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Metro Band once again says GoodNight on New Year's Eve

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Regardless of your musical background, there's a seat for you in the Charleston Metro Band.

"We don't claim to be an exclusive organization," said Metro Band president Ralph Williams. "We don't require an audition to be part of the band, and we'll work with you, not around you."

If you were part of the school band in college, high school or even junior high and maybe miss marching in parades and playing concerts, the Metro Band would love to have you. You can check out the group at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Capitol Center Theater, 123 Summers St., performing as part of Charleston's annual GoodNight celebration.

GoodNight, sponsored by the Charleston Community Music Association, is a high point for Charleston's official city band, Williams said. It's been part of the celebration since the event began in 1995, not too long after the Metro Band was founded in 1992.

Williams explained, "The genesis of the band was from two alumni bands from the last Stonewall High School alumni game in 1988. People had such a good time; they wanted to put something more permanent together."

The group, co-founded by the city and AFM 136 of the musician's union, was put together to give local musicians a chance to perform together for parades and local civic events. The Metro Band also appears at area festivals, performing marching band and concert band tunes.

Williams joined the band shortly after its inception and said in its nearly 20 years, he's seen a lot of people come and go.

"Jobs change," he said. "Commitments change. We've had people leave the band and come back. It happens, but we've got a core of about 20 people who've been with the band since the beginning."

The members of the band come from all walks of life, all occupations and different skill levels. Many hadn't picked up an instrument for decades before they've joined the band.

"When I joined, I hadn't played in 19 years."

How long someone has been away from playing doesn't matter. The love of music spans generations.

"We've got players from middle school to retirees in their 80s," Williams said. "I think we have about 60 or 70 people on the roster, but the number of people at a particular show tends to fluctuate."

Concert performances tend to draw 40 or 50 players, he said. Parades typically draw 25 to 35.

Williams said the music is usually chosen by the band's director, Al Fry, and associate director Steve Hopkins.

"They tend to pick music to fit the venue or the activity," Williams said. "We've also done arrangements by Mr. Fry. He's written arrangements for songs like 'Mack the Knife' and 'New York, New York.'"

It's not rock 'n' roll, he said, but the group tries to mix things up.

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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