As has been their tradition for more than 20 years, the National Capital Band (Bandmaster James Anderson) kicked off their season with a retreat at Camp Happyland in central Virginia, held 9 – 10 September 2005. This year, there was a bit of a twist to the retreat, as the band actually had an engagement on Saturday evening, instead of simply having a rehearsal weekend. The band played at Hurkamp Park in the historic city of Fredericksburg in support of a fund-raising event for the local Salvation Army corps. Although the band was reduced in number as several members were involved in relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina, the event was still a good beginning to the season, which will feature a weekend celebrating the band’s 80 years of continuous service, to be held in November.
The band gathered at the camp on Friday evening, with a light meal followed by a rehearsal session beginning at 8:30 pm. The retreat is used as a time to explore new repertoire, and also to welcome new and returning members to the band. Continuing on Saturday, there were a total of four rehearsal sessions (nearly nine hours all together). There was also spiritual instruction led by the band’s new Executive Officer, Captain Kelly Igleheart.
Following the conclusion of the rehearsal sessions on Saturday afternoon, the band adjourned to the Fredericksburg Salvation Army corps, about a half-hour drive from the camp. Captain Michael Harris, who with his wife Christy commands the Fredericksburg Corps, is a long-time member of the National Capital Band and is currently the band’s principal tuba.
The evening engagement was held in Hurkamp Park, in the old town area of Fredericksburg. Entitled “Music by Moonlight”, this is the seventeenth year for the annual event, which is organized by the Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary of Fredericksburg. The feature ensemble was the Fredericksburg Big Band, a community group. The National Capital Band provided an opening mini-concert and played during the Big Band’s intermission. Proceeds from the outdoor event were to be used to send local underprivileged youth to summer camp and for disaster relief in the Gulf Coast area affected by Hurricane Katrina. Over 1,000 people were in attendance.
The band began the mini-concert with the march To Regions Fair (Norman Bearcroft), followed by Bandmaster Anderson’s simple arrangement of Jesus Loves Me. Keeping with a theme of melodies familiar to people of many denominations, the next item was Onward Christian Soldiers (arr. Gordon Langford), followed by Leonard Ballantine’s beautiful arrangement of the American folk song “Shenandoah”, associated with the words of the song ‘Mid All the Traffic. Two items from the pen of Chicago Staff Bandmaster William Himes were included, the exuberant Bringing in the Sheaves and the more refined cornet solo I’d Rather Have Jesus, played by Deputy Bandmaster Ian Anderson. The band’s set ended with another classic march, On the King’s Highway (Erik Leidzén).
The members of the National Capital Band then joined the audience as the Fredericksburg Big Band took the stage. This is a fine group of community musicians, and has a long history, being in operation for 39 years. They are regular contributors to the annual Music by Moonlight event.
As the Big Band concluded the first half of their concert, the National Capital Band members returned to their formation to provide music during the intermission. As one might determine from the name of the event, Music by Moonlight is held outdoors, in the evening. The National Capital Band had been assured that there would be lights, which was true, except that the lights were illuminating the band itself rather than illuminating the music for the band. Despite this handicap, the band was able to provide some items, after contorting into a rather strange configuration to allow the maximum number of players to see their parts.
By request of the organizers, most of the items played during the intermission had a patriotic flavor. Items included Land of Freedom (Stephen Bulla), Carmen Dragon&rsquos arrangement of America the Beautiful (transcribed for brass band by Bob Clemons), Armed Forces Salute (Stephen Bulla), and What a Friend (Erik Leidzén). The band concluded with William Gordon’s arrangement of God Bless America.