June 02--The blankets of summer are almost back.
Modesto Band of Stanislaus County -- affectionately known as MoBand -- is back for its 95th season of Concert in the Park. The free community event returns this week to Mancini Bowl in Graceada Park for the start of its six-week summer run.
The summer tradition brings throngs out to the park to enjoy warm Thursday nights. Concertgoers bring blankets, chairs, picnics and more to celebrate with family and friends. The grass around the amphitheater becomes a sea of blankets, all staking claim to prime spots as early as Wednesday night.
"We play music that people enjoy listening to, we have a very relaxed atmosphere to play out in the park, and the evenings are cooler," said MoBand Director George Gardner. "Everyone uses MoBand as a place to get together with friends. Everyone looks forward to that time."
Gardner, who has led the band since 1978, returns as director, with Matthew Cover also back in his second year as band manager and assistant director. The community band invites all performers with instruments to play -- from high school students to senior citizens. Musicians are welcome to perform one week or all six, but must attend the Monday and Wednesday rehearsals before each concert.
The band averages about 130 musicians per performance. Throughout the season, some 240 to 250 members play in the shows.
"The band plays very, very well, and it's all volunteer," Gardner said. "We have incredible musicians and it's a real community event."
MoBand remains one of the oldest, continuously performing bands in the nation, having been started in 1919 by W.W. Higgins, who called it the Modesto Boys' Band. Two years later, famed clarinetist Frank Mancini took over, and in the early 1950s, the name was changed to Modesto Band of Stanislaus County.
The theme for the 2014 season will be "Rockin' the Bowl." The season schedule is as follows:
--Thursday -- "Rockin' the Vinyl," Graffiti Summer celebration with music of the 1950s including hits by Ricky Nelson, The Beach Boys and early Beatles
--June 12 -- "Big Boys," male artists will be highlighted, including the works of Neil Diamond, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Paul McCartney
--June 19 -- "Date Night," dedicated to couples on dates, with light, romantic music including songs by Adele, Billy Joel and others
--June 26 -- "Tie-Dyed," music of the 1960s from bands such as The Mamas & the Papas, The Beatles and more
--July 3 -- "Patriotic Kick-Off," Fourth of July celebration with patriotic music, singalongs and a salute to veterans
--July 10 -- "Summer Replay," the most popular selections from the concert series will be performed again at the season finale
Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2284. Follow her on Twitter @marijkerowland.
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