GNH Lumber-Outdoor Living-JUNE 2024

LOCAL HISTORY: Ghent Band celebrates 125 years

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By GREGG BERNINGER

WHEN THE YOUNG MEN’S CLUB of the Ghent Lutheran Church decided it was time for Ghent to have a band, could they ever have imagined that 125 years later the Ghent Band would survive two world wars, two pandemics, and the coming of recorded music, radio, and television? Did they imagine that in 2024 the Ghent Band would have over 50 active members and be in high demand for concerts and parades? Probably not. Would they be pleased? No doubt.

Ghent Band, circa 1910, in front of Ghent Rail Station. Photo contributed

Unlike the world around it, the Ghent Band has stayed more the same than it’s changed. Its members are still regular people of all ages and walks of life who perform their best for an adoring public. And though the band travels for concerts and parades, summer performances in Ghent have only been in three different locations, all a few hundred feet from each other. The band’s repertoire has expanded from marches and waltzes to include show tunes, movie music and light classical, a little something for everyone.

One change has been where the members live. In the early days, they almost all lived or worked in the hamlet of Ghent. Now members travel from all parts of the county and some from north of Albany and Massachusetts to play.

The band has persisted thanks to a devoted core of members who rarely miss a rehearsal or performance and who keep things organized. At the band’s 50th anniversary there were at least two original members. Today two members are enjoying year 57 and 56 with the organization, past president John Dean and current Parade Master Gary Strevell.

Ghent Band on Main Street Chatham May 30, 1932 from the Barbara and Charles Wilber Collection. Photo contributed

Long-term devotion and a marked increase in life expectancy has kept the band going, but without a steady replenishment of young and enthusiastic members, the band would just be a distant memory. Today, the age range of band members runs from 14 to 98.

Josh Gianfrancesco, currently serving as president of the band, is 25 years old. When asked what he’d like band members to know 125 years from now, he said “The Ghent Band is a great place to make lifelong friends and the connections made can carry over to help in other parts of life.” By day, Mr. Gianfrancesco installs garage doors, and in the band he plays the trombone.

Like Mr. Gianfrancesco, Emily Montague, age 24, joined the band when she was in high school. She currently serves as band librarian and handles intra-band communication via text messaging. Ms. Montague, along with five other members, played all 20 performances, including parades and concerts in 2023.

Though the Ghent Band is its own independent organization, it wouldn’t have made it this far without its friends. The Ghent Fire Company provided rehearsal and performance space for many years, and the Ghent VFW built a Gazebo for the band in 1985. The Town of Ghent also supports the band in many ways, including housing its impressive collection of trophies and extensive music library.

Ghent Town Supervisor Craig Simmons recently noted, “The Ghent Band is a staple in our community. I’m so proud every time the band’s schedule comes out, not only for the residents of Ghent but for all the folks that come from other towns to hear them. When the Ghent Band plays out of town, they always represent Ghent well. When I proudly wear my Ghent Band t-shirt everyone asks where they can get one.”

After 125 years, the Ghent Band has never been bigger or better. The marching unit often features 30 members who delight in the cheers from the public who always love a parade. One concert in 2023 saw 40 members on the gazebo in Ghent.

On a nice summer’s eve 175 smiling people come to hear the band with many more on their porches hearing music fill the air just as it always has and hopefully always will.

Mr. Berninger is the historian for the Town of Ghent and 29 year Ghent Band Member

2024 Concerts:

Monday, July 1 – Chatham Library 6:30 p.m. (Rain date July 8)

Wednesday, July 10 – Ghent VFW 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, July 13 – Copake Bicentennial 2 p.m.

Wednesday, July 17 – Ghent VFW 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, July 24 – Ghent VFW 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, July 28 – Blueberry Festival 2 p.m.

Wednesday, July 31 – Ghent VFW 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, August 7 – Village of Kinderhook 7 p.m.

Wednesday, August 14 – Village of Kinderhook 7 p.m.

Wednesday, August 21 – Village of Kinderhook 7 p.m.

Wednesday, August 28 – Village of Kinderhook 7 p.m.

Monday, September 2 – Columbia County Fair, morning

Saturday, September 28 – Ghent Community Day, afternoon

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