Just as we are seeing tentative but continuous signs of spring here in Southwest Virginia, we are also seeing tentative but continuous signs of life getting back to normal after the challenges of the past two years.
On March 15, the Roanoke Valley Community Band hosted its first concert since the pandemic-related lockdowns that began two years ago this month. The crowd erupted in applause when hearing Conductor Barry Tucker declare that the concert was the “reboot” of the musical calendar.
Held at Hidden Valley High School Auditorium, the volunteer band delighted the audience that filled roughly two-thirds of the seats with an evening of music and dance dubbed “A Celtic Celebration.” It seemed those in attendance were pleased to both hear the excellent music and also enjoy being in public gatherings again. A large number of the audience came from local retirement communities such as The Glebe.
Conductor Tucker began the evening striking a note of unity and oneness. He announced the theme of the night was “together” and thus the first song was the national anthem. He explained how the Community Band could only perform if they all members cooperated and played “together.” Without unity and agreement, a band cannot perform. Moreover, he explained that the band would not want to perform if there were no audience, and the audience would hear no music if there were no band! All then rose to their feet and many put their hands over their hearts as conductor Tucker asked them to sing The Star Spangled Banner “together.” It was a welcome respite from the recent divisiveness and rancor that has plagued our country.
Then, there was a quick shift from Americana to all things Celtic, as bagpipers Tom Rogers and Dianne Rice marched in with the band accompanying them to “Irish Toast.”
Other beloved songs during the hour included “The Rowan Tree,” “Dublin Dances,” and “Scotland the Brave.” Tenor Harry Montoro wowed the crowd with his renditions of “Jug O’ Punch” and “Danny Boy.” Girls from Ardell Stone School of Dance delighted with Celtic dances to accompany “Irish Washerwoman.”
Each year the Community Band gives a Summer Band Camp Scholarship; these funds are made possible by donations to the Roanoke Valley Community Band. Three of the four finalists were present during the concert and played alongside the adults for a few numbers. The winners of the scholarships are Caitlin Abi-Saab, flute, and Jolena Hylton, clarinet, both from Andrew Lewis Middle School. In addition, two other students were awarded ten professional one on one music lessons: Elisha Anthony, trumpet, a student at Breckinridge Middle School, and Noah Williams, clarinet, from William Byrd Middle School.
The evening was winding down with, appropriately, “Celtic Farewell,” and most rose to give a standing ovation. Conductor Tucker then announced they would play an encore, which was the Ukrainian National Anthem. After playing just a few measures of the song, a few then more and more people began to stand in order to show solidarity with the brave Ukrainians facing overwhelming odds as they fight dictatorship in order to preserve their freedoms and independence.
All in all, the evening was a reminder that even here in Roanoke, many are deeply in touch with the Scots-Irish culture that pervades the Southern Appalachian region and also standing in unity with the brave freedom-fighters in Ukraine.
The next concert is scheduled for Tuesday, May 24, at 7:00. For more information about upcoming programs or to contribute to the summer band camp scholarship, visit their website at RVCB.org.