Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - April 16, 2010

Striking up the band for 35 years

Sunday's concert will celebrate this and other anniversaries

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

Bob Williams, conductor of the Pleasanton Community Concert Band, was home earlier this week polishing his horn. He noted that the instrument once was known as a "French horn."

"In Great Britain they called it a 'French horn' because it came across the Channel from France," he explained. "It's really a German hunting horn."

On Sunday, Williams will pick up his conductor's baton and lead the Pleasanton Community Concert Band in this year's Spring Concert, which will be a celebration of the orchestra's 35th anniversary.

The program also observes the bicentennials of Frederic Chopin, Otto Nicolai and Robert Schumann, said Williams, plus the centennials of Samuel Barber, William Schuman and the Boy Scouts of America. Music by these composers and others will include Commando March, Merry Wives of Windsor, American Hymn, Boy Scouts of America March, and Fantasy on a Theme by Samuel Barber. Also they will perform the Monterey Bay Suite, a commissioned piece written for them 10 years ago by Dr. Arthur Barnes.

"When we do an indoor program like this, we like to hit some of the classics that don't go well outdoors," Williams explained.

"Every program has to have a march or two in it," he added. "Indoors it can be a 'concert march,' a good foot-tapping tune."

The Pleasanton band was begun 35 years ago when the city built its bandstand in Wayside Park on First Street for the nation's bicentennial celebration. Committee member Charlotte Severin recalled that City Councilman Bill Herlihy heard about the bandstand plans and commented: "Well, if you have a bandstand, what about a band?"

The rest is history. Plus a lot of hard work and practices by musicians and their supporters to fine-tune the Pleasanton Bicentennial Band, which became the Pleasanton Community Band and eventually took its current name, the Pleasanton Community Concert Band.

Williams was one of the original band members and later became conductor. From a group of 35 musicians, the band has grown to 70 members who play up to 20 concerts a year, he noted.

"We play a lot of music - 150 different pieces every year," he said. "We work on them on a steady basis and play them depending on the audience and venue."

Williams said the band has a few of the original members in its core group of 30 performers.

"We have a low turnover so we are able to maintain a good quality cadre of 30 people," he said. "We have maybe 70 on the roster, and we usually get 50 to play a concert. We always have 35 or 40 for rehearsal."

The band practices each Thursday at Pleasanton Middle School. Call Personnel Manager Pat Wheeler at 443-5526 to make arrangements.

"Every year we have at least two people call and say they haven't played since they had their kids and they'd like to try it again," said Williams. "I tell them, 'If you've got the horn, pick it up and make sure you know how to blow it. Try a little tooting on your own.'"

Some will find a teacher and take a few lessons before showing up for their first rehearsal.

"Some have come back at 50, and at 75 are still doing it," said Williams. "They either love what they're doing - or they don't come back."

As for himself, Williams has been playing the horn for 65 years and keeps his lungs in shape by swimming and walking.

"I play the horn (in the Livermore Symphony) and a little piano - and do a lot of conducting," he said.

He'll keep playing the horn as long as his lungs - and his lips - allow him to do so.

Spring band concert

Who: Pleasanton Community Concert Band

What: Celebrating its 35th anniversary

When: 2 p.m., Sunday, April 18

Where: Amador Theater, 1155 Santa Rita Road, Pleasanton

Cost: Free

Information: www.pleasantonband.org or 846-5897

Hear the band play

The Pleasanton Community Concert Band gives three concerts a year: Spring Concert, Family Concert and Holiday Concert. It is also invited to perform for other events, including:

* Fourth of July Ceremony, Pleasanton

* Pleasanton Main Street Party

* Art Under the Oaks, Alden Lane Nursery, Livermore

* Farmers Markets, Pleasanton and Livermore

* Veterans Day Ceremonies, Livermore and Pleasanton

* Memorial Day Ceremonies, Pleasanton and San Francisco Presidio

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