In 1958, Joseph Walsh joined the Johnstown Citizens Band to replace his father on bass drum, and he’s been with it since.
At 7 p.m. Friday, the band will hold a free concert at the city’s band shell on Main Street to celebrate its 100th anniversary and to honor Walsh and another member, Norm Clo, for 50 years of membership.
“I realize that I’ve been there half of the time of the life of the band,” said Walsh, now 81. “It seems like a short time that’s gone fast.”
The band consists of 30 to 35 musicians and plays a variety of music, including classical, show tunes and marches. Walsh is one of several conductors for the band.
Funded through an annual grant from the city of Johnstown and donations, musicians are paid for their performances. The band plays seven concerts every summer.
“We do a lot of good music. We always have a very good crowd,” said Doug Dougherty, the band’s president. “It’s a very good band and I’m very pleased to be a part of it.”
Walsh, a Johnstown native, spends the summer months in his home in Northville but goes south to Florida to live eight months out of the year and avoid Capital Region winters.
His father started with the band in 1916 as a clarinet player and returned to play clarinet from 1960 to 1970 after briefly leaving in 1958. Walsh said the band had about 24 musicians when he replaced his father in 1958.
The Johnstown Citizens Band played open-air concerts in the city as far back as 1909, according to a history of the band provided by Dougherty.
Historians have traced concerts performed by a Johnstown Cornet Band as far back as the early 1870s, but the Johnstown Citizens Band was not organized in its current form until a 1908 meeting at the Johnstown YMCA.
“The quality is better [today],” Walsh said. “The more modern arrangements today are better than they were and the band plays a lot more contemporary music as opposed to the classical concert music in the early days.”
Walsh remembered one incident with the band in the 1960s when the musicians were about to perform a piece called “Lights Out.” Just as the band started, the temporary lighting that had been installed for the concert went dark.
Walsh said he never found out whether someone pulled the cord or a malfunction of some type was responsible that night.
Friday’s concert will have a patriotic theme. Walsh said that U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. Marty Tyce, a trombone player, will join the band for several pieces, including “The Blue Bells of Scotland” by Arthur Pryor.
Another piece that Tyce will perform with the band, the “T-bone Concerto,” includes three movements, Walsh said: rare, medium and well done.
In another composition, a narrator will read excerpts from the Declaration of Independence as the band plays music set to the reading. The concert will last about two hours.
Categories: Schenectady County