In honor of the annual Maine state tribute to native born march composer Robert Browne Hall, the Maine Pops Concert Band - combining with members of 31 community bands in five states - today released their final virtual performance of the 2020-2021 season - the composer's New Colonial March.
Maine Pops Concert Band David Watts placed a tremendous amount of importance to this final selection and the inclusion of other Maine musicians in finding a way to celebrate R.B. Hall day - traditionally held annually on the last Saturday in June. "R.B. Hall Day has become a tradition that unites bands from across the state of Maine to honor' our' composer, said Watts. "In 2020, this celebration had to be cancelled. But this year, thanks to the willingness of musicians across the state and from around the country, we have kept alive the massed band tradition."
"We decided we could not go another year without honoring who we believe to be the greatest composer of marches the United States has produced, Robert Browne Hall," he said. "This Maine native is widely recognized throughout the world for his band music but is eclipsed in his own country simply because he rarely left his home state and was not covered by the press."
Calls for volunteer musicians from the many Maine Community Bands went out in early May, asking for video contributions to the R.B. Hall effort. Members of the MPCB technology team of Watts, Bob Swerdlow, Linda Hornig, and Ken Decoteau went to work on June 7 to produce the video and mix the sound tracks from over 40 musicians; some submitting multiple clips for different parts and for assorted instruments.
It has been a trying year for the not only the Maine Pops, but for all the community-based and school-based bands in Maine. "When the pandemic started we knew we had to shut down live events for the Band immediately," said Maine Pops President Bob Swerdlow. "We could not risk having a group of people of all ages blowing into horns in close proximity. However, Swerdlow said the band’s mission has always been about building community through music, and "we wanted to support our members through these difficult times."
Swerdlow said the band started with weekly Zoom get-togethers just to keep in touch. That grew into some creative thinking about how to focus on music again. "When our virtual holiday concert raised over $1500 for local food pantries in December 2020, we knew we were on to something! We learned some new computer skills and helped keep our members playing."
The Maine Pops successfully completed a virtual holiday concert in December of 2020, and released a monthly series of virtual band videos through the winter and spring of 2021. In completing this final virtual composition, Watts expressed tremendous pride in what the Maine Pops has accomplished during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown; accomplishments he hopes to build on as the Maine Pops returns to in-person rehearsals in Falmouth on July 1. The nine-week weekly outdoor rehearsal series will be the first Maine Pops rehearsals since March of 2020.
"I am very proud of and also humbled by the response we've had over the past year from our Maine POPS and wider band communities in providing music during the pandemic's complete shutdown of live performances," Watts said. "It has shown me that, as in past times of upheaval, music pulls people together and provides both inspiration and comfort.
Swerdlow echoed Watts' sentiments for the 2020-2021 season and looks forward to the new season. "We are so pleased that the pandemic is easing and that we will be meeting every week over the summer for in-person, outdoor rehearsals," said Swerdlow, adding that the summer sessions will lead the band back to our normal Wednesday night rehearsals in the fall. "As for so many others, this will be a rebuilding time, but we look forward to the challenge and to seeing so many of our friends face-to-face again! Thank you to our director, David Watts, our Board, the members of the Maine Pops and all of the amazing musicians from near and far who supported our efforts."
"To everyone in the Maine POPS family, thank you for keeping our community together over the past year and for going on this journey of exploration, trial, and error," said Watts. "To all of the musicians who have joined us over the past months from near and far to rehearse and create music for public enjoyment, you always have a home with us. As we now move back to in-person rehearsals and performances, to everyone who has allowed me into your homes as a director from afar, I thank you."
A listing of all musicians who contributed to the New Colonial March, their instruments, and their community bands are listed in the video credits.