Monday night: Notre Dame concert band to perform at Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center


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Rally sons and daughters of Notre Dame, tonight at the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center in Midland.

These are real members of the Fighting Irish marching band, led by Kenneth Dye. It's the oldest college band (in continuous existence) in these United States.

It's not all 380-plus members, mind you. The concert band is a subset of that band. It consists of 85 players and a vocalist, but that's more than enough to make your Irish eyes smile as if you were attending a college reunion.

It's part concert, part pep rally.

"This is the second time we'll have them appearing here," said Sal Aloe, managing director of the center. "But it's their fourth time in Beaver County. They came to Ambridge twice while I was teaching at Ambridge [High School].

"When Ken Dye started at the University of Notre Dame 16 years ago, I was hosting a regional band at Ambridge and I was looking for a guest conductor. I was hoping to get somebody new and refreshing. I went online and reached out. It just so happened that Ken Dye was in his first year and I asked him to come out. He said he'd never guest-conducted in Pennsylvania, and so he accepted the offer. We developed a relationship and that was it.

"We've brought different bands through, but Notre Dame is definitely high-profile. They're one of our prizes."

This is the perfect time of year for the band members to reach out, to spread the message of what it means to be associated with Notre Dame. As you might expect, their schedule in the fall is pretty busy.

"This is part of our annual outreach program," Mr. Dye said. "We like to share the music with all different communities. And in any of these communities we have alumni clubs, and so there are always Notre Dame alums who will follow us and attend.

"We try to hit different parts of the country, but our concentration is on places where prospective students and alumni are. Midwestern and Eastern states. We've had our best audiences and responses in those parts of the country."

It's a hectic schedule for the boys and girls in the band, all of whom are undergraduates in every major field of study, from pre-med, engineering and science to the liberal arts.

Tonight's show is their fourth of the past weekend, after which they will return to campus for six more shows and commencement. Then, it's a quick trip to Italy, France and Spain.

"It's a lot of work for everybody, but it keeps a program vibrant and attractive," Mr. Dye said.

The audience is treated to more than just the old school fight song.

"You'll see and hear a variety of music styles," Mr. Dye said, "everything from more modern band composers to Sousa marches, New Orleans jazz, opera, pop Sinatra-style vocals. And we'll be combining with the steel drum ensemble in Midland."

Matt Merten, an assistant band director, will be conducting the New Orleans brass band section tonight.

"We have several conductors, actually," he said. "We team-teach everything and take turns conducting throughout the concert. So you have several different styles of music under several different directors."

Mr. Merten, a recent graduate and former player, was part of the group that came to Ambridge a few years back.

"It's always great to go into a community and perform with the students there," he said. "You find that no matter where you go, you always have something in common. Especially with music.

"I went for a run in Pittsburgh this morning and it was such a beautiful experience. I love this part of the country."

The show is about an hour and a half long. You'll know when it's ending.

"You will be treated to the fight song," Mr. Dye said. "The show only ends one way at Notre Dame."

The show begins at 7:30 p.m. at Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center, One Lincoln Park, in Midland. Admission is $20; $10 for students.

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If you have a suggestion for something to do some evening, let us know about it and we'll see if we can get some of our friends to join you. Contact Dan Majors at dmajors@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1456. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/


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