Director Dr. Lawrence Anderson and his wife Jan graciously agreed I could sit in on the practice for the band's seventh annual Christmas concert, which is at 3 p.m. Sunday. This year's offering is dubbed "Peace on Earth" and includes Christmas carols, "Three Moods of Hanukkah," and a special jolly, red-robed visitor for the kiddies.
I crept into the back of the sanctuary as the band members were tuning up. Jan came to greet me and suggested I move from behind the tuba section (where I would only hear the brass) to a front seat next to her where I had a good view of the band and a fuller sound.
"This is the largest community band in the Bay Area," Jan told me. The members range in ages from 14 to 80-plus and come from Danville, Alamo and communities as far as Castro Valley, Richmond and Stockton.
Lots of people who learn to play instruments in school never play again as adults, Jan pointed out. The band gives them a chance to continue with their music plus enjoy the camaraderie of other musicians. Her husband is the former UC Davis Director of Bands and Supervisor of Teacher Education in Music, and they started the band in 2001. The first meeting had been called for just a week after Sept. 11 so they didn't know how many to expect.
"Fifty-four showed up," recalled Jan, and they were a perfect mix of instruments. The fledging group began their association by playing "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "God Bless America," a particularly poignant birth, appropriate for the time.
The band now has 85 members, although most community bands have about 65, said Jan. "We don't like to turn people away," she said. "Some of the people are in three or four bands, they're so devoted to their music."
Danville resident Daryl Whitbeck, a trumpet player, attended UC Davis and was the drum major in the marching band under Anderson and has played with the Danville group from the beginning. There are some married couples who met in the band. Two of the percussionists are father Paul Larimer on the timpani and son Joe; they are referred to as "the Larimer boys."
Associate Conductor Robert Calonico led the band through its first few pieces, including "Go Tell It on the Mountain"; he's the Director of Bands at UC Berkeley. Assistant Conductor Teri Musiel also took them through their paces with style, directing them to "articulate every note" and "bring out that first note"; she's a San Ramon Valley High grad, was in the music department at Stone Valley Middle School for 11 years, and is now the music director at Dougherty Valley High School.
Within the band, the members form smaller musical groups, including a brass quintet that will play "Joyeux Noel for Brass Choir" on Sunday. The flute section performed as an ensemble following the Danville Tree Lighting. Flautist Heather Anderson travels from Modesto to play with the band. She was raised in this area then attended University of Redlands and majored in flute performance. Her parents are members of CPC.
"I've been playing with the Danville band since day one and I love it," Heather said. Her husband and 3-year-old daughter come to most of her performances. "It's really nice because the concerts are so family friendly," she said.
Since Sunday, Dec. 7, is also the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the event will begin with "The Navy Hymn," sung by tenor Kim Quillin. Danville resident Herb Jorgensen, 89, a Pearl Harbor survivor, will be a special guest. The event takes place at East Bay Fellowship, 2615 Camino Tassajara in Danville, by the post office. It is free but the nonprofit band always appreciates donations.
On this Monday night the band was thanking the pastors at CPC for allowing them to practice in the sanctuary for the last seven years. They showed their gratitude by performing a special arrangement of "Joy to the World," arranged by Paul Murtha for the U.S. Army Band. This piece is on the program for Sunday.
I enjoyed my private concert and being privy to a glimpse behind the scenes. Leaving the sanctuary to find my car in the parking lot, I felt my "joyeux noel" had begun on a high note.
-Dolores Fox Ciardelli can be e-mailed at editor@DanvilleWeekly.com.