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|A prominent feature of nineteenth-century musical Americana is the concert band, and the renowned Allentown Band has kept that tradition alive for over two hundred years. Drawn from within a fifty-mile radius of the Lehigh Valley, the band’s musicians share one common goal: to create and preserve concert band music at a level of excellence rarely heard from a community band.
You will be able to hear that sound on Sunday, February 19, 2012 at 5 PM at the Mauch Chunk Opera House in a performance organized by the Jim Thorpe Chamber of Commerce. Theaters such as the Opera House were built for community bands, and John Philip Sousa and his band were regular performers here.
Many of the Allentown Band's members teach music in schools and in private studios. Others are engaged in engineering, accounting, sales, insurance, medicine and dentistry, or in various office work or building trades. When they meet to perform, however, all effort is concentrated toward creating the most enjoyable sounds these exceptional musicians can produce—whether it be an overture transcribed from opera, a modern composition written especially for concert band, or a Sousa march.
John Philip Sousa’s influence on the band and its distinguished history is profound. More than twenty local musicians were recruited to perform with Sousa, and then returned to Allentown remembering and sharing stylistic traits unique to the famous Sousa band.
Significantly, Albertus L. Meyers, cornet soloist with Sousa in the mid-1920s, later served as conductor of the Allentown Band for fifty years. Today, under the direction of Ronald Demkee, the Sousa style continues as an integral part of the band's twenty-first-century sound.
Their schedule typically includes around forty annual performances. The venue fluctuates—from concert stage to baseball park, from church picnic to university commencement, from Allentown’s Symphony Hall to New York’s Carnegie Hall. In addition to providing free concerts for the greater Lehigh Valley’s younger school children, the schedule includes a yearly event where talented secondary-school student musicians are invited to sit in for joint performances.
Frequently seen on local television, the Allentown Band is recognized worldwide, having twice appeared on national TV—Charles Kuralt’s Good Morning America, and the PBS series The American Experience in a feature called “If You Knew Sousa.” They are regularly heard on Philadelphia’s WRTI, and as far away as Sydney, Australia, for a program called “Music That Is Band.” In addition, the band has undertaken four European concert tours, performing in four Swiss cities, two in Austria, and, most recently, La Croix Valmer, France.
Many leading figures of the music world have appeared as guest conductors with the Allentown Band, most notably early greats of the concert band tradition—Herbert L. Clarke, Edwin Franko Goldman, and Arthur Pryor. More recently, such world-renowned musicians as Frederick Fennell, Donald Hunsberger, and W. Francis McBeth, as well as many of the past and present conductors of the United States military bands of Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
The honors and awards they have accumulated over the years, from various state and national music and music educators’ associations to the John Philip Sousa Foundation, are too numerous for complete listing here. Words from the 1991 Allentown “Arts Ovation Award”—“significant contributions to the cultural life of the community”—summarize the Allentown Band’s commitment to the community at large.
Tickets are available online at MauchChunkOperaHouse.com, and at SoundCheck Records in downtown Jim Thorpe, either by visiting or calling them at 570-325-0249. You may also call the Opera House box office at 570-325-0249.