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Repasz Band holiday concert

November 20, 2011
By BETHANY WIEGAND (bwiegand@sungazette.com) , Williamsport Sun-Gazette

The Repasz Band, Williamsport's own town band that was formed in 1831, will perform its annual holiday concert at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 6 at the Community Arts Center, 220 W. Fourth St.

For this year's concert, Al Nacinovich, the band's director, said that the audience can expect the group's signature marches.

"We like to think that we perform marches in a way that a lot of other bands don't," he said. "We have a rather authentic way of presenting them."

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Along with holiday classics such as "Fantasia on a 13th Century Carol," which is based on "March of the Three Kings," the Repasz Band also will perform a medley of swing tunes, including a Benny Goodman medley titled "Benny Goodman: The King of Swing," featuring assistant conductor Jeff Dent as clarinet soloist.

Other songs that will be performed include "Polka and Fugue" and a piece called "Toccata."

This year's guest soloist is Dr. Joseph Murphy, a saxophone professor from Mansfield University who will perform two saxophone solos with the band.

Murphy has been a professor at Mansfield since 1987. He also has been a director of bands and has taught a variety of courses. He received a bachelor's degree in music education from Bowling Green State University in Ohio, and his masters and doctorate degrees from Northwestern University. Murphy has performed in 15 countries, including Australia, Japan, Greece and western Europe.

The Repasz Band, which is named after Daniel Repasz, the group's director in the 1850s, was started in a time when every community had a band.

"It was a very common thing because having your little town band was one of the soul vehicles of hearing music." Nacinovich said.

The band, which started out with 13 members, enlisted in the Civil War together, creating a history throughout the years. According to Nacinovich, when the band members weren't playing music, they were being stretcher bearers, helping with medical treatments and other duties. The band also served in the Navy during World War I.

The band, originally called The Williamsport Band, grew in the 1850s and began to have a local following. In 1850, Daniel Repasz joined the band and became the director, changing the name to the Repasz Band.

After almost 200 years, the band has had many notable accomplishments. For starters, they are one of the oldest bands in continuing existence, according to Nacinovich.

"There is one other band, the Allentown Band, that was started two years earlier than us, but they have no way of proving that their band was in past existence. It is true that we are one of the oldest, and we have a glorious history."

In 1981, the band was invited to play at the White House to celebrate its 150th anniversary. In 1996, the Repasz Band went to New York City and was part of a program that re-dedicated General Grant's Tomb.

"We were one of two bands that were there, set up right in front of the tomb," Nacinovich said.

In 1896, the Repasz band was part of the original dedication.

The band also survived when the tradition of town bands was dying, according to Nacinovich.

"Our band's history is really quite unique," he said. "Back 20 to 30 years ago, there was the 'death' of the community band."

The Repasz Band belongs to the Association of Concert Bands, an association that strives for the preservation of community bands. Conventions are hosted, and the Repasz Band has even hosted it themselves. Currently, the band, which performs year round, has around 80 members, although the number varies from season to season. Each member is a volunteer and brings their own instruments.

"We bring in people from a radius of a hundred miles, but a bulk of the people are from Williamsport," Nacinovich said.

They have members from as far as State College, Sunbury and Klingerstown.

Most of the performances are local and the Repasz Band's major performances are during the holidays, spring and summer. The group performs 12 to 15 times per year.

"During the course of the year, our ordinary schedule will have us at Brandon Park, Eagles Mere, Montoursville and Loyalsock Township. We go to nursing homes as well," Nacinovich said.

For more information about the Repasz Band, visit www.lycoming.org/repaszband. For tickets to the upcoming performance, contact the Community Arts Center box office at 326-2424.

 
 
 

 

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