Memorial Day Concert
Head to the Covered Bridge Park, on Sunday, May 30, for a free Memorial Day performance by the Allentown Band! The Allentown Band performs at Pavilion #2; bring lawn chairs or blankets.
About the Allentown Band
A prominent feature of nineteenth-century musical Americana is the concert band, and the Allentown Band has, for almost two hundred years, kept that tradition alive. Drawn from within a fifty-mile radius of Lehigh Valley, the band’s musicians, as different as their backgrounds may be, share one common goal: to create and preserve concert band music at a level of excellence rarely heard from a community band.
All members of the Allentown Band approach their music-making in a professional manner, though none makes his or her living from music performance alone. Many, however, are teachers of music in schools and in private studios. Some teach a variety of subjects unrelated to music. 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, whether in a public park setting, retirement community, or in Carnegie Hall, both age and daytime vocation disappear. 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 Allentown Band should not be underestimated. The more than twenty local musicians recruited to perform with the “Grand Bandmaster” returned to Allentown remembering and sharing stylistic traits unique to the famous Sousa band. Significantly, Albertus L. “Bert” Meyers, cornet soloist with Sousa in the mid-1920s, later served as conductor of the Allentown Band for 50 years. Today, under the direction of Ronald Demkee, the “Sousa style” continues as an integral part of the 21st century Allentown Band.
A typical Allentown Band schedule includes roughly 40 yearly performances (pre-COVID 19). The venue fluctuates, from concert stage to baseball park, from church picnic to university commencement, from Allentown’s Miller Symphony Hall to New York’s Carnegie Hall. In addition to providing annual free concerts for the greater Lehigh Valley’s younger school children, the schedule includes a yearly event called the “Side-by-Side Concert,” where talented secondary-school student musicians are invited to sit “side-by-side” in a joint performance with the Allentown Band.
Besides being 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,” and heard on radio, regularly on Philadelphia’s station WRTI, and in Sydney, Australia, for a program called “Music That Is Band.” In addition, the Allentown Band has been featured in four European concert tours, performing in four cities of Switzerland, two in Austria, and, most recently, La Croix Valmer, France. Not limiting its exposure to television, radio, and touring, the Allentown Band has entered into a project to record an ongoing series of compact disc recordings called Our Band Heritage in an effort to document the sound of the band throughout its modern existence. To date, 32 CDs have been released, with more to come!
Many leading figures of the music world have appeared as guest conductors with the Allentown Band, most notably some early “greats” of the concert band tradition: Herbert L. Clarke, Edwin Franko Goldman, and Arthur Pryor, to name a few; and, 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 accumulated by the Allentown Band 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.