ashland.news
July 18, 2024

Songs of summer: Ashland City Band set for return to Lithia Park

A tuba reflects the bandshell, the band and the audience at an Ashland City Band performances for this summer at Butler Bandshell in Lithia Park in 2023. Bob Palermini photo
June 19, 2024

Thursday night concerts start at 7 p.m. at Butler Bandshell through Aug. 15

By James Sloan, Rogue Valley Times

Summertime in Ashland is about to be amplified by the reappearance of the Ashland City Band with weekly concerts coming back each Thursday in Lithia Park.

Every Thursday from June 20 to Aug. 15, the longstanding band will play a range of tunes that include classic compositions, American marches, and lesser-known classical pieces.

The Ashland City Band begins its performances at 7 p.m., but early birds will be rewarded with music from pre-concert ensembles starting around 6:15 p.m. Thursdays.

Led by director Christine Lundahl, the Ashland City Band performs at the Butler Bandshell in Lithia Park, 150 Winburn Way, Ashland.

“Each week is a new concert, so we have one rehearsal to prepare the music and then the concert, and the next week we start all over again with a new program,” said Don Biegler, former director of the band and a member of the outfit for 62 years. “It lasts about an hour; the music involves a variety of styles from concert marches and musicals to orchestral transcriptions and original works for the band.

“I think one of the fun things about it is we see the music and rehearse it one time and perform it the next day … We take nine pieces of music and put it together to present the program; there’s always something exciting about it,” Biegler said.

The Ashland City Band consists of 70 musicians this year with a wide range of ages, backgrounds and skill levels.

“The youngest this year will be a high school senior next year and the oldest, I think that’s me, is 80,” Biegler said. “And many of our players have returned year after year; we have players that have been around for 20, 30, 40, 50 years.”

While around 10% of the band members are professional performers, many musicians play many roles in the community as teachers, college students, lawyers and doctors.

“It’s fun to get back together because a lot of people in the band do play in other bands during the school year, but then this brings us all together,” Biegler said. “We’re kind of like a big family with people in the band for 20 or 30 years.”

While Lundahl — the band’s current director — will leave the role at the end of the year, Biegler is confident in the group’s direction after she leaves.

“We are looking at some options; we are considering some local high school band directors,” Biegler said of who they might bring in next.

Lundahl teaches music education in Southern California and will conclude her director role at the end of the season to fully focus on teaching, Biegler added.

With the orchestral outfit performing at the Butler Bandshell, the venue offers a distinct experience for performers and listeners alike.

This photo shows Butler Bandshell, the beautiful Lithia Park setting for Ashland City Band concerts, in 2015. Peter Finkle photo

“It seems to be a little more intimate feeling with audience, it just seems like more of a direct contact,” Biegler said.

The Ashland City Band brings their tunes to audiences no matter the weather.

“We play rain or shine, even if it’s raining we still get an audience; we will often just stand on stage and stay under the shell and we play a shorter program,” Biegler said.

That perseverance translates into the Ashland City Band’s century-and-a-half of history, starting in 1876.

The band evolved in size, name and garb over the years to what it is today.

“It was common for communities to have a small town band; it was one of the sources of live entertainment, and they played community events, picnics, Fourth of July, or other events,” Biegler said. “We feel it’s an important part of the city and the community, and when I look back I’m pretty sure that we are the oldest performing arts organization in the Rogue Valley.”

To learn more about Ashland City Band’s lengthy history, see ashlandband.org/about-the-band/history.

The group is set to release its scheduled programs later this month at ashlandband.org/concerts/schedule.

While the band’s regularly scheduled performances start at 7 p.m. on Thursdays with pre-concert music beginning at 6:15 p.m. at the Butler Bandshell, the group will play at noon for the Fourth of July at the bandshell after performing in Ashland’s Independence Day parade.

Reach reporter James Sloan at jsloan@rv-times.com. This story first appeared in the Rogue Valley Times.

Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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