Marches under the elms: City Band continues popular summer concerts
It's a hot summer evening on Belmont Avenue, and Grand Forks residents have set up camp under the Myra Museum's massive Japanese elms. Though the spot is picturesque enough to enjoy in itself, tonight, everyone is here for the music.
This is the Grand Forks City Band's fifth and penultimate performance this summer, played in their usual home of the Myra Museum band shell. The band has been playing in the spacious gazebo for about 25 years, though the group has been in existence since 1884, according to the director of the Grand Forks Historical Society, Leah Byzewski.
The band's members are all volunteers, and its few expenses are covered by the city. Band director Don Langlie said the band's numbers fluctuate between about 45 and 60 musicians. The players range in age from the upper teens into their eighties, but they're all united in their goal.
"There's something about music that just brings everybody together," Diane Long said.
Long usually plays baritone euphonium with the band, but has taken this summer off. Even with a busy schedule, she came with her friends Thursday evening to indulge in the music.
The summer performances, she said, are more fun, as the band plays more "audience friendly pieces."
"Stuff that you can really enjoy, instead of some really long hair stuff," Long said.
Langlie agrees that this is usually the goal of the band's summer outings.
"In the summer we try to have that balance as a community band of the typical quintessential performance music of marches and broadway," Langlie said. ""In the winter we do step it up a notch as far as the challenge, sophistication of the music."
On Thursday, the band's theme was "Music of the West," and mixed in with bouncy marches of Americana were songs from "Painted Wagon" and "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly."
Herb Tompson has been with the band longer than any other member. A trumpet player, he began playing with them in 1973, took a two year break, and has played consistently with them since 1975.
Tompson was originally from Cavalier, North Dakota, and went to college to become a music teacher. It was when he began his long career teaching in East Grand Forks that he took up with the band.
"When you're teaching, there's no place to perform," Tompson said.
The city band provided an outlet for him to share his love of music with the community. All these years later, he even has some former students playing with him. In his own trumpet section is Joel Moss, who was taught by Tompson in eighth grade.
"It's been a blast playing with Herb and some other friends of mine," Moss said.
The city band has become an integral part of the Grand Forks musicians' community. For people like Moss, whose day job is instructing in the UND engineering department, the social scene is what keeps them connected to their craft. Moss played the trumpet back in his college days, and was brought back to the scene by his musician friends.
"A lot of members in the band here are a lot of talented musicians that I played with in the UND wind ensemble," Moss said.
The band will have one more performance this summer, at the Myra Museum band shell at 7 p.m. on July 26. They are also always looking for dedicated musicians to join, whether they have been playing their whole life, or want to come back to an art they enjoyed when they were younger. Curious musicians can inquire with Don Langlie, who can always been found at his store, Popplers Music.