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A Classic Concert in the Park by Catherine Neelon

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Enjoy this guest blog from Catherine Neelon of the RCN TV production team. Chris Michael will be back next week. 

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company. 

September 17, 1908. West Park. Allentown, PA.

It must have been a glorious late-summer evening.

Though the park’s founder, General Harry C. Trexler, avoided the limelight and did not attend this opening night, plenty of eager music-loving residents from all across the city crowded around the newly minted bandshell to see the Allentown Band in concert. In the weeks and years that followed, many of the other Allentown-area community bands would also come to West Park to perform for the public in the warm summer air.

♪♫   ♪♫   ♪♫            ♪♫   ♪♫   ♪♫            ♪♫   ♪♫   ♪♫

For several years, starting in the mid-to-late 1990s, RCN (and earlier incarnations of its TV studio) worked with the City of Allentown and the members of American Federation of Musicians Local 45 to share many of these summertime concerts with its subscribers – many of whom might not otherwise get to experience them. In this way, the program “Concert in the Park” was born.

I remember working as part of the TV crew on our “Concert in the Park” days – arriving hours ahead of time to set up cameras and lights and microphones and cables under the leafy canopy provided by West Park’s many majestic trees. I can’t recall a time that we weren’t the first ones to arrive for the concert – but, guaranteed, as the shadows grew and the park lights started to glow, the people would start to trickle in. Some took advantage of the wooden benches right up front, while others brought their fold-up chairs and settled further back from the stage. Though the faces would change, and the crowd size might vary from night to night, there was always great music and it always had a grateful audience.

♪♫   ♪♫   ♪♫            ♪♫   ♪♫   ♪♫            ♪♫   ♪♫   ♪♫

Then came 2020 and the threat of COVID-19.

All of the anticipation, all of the preparation was no proof against the pandemic, and Allentown’s summer concert season at West Park had to be cancelled.

However, the members of AFM Local 45, who make up the rosters of the local community bands, still wanted to share their music with the Lehigh Valley – and to remind us all that their bands are still here and will play again once this crisis has passed. To this end, representatives contacted RCN-TV to see if we would be interested in re-televising some of our “Concert in the Park” programs from the past.

And in this way, “Classic Concert in the Park” was born. Starting in the beginning of August, over the course of several weeks, RCN-TV will be spotlighting a specially selected performance by each of six community bands.

  • Tuesday, August 4 (repeat Sat., Aug. 8) – Pioneer Band of Allentown concert from July 3, 2007, with former conductor Jay Durner.
  • Tuesday, August 11 (repeat Sat., Aug. 15) – Macungie Band concert from August 7, 2010, with conductor Mike Moran. (This concert was actually held at Macungie Memorial Park for Das Awkscht Fescht.)
  • Tuesday, August 18 (repeat Sat., Aug. 22) – Marine Band of Allentown concert from June 9, 2004 with the late Ray Becker as conductor.
  • Tuesday, September 8 (repeat Wed., Sept. 9) – Royalaires concert from July 19, 2003 with the late Richard Hinkle (my HS band director!) conducting.
  • And just shy of West Park’s 112th anniversary, on Tuesday, September 15 (repeat Wed., 16) – Allentown Band concert from July 2, 2010 with long-time conductor Ron Demkee.

All concert airings begin 7:00pm on RCN-TV. Enjoy and stay safe!