Salisbury Press

Wednesday, September 18, 2019
Eric Fennell Copyright - David L Smith Photography Eric Fennell Copyright - David L Smith Photography
Lauren Curnow Copyright - David L Smith Photography Lauren Curnow Copyright - David L Smith Photography

Allentown Band, soloists go Broadway in concert

Friday, July 26, 2019 by Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

The Allentown Band has increased its performance schedule from three to six concerts at Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown.

“We’re getting to be the house band,” quips Allentown Band Conductor Ron Demkee.

This includes “Broadway and Beyond,” with tenor Eric Fennell and mezzo-soprano Lauren Curnow, 7:30 p.m. July 27, Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown.

“Last year, Symphony Hall initiated the summer series. One was a Broadway-themed concert by the band. The other was ‘Phantom of the Opera,’ with the band accompanying the silent film,” says Demkee.

This year, in addition to the Broadway concert, there are two silent film screenings, “The General” (1926), starring Buster Keaton, Aug. 17, with a selection of Civil War era and classical pieces by the band, and “Nosferatu” (1922), by director F. W. Murnau, Oct. 26, with an original score composed by band clarinetist Steve Reisteter.

The band continues its annual holiday concert; its “Side-By-Side Concert,” whereby 50 advanced high school musicians sit adjacent to a band musician playing their respective instruments, and the “Youth Concert” for elementary and middle school students.

“The band plays at Symphony Hall for its annual holiday concert. It’s evolved into ‘Americans We Tribute To Veterans-Holiday Concert,’” says Demkee.

“It’s a patriotic concert and holiday concert. Last year, we had 22 World War II vets there. We try to include all veterans. Veterans are admitted to the concert free. There’s a special emphasis on World War II. We’re losing those folks so fast. It’s absolutely an honor to have them there to be recognized.”

Returning in his fourth year for the 3 p.m. Dec. 15 concert is tenor Daniel Rodriguez, known as “The Singing Policeman” for his role in post 9-11 ceremonies. Also performing is Michael Mergen, a cornet soloist from the U.S. Marine Band. The band will perform the Lehigh Valley premiere of “Pershing,” composed by Whitehall native Gregory Fritze.

July 27 concert soloists Curnow and Fennell sang together previously with the band at its annual Waldheim Park amphitheater concert. The band performs “Concert in the Park,” recreating a 19th century concert including works by Charles Ives, for its 104th year, 7 p.m. Aug. 13, Waldheim Park, Allentown.

The program for the July 27 concert includes works by Leonard Bernstein, a Barbra Streisand medley, selections from “Les Miserables” and “Carmen” and tributes to Gershwin, Jerome Kern and Cole Porter.

Says Demkee, “I think it’s more interesting to give a sampling of several works by a single composer. It keeps the variety but it also has a theme to it.”

The band rerhearses weekly and performs 45-50 concerts annually. There are 65 band members.

“There’s a lot of consistency in the band,” says Demkee. Ezra Wenner, trombone, has been a member for 77 years since 1942.

“People have interest in the band and call and if we have an opening, I listen to them and they sit in on a rehearsal.” After two years, the musician is nominated by the conductor to become a member. “They don’t just walk in,” says Demkee.

Of the July 27 concert, Demkee says, “I’m looking forward to it. These are really good singers and we have a nice program.”

Tickets: Miller Symphony Hall box office, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown; millersymphonyhall.org; 610-432-6715