Woodstock City Band celebrates 130 years

Crowd gathers for annual patriotic concert

WOODSTOCK – It felt more mid-April than Fourth of July.

Nonetheless, a sizable, jacket-clad crowd sunk its lawn chairs into the damp ground at Woodstock Square Park on Wednesday evening for the Woodstock City Band’s annual patriotic concert, one of eight shows the band will play this summer.

Wednesday’s took on the added caveat of a special celebration for the band’s 130th year in existence.

They debuted an original piece commissioned by noted composer Michael Sweeney to commemorate the milestone.

The city also read a proclamation.

“It’s just such a great American tradition,” said Linda Rosquist, who curled into a chair next to her husband, Walt. The Woodstock couple has been coming regularly to the band’s shows for about 10 years, and sporadically before that.

“It’s wonderful to be in a small, Midwest town and get to enjoy something like this,” she said.

The band has played a significant community-building role in Woodstock since the 1800s – and, before technological advances that brought entertainment into households and eventually to fingertips, maybe a heightened one.

When a new post office opened in Woodstock, the city band played for hours. When troops returned from war, they were greeted by the band’s music, Opera House Director John Scharres said.

“We’re continuing a very important piece of history here in Woodstock,” Scharres said. “Anything important that happened in the community always included the band playing with it.”

It wasn’t always called the Woodstock City Band – that name, Scharres estimates, latched on about 75 years ago. At one point, the group was named the Spring City Band. That was back when Woodstock was called the Spring City for its well – water from which was believed to possess healing, medicinal powers, Scharres said.

The title of Sweeney’s piece, “Spring CIty Overture,” harkened back to that period.

Wednesday’s weather might of had the town once again thinking it was the spring city. Temperatures hovered in the mid-50s for the 7:30 p.m. start. Gray clouds blanketed the sky. Concertgoers blanketed themselves.

It was better than the alternative for one glass half-full attendee.

“This is the better option than hot and humid,” said Diane Felice, of Huntley, who watched with her friend Peg Southgate, also of Huntley. “I like it.”