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The Cary Town Band celebrated its 26th year of providing July 4th celebrations for Cary on the night before the fireworks and more popular Summerfest 4th of July, where the Cary Town Band performs as a “warm-up band” to the North Carolina Symphony at Regency Park’s Koka Booth Amphitheatre. The Independence Eve Patriotic Program is generally scheduled to take place at Fred G. Bond Metro Park in Cary’s Sertoma Amphitheatre. However, like most outdoor activities scheduled for a North Carolina summer, they had a rain plan. The concert was held in the Cary Senior Center, also in Bond Park.
An hour before the band entered the stage, Applause! Cary Youth Theatre troupe presented patriotic selections performed by students aged nine through eleven, which they had learned and choreographed within one week of their summer camp program. Selections included recitations of all the verses of “America the Beautiful” and fully choreographed renditions of “The Preamble” from the hit children’s series Schoolhouse Rock, “Fifty Nifty United States,” and a medley containing “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “Give My Regards to Broadway,” “Grand Old Flag,” and “Auld Lang Syne.” They used large red, white, and blue scarves to perform clever choreography, including making a map of the US while they sang the state names in “Fifty Nifty United States.” These children’s talent and coordination were matched only by their enthusiasm and creative patriotic outfits!
“On the 3rd Again” is a special concert for Caryites because it celebrates the Cary Town Band, a non-profit organization funded through grants from the Town of Cary Parks, Recreation, & Cultural Resources Department and the Lazy Daze Arts and Crafts Festival. The band has been serving the town since 1987, playing at grand openings of businesses and building projects, town celebrations such as Lazy Daze, and periodic luncheons for veterans, to name a few of their many services. Apart from including Applause in their program, the Cary Town Band introduced local Boy Scouts from the Occoneechee Council to post the colors and lead the Pledge of Allegiance to begin the concert, along with the playing of "Taps" by trumpet soloists Carole Netherton and Bill Hiltenbrand, who echoed each other with one player standing backstage. After a traditional arrangement of the national anthem, the concert began.
Several of the marches featured in this concert were meant to recreate the historical first Independence Day celebration the band performed, on July 4th 1988. These selections included John Philip Sousa’s “Sabre and Spurs (March of the American Cavalry)” and “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” as well as Bob Lowden’s “Armed Forces Salute” and Henry Fillmore’s “Americans We.” Another historical selection was the “‘Old Timers’ Waltz,” arranged by Mayhew L. Lake and made famous by its use at Walt Disney World’s “Main Street, USA.”
The “Armed Forces Salute” includes acknowledgements to the marches and themes of the branches of the US military, so conductor Stuart Holoman asked that active or retired service members stand when their respective song was played. Veterans and active members of the US Army, Coast Guard, Marines, Air Force, and Navy – in the audience as well as the band – stood and were greeted with vigorous applause.
Other selections that were added to the historic program were Scott Joplin’s “The Chrysanthemum,” originally dedicated to the composer’s wife and a great example of a traditional American Ragtime tune, and the more modern American Folk Rhapsody No. 1, by Clare Grundman. The latter work included references to several old American folk tunes including “On Top of Old Smoky” and others. A sharp contrast to the marches that made up most of the program, the rhapsody showcased some of the band’s talent in wonderful solos and sectional features. However, it was so different from the other selections that it exposed some balance issues that might have fared better in the scheduled outdoor performance. This was also true of the “‘Old Timers’ Waltz,” featuring Jennifer Myers of Concert Singers of Cary, who had a lovely voice to carry the tunes that many in the audience sang along with.
Founding director Dr. James R. Hammerle gave a speech towards the middle of the program, speaking on the history of the 1871-established town, some of its historical aspects, and how, despite its exponential growth in recent decades, it is simply “a very nice place to live.” He had humorous stories featuring key characters in Cary history such as Mayor Koka Booth, Daphne and Ralph Ashworth of the historic Ashworth Drug Store, and the Cary High School Band. Many of the people in the audience could remember back to the way Cary used to be and seemed to enjoy his recollections.
Perhaps the band’s best performance was Sousa’s classic “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” featuring a full, rich sound that had everyone in the room clapping, stomping, tapping, or dancing in time. The instrumentation of the trio was particularly enjoyable, featuring a solo oboe accompanied by orchestral bells and a very quiet underlying brass section. Immediately following the trio, the two piccolo players aced the quintessential Sousa solo and the end of the march followed with a bang.
The Cary Town Band will play again at 5:45 p.m. at the Summerfest 4th of July concert at Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Regency Park. The band’s next performance will be at the 37th Annual Lazy Daze Arts & Crafts Festival on Fidelity Stage in Downtown Cary, August 24th at 9:30 a.m.