For decades, Richey Concert Band has given fans tunes full of memories

It was 2:30 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday, and all over the world, people (even nonsports people) were assembling snacks, drinks and friends to watch the pregame festivities on TV. But in New Port Richey, more than 750 people, many of them no doubt avid sports fans, were filing into the Center for the Arts at River Ridge, where, until almost 4:30 p.m. (a scant two hours before kickoff), they listened to the Richey Concert Band.

For some, it's a monthly tradition and has been for four decades or more.

For some, it's a first-time experience.

For most, it's been a part of their entertainment schedule for, well, they can't remember exactly how long.

For the 75 to 80 musicians on the stage, it's an integral part of their lives, something they wouldn't miss for anything.

Take Jerry Bennett, 69, a snowbird from Michigan who spends winters in Holiday and plays trumpet.

"I make sure I make them all," he said of the September through May rehearsals and concerts.

Ronald Clarkson, 74, formerly of Chattanooga, now of Trinity, also a trumpet player, has been playing with the group for five years and doesn't miss a show with either this group or the other three bands he plays with: the Florida Worship Band, German Band and First Baptist New Port Richey.

Amanda Crabtree, 10, has been in the band all her life. She came with her mom, Leanne, 43, a flute player, and grandmother June Yaxie, 67, a saxophonist, all the way from Brandon.

"Amanda has been here since she was born," said Deb Davies, 51, who started out in the clarinet section and switched to percussion after she moved away and then moved back.

"She was dancing out front, and some people said 'She shouldn't be doing that,' so we grabbed her and put her in the percussion section," Ms. Davies said. She's been playing bass drum since then.

Steven Whiteside, 16, a member of the Springstead High School drum line for two years, has been with Richey Concert Band for three.

Band director Henry Fletcher is never sure precisely how many musicians will show up for a concert. Other obligations and emergencies keep some away. Some just forget.

The one thing he does know, however, is that there will be enough people for a good show.

Since 1972, when he took the director's baton, he has been giving people what they want: a pleasant afternoon of music reminiscent of old-fashioned town square concerts popular a century ago.

In fact, for a while, the band sometimes performed in the gazebo near Sims Park in New Port Richey, where the audience brought picnic lunches and sat around on blankets to enjoy the show.

But as the band and the audience grew larger (and more mature), Fletcher opted to stay indoors with cushioned seats and air conditioning.

On Sunday, the program will include old favorites like Puppy Love, Singing the Blues, What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life? and Sweet Gypsy Rose.

It's likely there will be some big event on television and there are several festivals and events going on nearby, but it's a good bet that the Richey Concert Band faithful will be right where they were on Super Bowl Sunday — at River Ridge listening to their favorite tunes.

IF YOU GO

Richey Concert Band

Where: Center for the Arts at River Ridge, 11646 Town Center Road, New Port Richey

When: 2:30 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $2, open seating. Free parking.

For decades, Richey Concert Band has given fans tunes full of memories 03/04/10 [Last modified: Thursday, March 4, 2010 3:49pm]

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