Brass Band In 700th Concert

PETERSHAM - The Petersham Brass Band celebrated a milestone in its history Sunday evening, July 30, 2000 as they present their 700th concert from the bandstand on Petersham Common. Band members have been prepared for the celebration for more than two months. The program featured music that the band has never previously performed.

The band, founded in 1914, has provided the music for town anniversaries, Memorial Day programs and summer concerts continuously except for a couple of years during World War II. In addition, the band takes part in the annual Tree Lighting program and has become an integral part of the Lions Club Old Home Day celebration each year.

Throughout its 86 year history, the band has had four permanent directors. The band's founder Robert Douthit, nurtured the band for many years before turning the baton over to Basil Coolidge, who led the band for 25 years until his death in 1960.

Earl Olson became the next conductor of the band, a position he too would hold for the next 25 years. During his tenure, Olson was instrumental in encouraging high school age musicians to become involved in the summer concerts. As a result, many of these same musicians continue to play in the band today and form the nucleus of not only the Petersham Band but of the Orange Community Band as well.

In 1986, following Olson's retirement the band's current conductor, Stuart Britton took over the podium. Then a music teacher at Mahar Regional High School, Britton has continued to lead the band throughout his career moves that led him first to Leicester and currently North Attleboro High School.

The celebratory concert will featured a different format with the band opening with "Fanfare for the Common Man" by Copeland. The first half will conclude with the band's first ever performance of Tchaikovsky "1812 Overture." The performance will feature the bells of the Unitarian and Congregational Churches as well as a firing squad supplied by the Petersham and Athol American Legion Posts under the leadership of Arthur Coolidge (son of the late Basil Coolidge) and Robert Carey.

The band closed the concert and the season with Olson's signature tune "The Shadow of Your Smile" by Mandel, the traditional "Lights Out march and Britton's signature tune "March and Go Home".

Throughout the evening there was a display of band memorabilia provided by the Historical Society and band members. The guest book from the 500th and 600th concerts as well as a new guest book to commemorate the 700th concert.

Representative David Tuttle and Senator Steve Brewer present the band with sitations from the Massachusetts State House comemorating the band's milestone. (Left to Right) Director Stu Britton, Phil Amidon (who celebrated his 65th year with the band -- and 450 concerts -- in 2000), Senator Brewer, Representative Tuttle, Band President Dana Robinson, and Band Treasurer Bob Laford

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