Harpswell Community Band bandleader enjoys his first season
Two years after being asked to take over as bandleader of the Harpswell Community Band following Bob Modr’s retirement, John Morneau finally officially wields his baton.
Because the band couldn’t rehearse together for a while due to COVID, Morneau and the band members didn’t really get started until April.
They had a concert in June and were supposed to have one in July as well, but it rained.
Because the band only has three shows a season, it was difficult to rehearse for so many months and then cancel a gig, he said.
“It’s a lot straddling three gigs,” said Morneau, who is the bandmaster of band at Bowdoin College.
He hopes to increase the number of gigs the band performs in the coming years and perform beyond Harpswell.
“It shouldn’t just be a Harpswell secret,” he said.
“This group is extremely dedicated and plays very well,” he said. “After our first gig, a lot of people were really thrilled and impressed with the band’s level of performance for a community band.”
The band has 40 musicians – there’s not much room for much more than that on the bandstand – and Morneau says there is a good balance of instruments.
He performs a wide variety of music from classical to marches and show tunes, but what sets him apart the most are his slow, expressive songs.
“That’s when you really get to know people and their ability to express themselves and be sensitive to music,” he said. “That’s the true measure of a musician, and they played them beautifully.”
Modr approached Monreau to succeed him as conductor.
“I did it partly out of respect for Bob and partly because I enjoy working with adult groups,” Morneau said.
Morneau taught public school for 43 years, and this fall will be 35e year as a conductor at Bowdoin College. He is a woodwind player, mainly saxophone, clarinet and flute, and plays in several bands.
He said he was moved recently when a member of the band told him that “the real experience is the rehearsals, because that’s where we really grow. Concerts are like dessert.
While he agrees with that, he said performing live is always exciting because “once you get on stage, you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The band’s next and final gig of the season will be on September 1 at Harpswell Bandstand.
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