WESTFIELD, NJ — On the longest day of the year, the Westfield Community Concert Band began its 106th season with the first concert of four in its Summer Concert Series. Those in attendance Thursday night were rewarded with a picturesque summer evening of serenades.
Dr. Thomas N. Connors conducted the group of 55 players through a two-hour performance that began at 7:30 p.m.
The band's first summer show began with the Star-Spangled Banner. Elderly couples, teenagers and families with small children watched from the lawn that surrounds the park's gazebo.
American composer Leonard Bernstein would have been 100 years old this year, Connors said. Additionally, Mindowaskin Park is celebrating its centennial in 2018, as well. And the WCCB has been playing in the park every summer of its 100-year existence.
In addition to the annual summer shows, Connors said, "We actually do a fall concert, a holiday concert and a spring concert. So they play a lot of music throughout the year. Although, for most of them, not being professionally trained, the Summer Concert Series is a lot of music. In these four weeks, they're playing 30 different pieces and some it it is very challenging, like Candide."
Candide Suite (1956) is one of five of Leonard Bernstein's pieces being performed by the band this summer. The remaining four Bernstein pieces will be performed at the final show on July 12.
One of those remaining pieces is Four Dances from "West Side Story." Clarinet player and current Kean University student Isaiah James said of this piece, "That's what I'm most looking forward to playing. That'll be a fun one." He began playing in the fourth grade and, at this time, he is one of only three current students in the WWCB.
Connors has been the conductor for the past 14 years and it is clear that he possesses immense passion for the band and its historical significance.
"At the time when this band was created (in 1912), every town had a band. It was a source of pride for each town. I think the fact that Westfield still has this band is a great thing," Connors said. "It's nice that people come out and that we get people to sponsor us. I wish more people would come out."
The remaining performances in the WCCB's Summer Concert Series will be held on June 28, July 5 and July 12.