a multi-purpose gazebo for the popular area surfaced and within months, a specific site was selected, plans were drawn, $25,000 was raised through the generosity of 87 individuals, families, businesses and foundations, the gazebo was built and then dedicated as a project of the Duncan Chamber of Commerce.

Last Tuesday, close to 300 appreciative listeners, sitting in lawn chairs, on picnic benches and on blankets, encircled that same gazebo and enjoyed an hour of patriotic songs, meaningful hymns, Disney blockbusters and the always moving March of the Armed Forces.

If you were there, you know what I mean.

If you weren’t, shame on you. You missed a treat.

Long-time followers and supporters of the band suggested it was the largest turnout in the 36 years of outdoor performances. Others, with an obvious touch of pride, beamed it was the best concert ever.

No one seemed willing to debate either issue.

Director Jeramy Haas and the 52 musicians had worked hard to prepare a special program to honor America, to dabble at songs and memories of long ago and to highlight the beauties and sounds of small town living.

It was a eloquent program delivered with feeling and enthusiasm from talented bandsmen whose ages spanned 10 through 80 and whose rehearsal efforts were worthy of a multi-city tour and giant auditoriums.

It was a program received also with feeling and enthusiasm from grateful listeners whose ages may have even expanded that of the musicians, who sang along, who clapped or tapped in rhythm, who arrived early in anticipation of a fun evening and who would have stayed longer had the band chosen or perhaps been able to share additional numbers.

It was a setting that has only improved through the years, the gently rolling grasses creating a slight amphitheater effect, the whispering trees waving through the gentle and cooling breeze and the unmistakable sense of community that brought together friends, smiling faces and happy times.

It was simple. And it was nice.

Haas, now a five-year veteran as director of the band, figures this year’s three-concert series may have been the band’s best ever.

Sixty musicians took part in at least one of the performances, many long-term players who have been band members for years and form an important core for the group. Pre-concert practices and rehearsals went smoothly in an atmosphere that was both fun and relaxing.

You could sense their pleasure in performing again, And you could hear their talents.

It was that kind of an evening.

Even the now old gingerbread-less gazebo fulfilled its stage-setting niche, though trombonists, seeking more space, did slip off to an impromptu extension created by picnic tables hastily arranged next to the covered and lighted facility.

And the easily identified audience enjoyment made it all worthwhile.

Crowded July schedules after the Fourth curtail visions of a longer season and that’s, selfishly, a shame, but there’s something warmly appropriate, too, about ending each cycle with a traditional patriotic program that seems fitting.

There are, perhaps, reasonable ways to make the finale even more special and to increase both awareness of and attendance at so unique an event without destroying the wholesomeness of what is already in place.

But never doubt for even a moment, the value of our Chisholm Trail Municipal Band. It is a treasure, one of which we all should be proud. It’s not too early to pencil in the dates for next year’s concerts.

580-255-5354, Ext. 130