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LEWISBURG, Pa. — The award-winning Penn Central Wind Band concludes the Union County Veterans' Fourth of July festivities with the 15th annual "Stars, Stripes, and Sousa" concert beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 3, in Lewisburg's Hufnagle Park. The Lewisburg Area High School Auditorium serves as the rain location.
William Kenny, Bucknell professor of music, conducts the band. "I can hardly believe it has been 15 years since we began this tradition," said Kenny.
"I feel like it is a privilege to perform this music, but I also feel a real responsibility to present this music to modern audiences in the most exciting and interesting ways possible.
"We try to do that by performing great music — much of it rarely heard today — but first rehearsing it with the same sort of attention one might devote to a Beethoven symphony."
Kenny has assembled an all-star ensemble comprising professional musicians, music teachers and other exceptional performers from throughout the region.
"It is amazing to me that these great players so generously donate their time and talent — not to mention their travel expenses — to this musical venture," he said. The band includes players from the Lewisburg area, but also from further away such as Reading, State College, and even Virginia.
The program will include music by Sousa and a variety of other composers both classic and contemporary. The evening of the concert marks the 150th anniversary of the conclusion of the Battle of Gettysburg, so the band will also perform music commemorating the Civil War. Overall, the program will be an homage to veterans, as well as a nostalgic reminiscence of band concerts from an earlier era.
The band is one of a few select ensembles that have received the Sudler Silver Scroll, awarded by the John Philip Sousa Foundation "recognizing community and adult concert bands of outstanding musical excellence." Other honors include invitations to perform for the conference of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association, and the national convention of the Association of Concert Bands. Upcoming summer performances include a free concert celebrating the band's 20th year at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, August 3, in the Weis Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of Bucknell University.
The band is sponsored by Bucknell University as a service to the region. A band needs significant support to thrive, Kenny says. Toward that end, Bucknell provides sheet music, chairs, music stands, timpani, bass drums, risers, rehearsal space, and the labor required to put all these things together. "When we started this, I'm not sure that Bucknell's administration knew what all it would entail or how long it would last, but the administration has never wavered in its support. It seems to me to be a perfect example of the sort of town-gown relationship that we value," Kenny said. The concert is a joint venture involving the Lewisburg Arts Council, the Union County Veterans, and Bucknell.
According to Kenny, the concert is a perfect match with the goals of the Union County Veterans Committee. Kenny says that the concert's namesake, John Philip Sousa, was a real patriot. Much of his music was inspired by his love of country. "People know his 'Stars and Stripes Forever'," said Kenny, "but it's a piece that is trotted out so routinely that it can become like wallpaper. I really hate when I hear it as background music for Memorial Day mattress sale commercials," he said. He declined to say whether "Stars and Stripes Forever" will be on the Wednesday program. "If the crowd wants to hear it, and the band wants to play it, who would I be to deny it to them — as long as there are no mattress sales going on," said Kenny.