Chautauqua Community Band comes together for July 4 concert of patriotic tunes on plaza

The Chautauqua Community Band performs on July 4, 2023, on Bestor Plaza.
Brett Phelps / Daily file photo
The Chautauqua Community Band performs on July 4, 2023, on Bestor Plaza. The band, led by Aiden Chamberlain, will perform its annual Independence Day concert at 12:15 p.m. today on the plaza.

In Chautauqua tradition going back nearly a quarter century, the Fourth of July Community Band Concert at 12:15 p.m. today on Bestor Plaza will provide a feeling of celebration and community with a patriotic arrangement of tunes from modern to nostalgic pieces. 

“(For the program), I’m trying to make sure we have a good cross section (of pieces),” said Aiden Chamberlain, director of the Chautauqua Community Band. “We have older people in Chautauqua who want to hear more nostalgic pieces and we have kids who might not know those pieces, so we aim for a balance.”

There will be a new “Bell Tower Fanfare” composition, as well as “America the Beautiful,” a John Philip Sousa piece, a John Williams medley, and many others; the line-up is “particularly geared towards Chautauqua,” Chamberlain said. The performance will include members of the Motet Choir leading a sing-a-long.

The Chautauqua Community Band was formed in 1990 by Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra English horn player Jason Weintraub, who directed the group until his passing in the fall of 2022. His legacy will be carried on by his wife Nancy, their son, and their grandkids who will be playing today with the band.

The Jason and Nancy Weintraub Community Band Endowment Fund supports the Community Band and Thursday Morning Brass, which Chamberlain has conducted for six years. He stepped up as the Community Band director last summer.

“I’ve met so many more people through the band and the brass groups,” Chamberlain said. “I’ve just enjoyed getting to know a wide variety of people. There’s just all sorts of people with different backgrounds. Some of us have musical backgrounds, some don’t, but everyone is participating because they want to be there.”

Chamberlain has played trombone since the age of 10, and was a professional trombonist for 15 years. For the last 20 years, Chamberlain has played with the Community Band and taught Special Studies classes at Chautauqua. He’s also an assistant professor at the University of Trinidad and Tobago. Chamberlain’s wife, Caitlyn Kamminga, is assistant professor at the university as well, and bassist in the CSO.

Even as they moved around a lot as a couple, they just “kept coming back to Chautauqua.” The place is unique in the caliber of lecturers and artists, and the community is united through common interest in at least one of the four pillars of the Institution: Arts, Education, Recreation, and Religion.

“What makes us a strong community is that people keep coming back every year,” Chamberlain said. “There’s a high quality of guest speakers and artists; there’s something for everyone to engage in.”

Part of the joy of being a part of and witnessing the Chautauqua Community Band is that “anybody can turn up on the day — and often they do. All sorts of people come that we didn’t know were coming; it’s really fun,” Chamberlain said. “We have a lot of tunes that people will know, but also new tunes that (the audience) won’t know.”

For today’s performance, the Community Band had one rehearsal on Sunday — however, individuals can join on the spot — and will present a sincere tribute to America as Chautauquans gather on the plaza to enjoy the day with family.

“When you turn up and you’re playing music together for the first time, you sit down in front of an audience with no rehearsal and you just play — there’s a buzz about that,” Chamberlain said. “When I first came over from England I had hardly met anybody; I’m just sitting down playing these pieces (with other musicians) and there’s a language in that. There’s an energy about that.”

Tags : America the BeautifulBell Tower FanfareChautauqua Community BandChautauqua Symphony OrchestraCommunityFourth of July

The author Gabriel Weber