For approximately 120 years, the Kokomo Park Band has provided locals with free entertainment. On Sunday, the tradition will continue with “The Music Makers”.
The Kokomo Park Band will perform their winter concert at 3:30 p.m. at Havens Auditorium at Indiana University Kokomo, 2300 S. Washington St. Keith Whitford, the band’s manager, said the show is expected to last about 90 minutes and will have a brief intermission.
The Park Band’s performance will include a variety of music, ranging from romantic era classical music to more modern compositions.
“We have a wide variety of tastes and backgrounds in our audience,” Whitford said. “And so we like to try to do things in our shows that appeal to a lot of different people.”
Whitford’s favorite composition from the weekend concert is “Movement for Rosa,” a symphonic poem inspired by civil rights leader Rosa Parks.
Originally commissioned by the Florida Bandmasters Association, the composition is divided into three parts. The first part of “Movement for Rosa” is meant to paint a musical picture of Parks’ early years in Tuskegee, Alabama, and ends with her marriage. The second part of the composition follows Parks through his involvement in the civil rights movement. The final movement appeals to “strength and serenity,” Whitford said.
“It’s a very, very well-written piece, very expressive, very moving, and kind of ends in some dissonance, kind of reminding us that we still have work to do,” he said. .
Sound poems, Whitford explained, use interwoven patterns to represent characters, settings, objects, or emotions. “Movement for Rosa” uses several spirituals, he added, with “We Shall Overcome” used in the final part of the composition.
Whitford added that the Park Band has made a greater effort in recent years to recognize the contributions of black American songwriters. Two will be presented on Sunday.
Included in the program is Adolphus Hailstork’s 2011 brass band based on “Amazing Grace”, along with four tunes from Dwayne S. Milburn’s “American Hymnsong Suite”.
There will also be a presentation on the restoration efforts at Douglass School in Havens Auditorium on the evening of the concert.
Whitford explained that he thought of the project as soon as the band decided to program “Movement for Rosa”. He contacted Grace Relations, a group of pastors and community members who meet monthly to discuss improving race relations, to see if they could arrange a presentation.
Rev. Dr. William J. Smith Jr., who moderates Grace Relations and is a pastor at Second Missionary Baptist Church, said there would be people at the concert to hand out flyers and answer questions about the school and the process. of restoration. During their presentation, visitors will also learn how to get involved in the restoration project.
“There is no community without unity,” Smith said. “Keith and the Park Band played a strategic role in bringing us together and creating this unity.”
The most popular piece, according to Whitford, would probably be Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto performed by Geoffrey Ladue.
Whitford added that the Piano Concerto was written by Grieg when he was 24 years old. It flows “with the picturesque scenes of Norway,” Whitford said. “The play encapsulates the character and essence of Edvard Grieg’s homeland.”
Other compositions on the program include “(We are) The Music-Makers” by Alfred Reed, “Rhosymedre” by Ralph Vaughn Williams and “March of the Steel Men” by Charles Belsterling.
Compared to regular gigs in parks, Whitford said indoor gigs allow the band to tackle more complex compositions. Even with a mic system, a lot of sounds are missed at outdoor gigs. Comparatively, Havens Auditorium lends itself to subtlety.
Whitford estimated that there are nearly 50 musicians who will perform at Sunday’s concert. Some of them, he added, have been playing with the Park Band for decades. Whitford has been a member of the organization for 52 years.
Although most of the musicians are from Kokomo, some of the band includes instrumentalists from out of town within a 70 mile radius.
Musicians receive a small stipend, Whitford said, but the main reason he thinks performers stick with the Park Band for decades is to keep the tradition alive.
“In America, especially in the Midwest, there’s a long and rich tradition of band concerts in the park,” Whitford said. “And I think a lot of our musicians were raised being taken to the park to listen to the music of their parents, grandparents, etc.
“I think it’s part of our local culture for a lot of people. It gives them a sense of community to show up and see different people and hear music that is here.