Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hayward Municipal Band - a Community and Family Tradition

Besides the sign, it looked like this 2008 photo today.
What could be better than a fine summer afternoon spent hearing live music in the park--for free? The Hayward (California) Municipal Band has been delivering the goods since 1957! I enjoyed their concert today sitting outside on a perfect 70-degree day.

The band, nattily attired in their match powder blue coats with pocket patch and caps and contrasting black trousers, sat in the Tony Morelli Bandstand and played a pleasing variety of music. Ably conducted by Kathy Meier, and emceed by her brother, Mark Morelli, the show kept the folks on the grassy fields happy. Tony Morelli, for whom the bandstand is named, directed the band from almost the beginning (1960), and when he died the baton was passed to his daughter, Kathy (Meier). She has been with the group since the age of three, when she started passing out programs--and joined as a flutist at 15.

Today's show, as always, began with the National Anthem. We are used to hearing someone sing it at the ballpark, but done by an excellent instrumental ensemble it gives me goosebumps--kind of thrilling! Small American and California flags were displayed appropriately on the bandstand.

The show was programmed to not stay too long on one particular kind of music, so it then transitioned to an uptempo Spanish march, Amparito Roca. Next, the mood shifted again to a more standard classical work, the Finale from Dvorak's New World Symphony. This is a favorite classical music piece that is probably somewhat familiar to many people who are not classical music "fans."

Osser' Beguine Again (a pun) brought more Latin rhythms to the bandstand, contrasting nicely with Ralph Vaughn Williams' Sine Nomine--an uplifting hymn. This piece had a nice xylophone part in it, and while it started out in a sharply defined four-to-the bar structure, it softened as it progressed--a satisfying transition.

Outdoor concerts are not like indoor performances. Here' you're going to hear birds chirping (they seemed to favor certain pieces and parts thereof) and an occasional baby crying. Because it's a picnic, my sensitive ears picked up the crinkle of a chip bag a few times, and at one point dogs started yapping at each other behind me. There were some conversations, too, but it wasn't really a problem.

The first half included the Cheerio March, which featured an audience participation section (LA LA LA first and then whistling in the second). I participated in the first, since I can't whistle proficiently.

No Man is an Island, 16th-Century poet John Donne's words put to music, provided a showcase for band Manager Lolita Morelli, wife of Tony and mother to Kathy and Mark, to sing for us. She also added California Here I Come, which I think is a crowd favorite. A medley from Camelot, including Camelot, Follow Me and If Ever I Should Leave You, preceded the intermission.

I got a chance to meet and talk with Lolita and Kathy during the intermission break. It's easy to see their great enthusiasm for the band.

The second half got everyone moving with the stirring Drums of America, which gave the percussionists a chance to shine. Then came music from Wildcat, a broadway play from 1960 that starred Lucille Ball in the original New York production. Then, an interesting piece--John Philip Sousa's 1912 With Pleasure, that had a ragtime feel rather than a march beat. I didn't know he wrote those.

When I was attending the Castro Valley Community Band concert last week (also conducted by Kathy Meier), they did a medley of Chicago songs (the group, not the city) that knocked my socks off. This show, it was a medley of John Denver tunes, including Leaving on a Jet Plane, Country Roads, and Rocky Mountain High. The musicians' skill playing this piece demonstrated their mastery of different styles, as this had nothing to do with a march or a Latin style composition. My only wish was that the medley had included the bridge from Country Roads, but in a medley, you have to stick with the main themes, and those were clearly delineated.

Where to go next to show their versatility? It was Gershwin. The group got the syncopated Jazz feeling exactly right, doing what was one of the highlights of the afternoon for me. So much of the work of Mr. Gershwin is part of the American musical consciousness--and the band really did it justice here, with Sentimental Rhythm, I've Got Rhythm, Someone to Watch Over Me, and more.

OK, it was a band concert on a Sunday afternoon in the park, so what better way to conclude the show but to return to basics with the always popular The Stars and Stripes Forever. It bookended the show nicely with the National Anthem up front, and got everyone clapping along.

This concert is part of a series provided by the City of Hayward in conjunction with the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District. It started last week and runs through July 24th--each one on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. in Hayward's Memorial Park. Admission is free, so you can bring a picnic (no alcohol) and have a great time. Check the band's blog for an advance look at the program.

No comments: