Berks Arts will kick off its popular Bandshell concert series on Friday with the Reading Pops Orchestra in a program that will celebrate Americana with patriotic marches, big band jazz and selections from Broadway. Led by guest conductor Daniel Neuenschwander, the concert will feature guest vocalist Maria Damore.
Neuenschwander, assistant professor of music and director of bands at Kutztown University, where he has been on the faculty since 2008, said he wanted to program music with American roots and themes, since the concert won’t takes place only four days after the nation’s birthday.
Audiences will hear “American Salute,” by Morton Gould, with variations on “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”; “National Emblem March” by Edwin Eugene Bagley, based on the first 12 notes of “The Star-Spangled Banner”; John Philip Sousa’s “El Capitan” march from his operetta of the same name (featuring his perennial favorite, “The Stars and Stripes Forever”); and the “Armed Forces Salute,” a medley of songs from all branches of the service.
As film composer John Williams celebrates his 90th birthday this year, Neuenschwander has also chosen Williams’ overture for the 1972 western ‘The Cowboys’. Also on the program are selections by Georges Bizet from the opera ‘Carmen ” and “Rhosymedre” by Ralph Vaughan Williams, based on a Welsh anthem.
Damore, a versatile singer who recently received the Frank Scott Award for her contributions to jazz in the Berks County community, will perform songs from Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story” and Jule Styne’s “Funny Girl” show. /Bob Merrill, as well as “Sway” (originally “Quien Sera”) by Mexican bandleader Pablo Beltran Ruiz and Etta James’ signature song “At Last”, written in 1941 by Mack Gordon and Harry Warden.
Neunenschwander, a native of Monroe, Wisconsin, has been a trombonist since his high school days and now teaches trombone at KU, as well as brass ensembles. He taught music at public schools in Ohio, where he earned his master’s degree at the University of Akron. He was also a visiting lecturer in music at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he earned his doctorate in music teacher education, before coming to KU.
Neunenschwander said he still enjoys playing in sets. This summer he was in the pit for the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Company’s production of “A Chorus Line,” and he performs in trombone choirs and brass ensembles whenever possible.
Damore performs many styles of music including jazz, pop/rock, Greek folk music, musical theater and opera. His ensembles include the Maria Damore Pop/Rock Duo, Trio or Five-Piece Band; his jazz ensemble, Maria & the Jazzy Gents; and the Greek music duo, Stavros & Maria. She has performed lead roles in numerous Berks Opera Company productions, most recently as Mountain Mary Jung in the world premiere of “These Valleys and Mountains”, by composer Chris Heslop and librettist Vicki Haller Graf, commissioned by BOC.
Willis Rapp, the music director of the Reading Pops Orchestra, took a leave of absence from April 3 to September 30 of this year to work on completing the Wells-Rapp Center for Mallet Percussion Research at KU.
The bandshell concert begins at 7 p.m. and will be preceded by presentations from two local music organizations — Buccaneers Banner Brass and GoggleWorks Student Fellowship with Pagoda City Records — beginning at 6 a.m.
Families are encouraged to bring blankets, lawn chairs and their dancing shoes to the municipal park. Food vendors are available on site. Any weather-related schedule changes are posted on Facebook and announced on local radio stations. Alcohol and smoking are not permitted in the municipal park and dogs must be kept on a leash.
For more information on band concerts, visit www.berksarts.org.