NICHOLE JIANG – STAFF WRITER
The familiar blue shirts of the Chautauqua Community Band will once again fill Bestor Plaza with the sounds of music to celebrate Independence Day at Chautauqua. The band is set to perform at 1 p.m. Sunday in the plaza. However, if it rains the performance will be moved to the Amphitheater.
Not only is this the return of the Independence Day Celebration on the grounds, but the concert falls on a Sunday, which means that admission to the grounds is free and anyone from the surrounding community can come.
“Sundays are free for everyone, and (July 4) falls on a Sunday once about every seven years,” said conductor Jason Weintraub.
Weintraub will lead the CCB to celebrate Independence Day. The CCB was founded by Weintraub in 1990, and since then, he said, they have grown into something the Chautauqua community cherishes.
He founded the CCB after he realized just how quiet the community was on July 4.
“I was playing with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra,” said Weintraub, who retired from the CSO in 2019. “I had already been here for almost 20 years, and I was walking around on July 4 and nothing was happening. And I said to myself, ‘We need a band.’ ”
The CCB quickly became a way for members of the community both on and off the grounds to be able to be a part of a concert, rather than just sitting in the audience listening. People now had the opportunity to create music regardless of whether they were professionals.
“ ‘Community’ is how many people first describe Chautauqua to their friends,” said Deborah Sunya Moore, senior vice president and chief program officer (interim) and vice president of performing and visual arts. “This is at the root of why we love this concert each year. It is open to all, invites professionals and amateurs to sit side by side, and serves as an invitation for all to gather around and participate in the arts with shared fun and joy.”
This year’s celebration will include traditional pieces. The concert will start off with “The Star Spangled Banner” followed by “Liberty Bell March,” highlights from The Music Man, “Prelude and Scherzo,” “National Emblem” and “Syncopated Clock.” The second half of the program, which looks the same each year, includes marches, a sing-along and finishes off with “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” The only thing that is significantly different about this year’s performance is that there will be no soloist.
“We invite children to come up and get these little flags,” Weintraub said. “They can then march around the fountain. We also invite the older kids and ask them if they want to help conduct. For ‘On The Mall,’ the audience has the chance to sing and whistle. Everyone gets to participate.”
This sense of community togetherness and tradition is what attracts people each year to come out to the plaza, whether it’s to sit and listen or if it’s to play in the CCB itself.
“The place is pretty well-filled with people on blankets and in chairs,” Weintraub said. “It’s just a tradition. People bring their picnics in, and we’re playing away while they’re eating and talking, which is perfectly fine. We have a lot of families coming in from off the grounds to play. This year, there’s five members from my own family joining in.”
After a year of canceled programming and lockdowns, Weintraub said, the CCB is “super-excited to be back on the plaza.”