Talleyrand Park Bellefonte, PA 16823
By Serge Bielanko
Once upon a time, in those bygone eras before relentless television and the omnipresent internet, you couldn't travel far without running into some smalltown band of coal miners or farmers or factory workers and their families who joined together to play songs of the day with their fellow musician neighbors. They were known as community bands, and they were, I'd argue, a remarkable form of tried and true true entertainment at a time when people knew how to entertain themselves ...and did.
But times change, obviously.
These days, there aren't nearly as many of those local bands left: chiefly because there are less and less people who even leave their living rooms to go out into the world other than for work. Blame Netflix, Amazon, whatever; you know the story; we all do. Heck, chances are high that the last community band you've seen play was one halfway across the world in some Ukrainian church basement, in a video you stumbled upon on YouTube because you hit the wrong thing on your SEARCH.
No matter. Rest easy. You, me, we're some of the lucky ones. Because all of that is poised to change, in case you missed it somehow.
See, for a long time now Bellefonte has had a community band.
And they're fantastic.
They're called, fittingly enough, Bellefonte Community Band, and their membership requirements are a thing of grace and beauty.
"We are a group of about 55 dedicated volunteer musicians of all ages from Bellefonte and the surrounding communities," says the band's website. "New members are always welcome, there are no dues or auditions; if you can play, you can join!"
Isn't that perfect? Anyone...and I mean ANYONE ...who plays and instrument and wants to play with this community band can.
They've been featured at events all over Centre County and greater Central PA for the last 35 years too. That's a long time. Enough to have earned their stripes as local legends, as an institution, really. Now, perhaps right about here you are saying to yourself,"Of course, of course! I know about the band! My Uncle Willis played French horn with them for years back in the 80's!"
If so: then to you and your uncle, informed reader, I tip my hat.
However for many locals, I suspect that you may not have known much about these folks.
Which is why this Sunday, June 30th, you can find out for yourself when the Bellefonte Community Band will be taking their rightful place on their hometown stage at the world famous Gazebo in beautiful Talleyrand Park as the headliner for this weeks free 'Summer Sounds' concert. Proudly presented by another group of Bellefonte boosters, the Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association, the concert kicks off at the Gazebo at 7pm sharp.
What sort songs can you expect to hear? How's this for a variety?
"We play a variety of music," according to the band's website."Traditional marches, contemporary and classic compositions for concert band and wind ensemble, transcriptions of movie, classical and operatic music, lighter numbers and novelty tunes, and patriotic arrangements."
What's left? Electronica?
I reached out to band saxophonist and President, Jenna Spinelle, to dig a little deeper into the Bellefonte Community Band story.
"I've been involved in the group for about 10 years," Spinelle says. "We have several members who have been in the band since its founding, including flute player Bev Gilpin and clarinet player Sharen Lyons. Most of our members live in Centre County, but we have a handful who travel in from Blair and Mifflin counties."
Who plays in the band? Is it mostly one age group or what?
"We have everyone from high school students to retirees and a nice mix of Centre County natives and people who came to the area for a degree at Penn State," she continues. "I like the fact that our band is an opportunity for people from all walks of life to come together around a common interest. Everyone learns from each other and we're able to put aside any differences we might have for the sake of making music together."
As it should be. After all, if you can't say it better with a song, well.
Curious about where the band's concerts take place? Me too.
"Some of my favorite concerts to play are at senior communities like Foxdale Village and The Oaks at Pleasant Gap," Spinelle reflects. "The residents there always love hearing us perform and have said our concerts are among the highlights of the year for them.And we really appreciate the fact that the local festivals like Arts Fest, People's Choice, and the Grange Fair make room in their lineups for groups like ours. I know that there are a lot of other ways that they could fill those time slots, but the fact that they choose us speaks to their commitment to local artists and community organizations."
Thumbs up to the folks booking the music at those places and events.
"We've performed at Summer Sounds as long as I've been in the band...about 10 years. I'm not sure how much farther back the relationship goes. We always enjoy performing there because we can do a concert that's a little longer than some of the festivals and other gigs we do. Plus, you can't beat that setting on a nice summer evening."
So this isn't their first Gazebo rodeo. But that just makes it all the more sweet, because this is their big summer show in the very town whose name they carry. That's an important gig for any band!
Which can only mean one thing.
We should all get out there to Talleyrand Park this Sunday evening and support these local legends. Bring the kids. Bring Pap. Bring your lawn chair, bring a bucket of fried chicken or a bucket of fried crappie or whatever you like to eat right before you get pop up to the first notes of "You're a Grand Old Flag" and show the whole wide world that you can moonwalk clear across a hundred yards of green grass like nobody's business.
It'll be spectacular.
The 38th Annual BHCA Summer Sounds Concert Series
Sunday, June 30th at 7pm with Bellefonte Community Band.
At the Gazebo in Talleyrand Park, Bellefonte, PA.
Lawn chairs and blankest suggested.
If it rains, concerts will be held at St John Lutheran Church, 216 N. McAllister St.
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