Williamsport’s own Repasz Band to perform holiday concert at CAC

Williamsport’s own internationally acclaimed and historic Repasz Band will once again take the stage for yet another splendid musical offering to celebrate the spirit of the holidays with their 2017 Holiday Concert, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, at the Community Arts Center, 220 W. Fourth St.

As always, admission to the Repasz Band concerts is free of charge. As something of a yuletide Repasz Band tradition, audience members for the holiday concert also may bring a can of food to share if they desire. All such gratefully received items will be donated to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank.

Founded in 1831, the Repasz Band continues to entertain and educate audiences throughout central Pennsylvania. Organized as the “Williamsport Band” and renamed in the 1850s after their director, Daniel Repasz, the Repasz Band has been in continuous existence for 186 years. This marks it as one of the oldest non-military bands in the nation. Over the years, the Repasz Band has been a part of many events of national importance. Their famous “Repasz Band March” is played all over the world.

The band’s members are life-long musicians, ranging from advanced high school students to mature musicians in their eighties. A total volunteer organization, the band rehearses weekly through the year, presenting Holiday and Spring formal concerts, with approximately 12 summer performances through the Susquehanna Valley.

Today, Repasz Band Senior Director Albert J. Nacinovich wonderfully and skillfully leads the band, sharing conducting duties with Jeffrey Dent, and their two newest assistant directors, Jessica Lewis and Theo Lentz.

Nacinovich joined the band in 1970 and was named Assistant Director in 1972. In 1982, he became the 20th Director in the band’s history.

Nacinovich taught instrumental music in the Williamsport Area School District for 36 years, including 10 years with the high school band, and another 15 as coordinator of the district’s instrumental program. After retiring from public school education, he continued private studio teaching and was one of the founding directors of the New Horizons Band Program at R.M. Sides Family Music store. Over the years, he has played trumpet in numerous church and professional groups.

Associate director of the Repasz Band, Dent grew up in Berwick and attended Mansfield University. He joined the Repasz Band in 2000, and was named an assistant director in 2003 after a summer of auditions. He is a retired music educator, with 34 years teaching band at all levels in public schools, including the last 25 years in Jersey Shore.

The program will for the most part include holiday music in a variety of styles to satisfy a variety of tastes. This year’s concert will open with an electric and dynamic work by Tomohiro Tatebe entitled “Dance Celebration for Wind Ensemble.” The composition is marked “allegro con brio” which means at a fast tempo and with spirit, literally “with brilliance.”

“Most of it will present familiar melodies, but often in new and interesting settings,” Nacinovich said. “Our band prides itself on preserving the heritage of the march, and we always include a few of them.”

Another set of jewels in this concert’s crown are the three movements of a setting of the “Ralph Vaughn Williams Suite” by Robert W. Smith. These include “Wassail,” “Greensleeves: A Fantasia for Band” and “Declaration and Flourish.”

The concert will include a veritable avalanche of Christmas standards fitted and refitted with a huge array of styles and genres. These include Leroy Anderson’s immortal “Sleigh Ride,” Serge Prokofiev’s “Midnight Sleighride” adapted from “Troika” from the “Lieutenant Kije Suite” by Tom Wallace, “Jingle Bells Forever,” “Sparkling Lights (Fanfare on ‘O Christmas Tree’), “Minor Alterations: Christmas Through the Looking Glass,” and the six Christmas carol and song medley “Joyous Christmas Spirit.”

“The concert has music of all styles, with the idea that something in the program will appeal to each member of our audience,” Dent said. “The music ranges from marches, to spoofs, to collections to sing-alongs to serious works.”

The Repasz Band nearly always includes something of American heritage and the world catalog of marches. Featured in this vein are “Commando March” by Samuel Barber and Thomas Knox’s “American Pageant.” Knox was the chief composer and arranger for “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band for 16 years. In this timeless and sparkling arrangement, songs near and dear to our US roots are presented. The songs woven together include “America,” “Yankee Doodle,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “America the Beautiful,” “Dixie,” and “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean.” Of course, the Repasz Band always closes with its own signature march.

For Nacinovich and Dent, picking favorites from the variety the band will present is difficult, as they are all enjoyed by both the band and the audience.

“An interesting work is ‘Minor Alterations’ — a collection of traditional carols, but arranged in a minor key so they sound ‘almost traditional,’ yet unique and somewhat quirky,” Dent said. “The band members have enjoyed playing these unusual variations.”

“I will say that when we announced to the band that we would be repeating ‘Minor Alterations’ (after five years) we got an enthusiastic response,” Nacinovich said. “This piece takes familiar holiday melodies and cleverly changes them from major keys to minor keys. We enjoyed its humor in the past, and so did our audience.”

In recent years, the Repasz Band has sensed increased awareness and appreciation from the community. They strive for continued excellence in performance, entertainment for their audiences, and music education for both. They hope to continue to attract talented performers and please larger audiences as they approach their 200th Anniversary.

“The band continues to grow in size and mature in musicianship,” Nacinovich said. “People whose only experience hearing our band is from our smaller version in a parade might be pleasantly surprised to hear our 70+ members playing more sophisticated literature.”

The Repasz Band always hopes that their audiences enjoy hearing their programs as much as they enjoy playing them.

“Our members rehearse weekly September – December for this concert, and we are always proud to present a professional level performance that our fans will enjoy,” Dent said. “We always desire a favorable review from our audience — and we usually achieve that.”

“We hope that our audience will leave with some pleasant musical memories running through their thoughts for the rest of the evening,” Nacinovich said. “Returning home perhaps a little more refreshed and inspired to preparing for the holidays.”