Ringgold Band cancels concert at Berks County Heritage Center

Ringgold Band will play a Memorial Day concert May 30 in The Etchberger Memorial Park on Franklin Street in Hamburg. The playlist will include "The Ballad of the Ringgold Artillery Brass Band," a song written by Dave Kline.

The esteemed and historic Ringgold Band, a regional music treasure, is in its 169th year of presenting music in our fair community. The orchestra has an exciting and stirring patriotic concert planned for Sunday, May 30, from 4 to 6 p.m., at The Etchberger Park, otherwise known as Hamburg Community Park, Franklin Street, Hamburg. The concert will be offered free and as we move from COVID-19 lockdowns and isolation, it’ll be grand to get some fresh air and enjoy the traditions of bonding music with community and leisure activity in a scenic gathering place. Bring your lawn chairs, blankets and cameras to capture and preserve precious moments of our communal emergence from the darkness of COVID-19.

We will heal together, we will celebrate together, we will move forward together.

In case you’re not familiar with the legendary Ringgold Band, let’s just say that you’d be hard-pressed to find another orchestra in our country that has been performing for the public as long as it has. Established in 1852, the Ringgold Light Artillery Band accompanied the Ringgold Light Artillery Regiment of Reading to the defense of Washington, D.C., in 1863 due to a feared invasion by the Confederate army during the Civil War.

To help put the orchestra’s origins into perspective, back in spring of 2013, I was asked to write and perform two pieces of music with the orchestra. It was an invitation I was thrilled to receive. For one of the two pieces I tried to take a balladeer, troubadour, bard or minstrel’s approach to the subject. I endeavored to create a musical story that conveyed the orchestra’s Genesis story. By conducting some research at Berks History Center and in the archives of the Ringgold Band, I pieced together a narrative set to music that I was happy with. When we performed the piece together at a concert at the Scottish Rite Cathedral in 2013, we received a standing ovation. For me, that response validated that the story, set to music, was not only understood, but it was also appreciated for what it represents to history and the orchestra’s impact during the tumultuous times during which it was conceived. My friend Chris Heslop handled arranging the song for the diverse sections of the orchestra. The song, “The Ballad of the Ringgold Artillery Brass Band,” resides permanently in the orchestra’s library as piece No. 1955.

The Memorial Day concert on May 30 in The Etchberger Park will provide a chance to enjoy living history through the Ringgold Band. All are welcome. I reached out to the orchestra’s Chuck Ebersole for additional information, and he said, “We’ll be playing in the bandshell next to the swimming pool. The concert will have a patriotic/Americana theme.

"Believe me; it’s exciting to be playing a live concert again," Chuck continued. "We’re honored that our first public performance since December 2019 will be part of the Borough of Hamburg’s Memorial Day Celebration. What a thrill it will be to bring the music of our great nation: patriotic and popular songs, Broadway standards, Sousa marches and the movie music of John Williams — to a live audience!

"We’re proud that the Ringgold tradition of live band music, so much a part of the cultural fabric of Berks County, will resume on May 30th!” he said.

Dewey Freeman shares this preview of the concert’s playlist: "Star Spangled Banner," "America the Beautiful," "American Legion March," "National Emblem March," "God of Our Fathers," "Stardust," "The Patriot," "Washington Post March," "Hampden Firemen March," "Semper Fidelis March," "Gettysburg," "The Blue and Grey," "Shenandoah," "Flight of Valor," "Armed Forces Salute," "Stars and Stripes."

In addition, the orchestra will be offering copies of their new CD for sale. I have a copy and have enjoyed it immensely. The recording provides an excellent representation of the talent of the musicians, leadership and repertoire of one of our nation’s most revered community orchestras. Let’s all get out there to Hamburg and support their reentry into the realm of live concerts. Play on, Ringgold, play on!

Dave Kline is an award-winning writer, photographer, show host and producer, singer-songwriter, travel guide and community advocate. Contact him at davesmountainfolklore@gmail.com.

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