Williamsport, Pennsylvania — D-Day happened more than 80 years ago, and very few of the men who were on the Normandy beach that fateful day in 1944 are still with us. One of them, aged 97, will lead a concert on October 9 at the Center for Community Arts.
Retired USAF Col. Arnald D. Gabriel will lead the 11th annual Liberty Band Festival – a Williamsport event that draws dozens of musicians from places such as Colorado, Kansas, Idaho, Florida, Texas, Missouri and Ontario.
Hosted by members of Williamsport’s renowned Repasz Band and chaired by Repasz Business Manager Judy Shellenberger, the festival lasts three days with intensive rehearsals on Friday evening, all day Saturday and Sunday morning, followed by a concert free public at the CAC at 1:30 p.m. Since many foreigners stay downtown at the Hotel Genetti, the event also includes a banquet on Saturday evening.
“This year we have 105 musicians and 18 registered guests,” says Shellenberger. “They are exceptional players who prepare by learning their music in advance. Colonel Gabriel works his conducting magic and turns the notes into beautiful music.
Award-winning Gabriel, who landed in Normandy with the US Army’s 29th Infantry Division, led literally hundreds of bands in all 50 states during his breathtaking career. In fact, he’s led so many bands across such a wide range of music that he usually leads from memory: using no sheet music during practice or performance. Remarkably, however, this year’s program includes four new plays that Gabriel has never staged before.
Chosen in part by the conductor himself, with input from former band members and Shellenberger, the 2022 concert will include the national anthem, a march by Karl King, “Irish Tune from County Derry”, “Pavane” by Morton Gould, “Dam Busters March,” selections from “The Music Man” and the famous “Finlandia” by Sibelius.
The festival members also specifically chose a composition called “Blue Horizons”. Written for the US Air Force Band – which Gabriel led for 21 years – the song features excerpts from many USAF tunes.
“It’s a difficult but fantastic piece of music that they can’t wait to perform,” says Shellenberger.
In saluting fellow Repasz members Linda Kibbe, Jim Fink and Nancy Eischeid – all of whom helped organize this year’s Liberty Festival – Shellenberger also notes that due to COVID, the annual gathering has not taken place since 2019. .
“Musicians from all over the country,” she says, “are very excited to come back this year and perform in front of a live audience.”