By Lori Szepelak
WESTFIELD -- A community of musicians are gearing up for a spring concert that promises to offer entertaining music for all ages.
Gene Bartley directs the Greater Westfield Community Band that is currently in rehearsals on Monday nights for an April 14 concert at the Westfield North Middle School on Southampton Road. Bartley retired as band director of the Westfield Public Schools in 2003.
"I enjoy everything about the band," Bartley said during an interview with Reminder Publications prior to the start of the rehearsal.
More than 60 musicians were packed in tight on the school's stage as Bartley promptly started the rehearsal at 7:30 p.m. with a tap of his baton.
Bartley started the band 15 years ago. It features two free concerts each year -- in the spring and fall. Concerts feature a wide variety of music, from classical to jazz to big band and hits from the stage and screen.
The community band is an ideal way for adult musicians to dust off their instruments and experience the wonderful joy of making music with other musicians again, said Bartley. Band members age 18 and older are always welcome to join the band. The next sign up will be in the fall.
The rehearsal began with the riveting "Golden Regement Concert March," followed by "A Sailor's Odyssey" based on "The Drunken Sailor," and "Beach Boys on Stage," a medley of Beach Boys hits.
After a brief break, the band played through other musical selections planned for April 14, including "Pavane" by Gabriel Faure, a medley from Disney's "Lilo & Stitch," the Star Wars saga, "Mars" from "The Planets" by Gustav Holst, "The Great Gate of Kiev" from "Pictures at an Exhibition," and a rousing "God Bless America."
Clarinetist Sharon Gustafson of Westfield has been a member of the band since 1996, and is grateful to Bartley for his mission to bring musicians together for free concerts in the city.
"I love music and am grateful that Gene brings us together to play music," Gustafson said during the break.
Shelley Haber of Westfield, also a longtime member of the band, echoed those sentiments.
"I most enjoy the people who are here, and the wonderful friendships I've made over the years," said Haber, a mallet percussion player who plays bells, xylophone and marimba.
As the minutes quickly ticked down to 9 p.m., there was a synergy that could be felt in the auditorium that will no doubt be apparent to those attending the April event, which is open to the public. The curtain goes up on the performance at 7:30 p.m.
Musicians interested in joining the community band may contact Bartley at (860) 668-0870 for more information. Auditions are not required, but musicians must be able to read music.
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