Marcia Politi, a summer resident of Birch Harbor, said her life is not complete without being part of the Cherryfield Band. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTOS BY JOHANNA S. BILLINGS

Cherryfield Band celebrates 150 years

CHERRYFIELD — As far as Marcia Politi is concerned, life is not complete without membership in a band.

“I love playing in bands,” she said as she unpacked her euphonium before a Cherryfield Band concert July 23.

Politi is a member of a band in Utah, where she spends the winter. She spends summers in Birch Harbor and, several years ago, learned about the Cherryfield Band through a newspaper article. She’s been a part of it ever since.

“People in this band are so nice and they’re so inclusive,” she said.

The Cherryfield Band, which includes 14 musicians and director Pat Hopkins, is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.

“We tried to do [an anniversary concert] in June and it rained,” drummer Kathy Upton of Cherryfield said. “And we got up this morning and it rained.”

Fortunately, skies cleared by midday, and the weather was pleasant for the evening concert in the outdoor bandstand on Main Street. Another anniversary concert is scheduled for Aug. 13.

“It will probably rain,” Upton quipped.

When it rains the band performs indoors at the American Legion Hall next door to the bandstand.

The Cherryfield Band started making music in 1869 under the direction of George Church. Edwin Wakefield directed the band until 1926, when his son, Percy, took over, leading the band until it dissolved in the early 1960s. In 1986, Cindy Curtis Reichert reorganized it.

Upton knew Percy Wakefield’s son, Charlie, a local music teacher who played with the band for 50 years. “There wasn’t anything this man couldn’t play, literally, forwards or backwards,” she said.

The Cherryfield Band performs a concert July 23 as part of the celebration of its 150th anniversary.

She remembers Charlie Wakefield coming into a classroom, playing a tune on the piano, and asking if anyone recognized it. When no one did, he played it again — in a more recognizable manner.

“What he played the first time was ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,’ but the first time he played it backwards,” she said.

The original band had 13 members, including a set of three brothers, two sets of two brothers and several people who were cousins.

“The band always was and still is a family affair,” said Upton, whose sister-in-law, Cheryl Brown of Cherryfield, plays bass drum. Brown’s son, Eli, of Milbridge, plays trumpet.

Milbridge residents Rachel and George Brace, who play saxophone and trumpet, respectively, are married. They also have taken on the task of transporting equipment, said Hopkins, who lives in Jonesboro.

Cherryfield resident Lucille Willey and her daughter, Valerie Sargent, of Jonesport, both play clarinet and Willey’s niece, Nicole Willey of Milbridge, plays flute.

“Even though the rest of us aren’t blood related, to us they’re still family,” Upton said.

Many of the band’s 14 current members have been involved for a long time.

Larry Smith of Winter Harbor played with the original band in 1956-57 before leaving the area for military service. He didn’t return until after the band had dissolved, and joined again in 1986 when Curtis Reichert, his cousin, reorganized it.

“This is part of me,” he said.

Glenna Rau of Harrington has also been a member since 1986. She moved to the area as a junior in high school and was asked to play “horn” by John Whitten, who was the band director at that time at Narraguagus Junior/Senior High School.

“I said, ‘I don’t have a horn.’ He said, ‘I do,’” she remembered. She learned to play baritone and was part of the high school band until graduation in 1974.

Now she plays a similar instrument, the euphonium, in the Cherryfield Band.

“My husband just bought me a new horn. I got to play it,” she said.

The band practices once a month and performs frequently from April through December, depending on the weather. Concerts take place at the bandstand and at community events. Members can often be seen and heard playing on a trailer in one of the local parades. Wherever the concerts are, members say they have fun and enjoy each other’s company

“They’re very welcoming,” said saxophone player Don Hutchinson of Lamoine. “And it’s a damn good band besides.”

Johanna S. Billings

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Johanna S. Billings covers eastern Hancock County and western Washington County. An avid photographer, she lives in Steuben with her husband and several cats. She welcomes tips and story ideas. Email her at [email protected]

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