McGill’s Community Band stages its comeback with renewed summer concerts

3 years ago

HOULTON, Maine — Despite predictions of overcast skies and rain, a large crowd had gathered at Houlton’s Monument Park to witness the McGill’s Community Band perform live that night at the park’s amphitheater on Thursday, July 8. 

But the rain managed to hold off throughout the show, and the audience was treated with a solid performance from the band, who played a variety of songs such as covers of “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey and “Africa” by Toto.

Judi Howard plays the trumpet during a Thursday, July 8, performance of McGill’s Community Band in Houlton.(Alexander MacDougall | Houlton Pioneer Times)

For the band, usually a fixture during Houlton’s summer months, this year marks a return to form after the band’s previous summer had been without any performances due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

With masking and social distancing regulations now relaxed, the band, which was formed in 1985 by Dave McGillicuddy, is now able to perform freely again. Despite more than a year without live performances, McGillicuddy says his band’s performance skills haven’t grown rusty. 

“It was kind of a surprising thing, I think, to everybody,” he said. “Generally speaking, when you haven’t played in over a year, you come back and you’re pretty horrible. But we seem to rise to the occasion.” 

The McGill’s Community Band performs at Houlton Community Park on July 8. (Alexander MacDougall | Houlton Pioneer Times)

Gary Bossie of McGill’s Community Band performs a saxophone solo during the band’s performance on July 8. (Alexander MacDougall | Houlton Pioneer Times)

The band also had to contend with a shortened rehearsal schedule before the summer concert season started. Normally, the band begins rehearsals in March at Houlton Middle/High School. But with social distancing guidelines still in place at the school, the band did not find out if they were even able to rehearse until May. Even then, the band had to use the parking lot instead of the auditorium, and wore special face coverings and sat six feet apart when practicing. 

“We had kind of a condensed rehearsal season,” said the band’s conductor Mike Hutchinson. “Even when we started rehearsing, we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to perform right away. But here we are.”

The band has now played four concerts this summer, including at Midnight Madness during the July 4th weekend. The most recent concert also featured popcorn sold by Katahdin Trust, and food and refreshments sold by local food truck The Bus. 

“We’ve had a good turnout,” said McGillicuddy. “I think people are ready to get on with it, and lead a normal life.”

A performer reads off a piece of sheet music during the McGill’s Community Band performance on July 8. (Alexander MacDougall | Houlton Pioneer Times)