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Friday, May 6, 2016

Gray Matters: Concert in the Park

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

(Photo)
In my estimation, there is no better way to spend a summer evening than attending a band concert in a park. If the park has a gazebo and a history of more than a century of continual performances, it only magnifies the pleasure.

Band concerts were very much a part of my childhood, but most were performed from an improvised band stand on Main Street. I grew up near Fort Dodge, that's Karl King country, where every town had its own band and the maestro himself often showed up as guest conductor.

More recently, concerts have again become a part of my summertime ritual due to a musically talented young neighbor and his mom. While in high school my sax-playing friend participated in the Le Mars Municipal Band which was, and still is, led by Jerry Bertrand, our town's long-time band director. Now this young man, an instrumental instructor in his own right, still comes from a neighboring town to play in that band, and I still attend some of the concerts, thanks to his mother, my good friend.

Although Mr. Bertrand now heads the instrumental department at Buena Vista University, Storm Lake, he continues to live in Marcus and direct the Le Mars Municipal Band. It is a unique and highly talented group including several music instructors from the tri-state area. Some bring talented students along, both high-schoolers and former students home from college for the summer. This makes for a skilled group of players, capable of some pretty challenging music. In fact, once in awhile a listener may be heard to complain that the material is almost too avant-garde. That doesn't happen often for Bertrand usually tosses in marches by King or Sousa and their ilk, Broadway tunes or other popular favorites, to balance things out.

Beyond the music, there are other pleasures afforded by an evening in the park, especially if you're a people-watcher. From single individuals to multi-generational family groups, folks gather as the sun eases below the horizon. Canine pets are often included. Listeners bring an amazing variety of portable seating devices; some quite cumbersome, others, very compact. Small chairs designed for the little ones are particularly cunning. Then there are the folks who enjoy stretching out on blankets. Again there are many kinds, ranging from sturdy army blankets to delicate quilts. It's particularly amusing to watch infants crawling about when these are spread.

An attentive observer can easily identify the true music lovers. They watch and listen intently, often nodding or tapping in time. It's heart-warming to watch elderly couples in this mode. Heart-warming, but also nostalgia- producing, for those of us no longer privileged to have our mates with us.

If the music begins to lose the attention of the very young, Mother Nature brings out one of her most bewitching diversions -- the fireflys. Kids love them ! One little girl at a recent concert had an absolute ball flitting back and forth, tirelessly, with astonishing success. It wasn't until the end of the concert that I could see she'd been depositing her catch in a paper bag. As she

walked away with parents and grandparents, she kept peering into the loosely held bag, her face glowing with pride, as well as the reflection of the glowworms' incandescence.

Meanwhile, the rest of us were glowing with the exhilaration of another splendid Concert in the Park, a truly delightful way to spend a summer evening !