The band rehearses in the Monomoy Regional Middle School’s band room every Monday night. It’s an eclectic group of all ages and musical abilities. There’s 18-year-old Ethan Singer and Karl Fehrle, who turned 97 in July. Ninety-four-year-old Ben Goodspeed has been a band member since he was 14.
Ethan, a percussionist and a senior at Nauset Regional High School, is in his third season with the band. He plays with several school bands and orchestras, and while he likes performing, he says what attracted him to the Chatham Band is how relaxed and welcoming the band is.
The band’s manager, Anita Harris, a flutist and piccolo player who owns two women’s clothing stores in Chatham, says the people drew her in. “Both the band members and the audience are such important parts of the performance,” she says.
Sally Davol, a seventh grade special education teacher at the middle school and the band’s president, has only seen a concert from her chair in the bandstand. She plays flute and piccolo and sits at the end of a row. “No one wants to sit next to a piccolo player,” she says, indicating how holding the instrument would poke someone in the ear or eye. But her spot gives her a clear view of the audience. “It’s all just good, old fashion fun,” she says.
Euphonium player John Wilson winters in New Hampshire, where he also plays in a number of orchestras and bands. “We play before more people in Chatham on one night than I do all winter,” he says.
Tuba player and percussionist Mike Rodericks has been in the band since 1967 when he was in eighth grade playing trumpet. Referring to the appeal of the concerts, he says, “We all love music and I feel the music, and I love making everyone in the audience feel it too.”
It’s 10 days before their first concert on June 29, and at this rehearsal Jahnke clearly has work on his mind. This night the band will be working on a few pieces that are giving them a little trouble. The musicians are loose, but clearly want to please the bandleader. They launch into “Proud Mary,” the Ike and Tina Turner classic. Only a few measures in, Jahnke waves them to a stop. “You’re not listening to each other,” he admonishes. Next Jahnke tells them their rendition of “God Bless America” is lovely, but he wants to hear it again, which brings a laugh from the musicians. “This will adhere it to your memory,” he explains. The highlights to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel” are simply beautiful after Jahnke’s direction to “feel it for all it’s worth.”
By ten o’clock in the morning on concert day, people will begin spreading blankets and dropping off chairs in front of the bandstand. Some families park their blankets in the same place year after year, like how they always sit in the same pew in church. Shops, restaurants, ice cream shops, pizza parlors and cafes will brace for the pre- and post-show rushes. The band members dress in their uniforms at home, meet in their own parking area near the bandstand, and as eight o’clock approaches take their places on the bandstand. The magic is about to start. At eight o’clock Jahnke will face the audience, raise his baton, and say the magic words, Hip-Hip Hi-De-Ho, two times, a tradition that Whit Tileston started, and the band will launch into Tileston’s traditional first number, “Band Time in Chatham.” The magic really is that easy.
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