By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
Time flies and the Christmas season is again upon us! As has become a tradition over the years, residents and visitors to the City of Shinnston will formally welcome the holiday with the City’s annual Christmas parade to be held this Saturday, Dec. 3rd at 6 p.m. in the downtown area. AND … another tradition continues following the parade with the free holiday concert offered by the Shinnston Community Band at the Lighthouse on Rebecca Street.
As just another example of how quickly time flies, this will be the Shinnston Community Band’s (SCB) 20th annual Christmas concert – their gift to the community that has supported their efforts from its beginning. Throughout the past 20 years, this organization of ALL VOLUNTEER musicians has continued to grow to 70 members strong and has developed a dedicated following!
SCB President Richard Herndon noted that musicians – both amateur and professionals – travel from a multi-county area to participate in the band. A couple of members travel from as far away as Tucker County to play with the group!
“In a way, you could say that they ‘pay to play’ because some of them travel a great distance to weekly rehearsals as we prepare for both our winter and summer seasons,” he stated. “They give not just their time, but their fuel costs traveling back and forth have been substantial off and on through the years.”
That is perhaps one of the most unique things about this organization … every participant is there because they want to be part of the band; they have a great love of music.
“This really makes our band special,” Herndon added. “This is a true definition of ‘community’, and our close knit group has become a big ‘community’ all its own! They are truly a fantastic group of volunteers!”
Rehearsals are held at Lincoln High School every Tuesday evening for two hours, and while it is serious work, they also enjoy themselves. It is a labor of love for all members.
Bear in mind that these volunteer band members travel in all types of winter weather for both rehearsals and performances. Herndon said that during the past 20 years, they have never missed a performance. However, there have been times that they didn’t play with a full orchestra.
“I recall one time when we only had 20 musicians who were able to show up because of weather-related problems, so we quickly reviewed the music and changed some parts around and went on with the show! Again, just a few years ago, the weather was pretty snowy the night of the Shinnston Christmas parade and it was cancelled. However,” he continued, “while we had some who were unable to get out, we also had some members who had made the long-distance trip, so we decided to give our concert anyway. When word got out that the concert would go on, people showed up. In fact, it was a standing-room-only crowd and folks said they thought it was one of the best they had heard! That’s what we always try to deliver – an enjoyable evening for all.”
SCB will offer two winter season concerts – first in Shinnston following the Christmas parade this Saturday, and another the following evening at The Way of Holiness Church in Buckhannon. Their summer season typically consists of three performances – one, of course, is the Independence Day Concert in the Park here in Shinnston.
At both of the upcoming holiday concerts, the band will present traditional holiday music with perhaps a few new holiday pieces being introduced.
As always, the concert is free and open to the public. However, the band does accept monetary donations, which help them to purchase music and other needed essentials.
“We are a non-profit organization, and we do rely heavily on donations,” Herndon added. “Grants are not quite as readily available as they used to be, so we need sponsorships and donations to keep the band going. Our members range in age from 13 to 80, so for many of our younger members, this is a learning opportunity for them to work with seasoned musicians. We want to keep the band going indefinitely and we need to keep these younger musicians interested and engaged so that SCB will continue for years to come.”
The public is encouraged to come to the Lighthouse following Shinnston’s Christmas parade this Saturday evening. The concert will begin at approximately 7 p.m., so there will be time for fellowship before the music begins. Take this opportunity to hear some great music and get into the holiday spirit!