Well, the season is only one concert, but it’s a good one. I always loved band when I was in school. After you graduate, there’s not much opportunity to play your instrument. Sneaking into the pep band at football games is frowned upon.
More than twenty years ago, I clearly remember talking about getting up a municipal band. We were in the Bread-Board Cafe on south Main (formerly Myrtle’s). Several old band-nerds were doing some wishful thinking. Eddie Byrd was the band director in Holcomb then and he offered to direct and get the music together. We just needed a place to rehearse and somebody to organize it. Didn’t happen.
Then, eighteen years ago, it did happen. Terry Van Hunter had moved back to town. Terry knew everything there was to know and music and theater. He had been a professional until health problems forced his retirement at a very early age. With Jerry Mercier of the Friends of Music Society to do the leg-work and Terry to direct and promote, a Municipal Band was re-formed in Kennett for the first time since the early ’50s. As we took a break midway through the first rehearsal, Mary Jo Byrd (Baldwin) asked "Is anyone besides me thinking of Mayberry?" It was indeed pretty rough and rusty, but it had potential.
Terry Hunter enriched my life in many ways as we sang together and worked together in Little Theater productions. Even as a twelve-year old, I was inspired when I first heard a barbershop quartet. Terry’s amazing bass voice anchored the quartet in our high school’s production of "The Music Man".
Due to his breathing problems, he felt he could not both announce the concert and direct the band, so he gave me the commentary he had written and asked me to be the master of ceremonies.
Through that happy accident, I have been privileged to continue that duty through every one of the nineteen concerts. Many different area band directors have taken the podium in that time, with several taking more than one turn.
We start weekly rehearsals in May, and somewhere around the 4th, present a concert in the park. In nineteen years we’ve only had one rain-out, though there have been more than one where a stray thundershower began to speckle the music with rain during the last number. Sometimes it was beastly hot, at others the storm-laden breeze made it hard to keep your music on the stand.
Russell Alexander (director of bands for Senath-Hornersville, and choral director for the First Christian Church in Kennett) was our director. He also has written a special arrangement of "The Star-Spangled Banner" just for our band.
Excerpts from General Douglas MacArthur’s speech "Duty, Honor, Country" have been set to music, and were sonorously delivered by Jim Pemberton. Jim is a Marine Corps veteran, a Vietnam veteran, and before retirement was one of the Highway Patrol’s most effective members.