The origins of the “community band” have a long history in the Upper Valley, dating back to the 1860s. The first band was the Norwich Militia Band, which began during the Civil War and was made up of cadets from the Norwich Military Academy. The band was formed to play at patriotic functions and parades. When the Academy moved to Northfield, VT, the band moved with it. In the spirit of the Militia Band, a new band was formed in Norwich in June of 1914. The band was sponsored by the local YMCA. This hearty group of local male musicians kept the band going each summer, playing for the Memorial Day and Fourth of July parades, and offering a series of summer concerts on the Green. They also played for political rallies, but only for candidates of their choice. Members of the original 1914 band read like a who’s who of Norwich, and included Fred Metcalf, Don Bridgman, Charles Huntley, Dean Merrill, and Dale and JH Nelson. With the advent of gas rationing in the 1940s, the band ended its traveling ways and years of performance.
In 1970, the Hanover–Norwich Band was organized under the direction of George Black, band director of Hanover High School. (His wife Willy was a member of the band from its inception until her passing in 2017.) George was followed by Cynthia Boehm-Patenaude, then a newly graduated student from Mascoma High School. In the 1980s, Eric Anderson of Hartford High School took over the reins of the band. In the ’70s and early ’80s the band was strictly a summer organization, playing bi-weekly concerts on the lawn of Dartmouth Hall and on the bandstand in Norwich, and continued to march for the Norwich Fair and the Shrine Game parades. Under the leadership of Dan Downes, beginning in 1984, the band’s year expanded to include a winter schedule of rehearsals and concerts at the Lebanon Opera House.
In 1990, Carole I. Blake, music teacher at Mascoma High School, assumed the position of musical Director of the band. That same year, the name of the band was changed from the Hanover–Norwich Band to the Upper Valley Community Band. The change was made to more accurately reflect the “home towns” of its members. Becky Luce, music teacher at the Ray School in Hanover, acted as Director from January of 2014 through summer of 2017. Long-time member and Associate Director Cindy Boehm-Patenaude then took the helm, leading us into our January 2018 concert. Mark Nelson became Director of UVCB in the spring of 2018.
The word “community” in the band’s name is self-explanatory—everyone in the Upper Valley community is invited to play. To participate in the band, one should be able to read music and have command of their instrument. The band’s normal activities include parades, concerts, patriotic, and seasonal events throughout the year. As of summer 2016, there are 70+ active musicians in the UVCB.
In 1994, the band was honored with the opportunity to perform at the annual convention of the Association of Concert Bands in Burlington, VT. In addition, the UVCB has performed at the Boston Festival of Bands (an invitation-only event), held each year the first Saturday in June. Sponsored by the Metropolitan Wind Symphony, this event features bands from all over the northeast.
A noteworthy event in the UVCB’s history was the musical/cultural exchange with the Town Band of Heimsheim, Germany (Musikverein Stadtkapelle Heimsheim). This joint venture, titled “Hands Across the Sea,” took place in May of 1997. The Town Band of Heimsheim came to the Upper Valley and performed a joint concert with the UVCB at the Lebanon Opera House. In June of 1999 the UVCB, after a tour of southern Austria and southern Germany, traveled to Heimsheim and joined the MVSH in concert, proudly representing the Upper Valley.
In October of 2001, our band had the distinct pleasure of representing New Hampshire and Vermont in concert at the National Festival of the States, an official celebration of the 225th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Traveling to Washington, D.C., the band presented three concerts at different venues in the city, and toured our nation’s capital. And in September of 2007 many members of the UVCB flew to Joigny, France, to participate in an international music festival. In March of 2013 the band had the distinct privilege of performing for Farmers’ Night at the Vermont State House.
UVCB looks forward to seeing you during the summer and at our winter and spring concerts. We are proud to be a part of the musical heritage of the Upper Valley.