YARDLEY BOROUGH >> For the 23rd year, the Yardley Community Centre will strike up the band in celebration of the Fourth of July.
The 129-year-old Blawenburg Band under the direction of Dr. Jerry Rife will return to the stage with another rousing Independence Day concert, including a patriotic salute to the U.S. Armed Forces and John Philip Sousa’s flag-waving classic, “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”
The uplifting, patriotic concert begins at 4 p.m. on the Fourth of July inside the historic hall at 64 South Main Street allowing plenty of time before the concert for a backyard barbecue and enough time afterwards to catch a local fireworks display.
“We’re thrilled Dr. Jerry Rife and the band will again join us for what always is a stirring, patriotic afternoon of music,” said Dr. Joseph Eberhart, who first invited the band to perform there a little more than two decades ago.
“If you’ve never been to the concert you’re missing something special,” said Eberhart. “Flags are waving, toes are tapping and the music is so uplifting that it stirs the heart. It’s a grand way to celebrate the nation’s birthday.”
The stage and the hall will be festooned in red, white and blue flowers, streamers, bunting and flags adding a patriotic backdrop to the show. And everyone in attendance will receive a flag to wave.
“As always the band will be performing a mix of popular music, certainly some Sousa marches, but also some patriotic ballads that are interspersed throughout the show,” said Eberhart. “And Dr. Rife always gives a little explanation before doing each piece, which is very informative and well received by the audience.”
The concert itself is reminiscent of patriotic celebrations of the past where the community would gather at the local park to hear an outdoor patriotic band concert on Independence Day.
The Blawenburg Band was founded in Blawenburg, New Jersey in 1890 at a time when towns depended on their own people for live musical entertainment. The group is one of the oldest community bands in the state and among the most active.
Conducted since 1985 by Dr. Jerry Rife, Retired Professor of Music and Chair of the Fine Arts Department at Rider University, the band performs 20 to 25 concerts a year throughout the area. They play at holiday parades, community celebrations, church socials and at many senior centers and retirement homes. Some of the most popular and well attended concerts are the summer outdoor series in Hopewell, the annual concert at the Princeton Shopping Center and the Fourth of July celebration in Yardley
The band has about 75 active members, ranging in age from their teens to their nineties. They are dedicated amateurs as well as musicians with formal musical training and professional experience. Members include teachers, business people, computer specialists, homemakers, medical professionals and active retirees. They all have in common a love and talent for playing their instrument and a desire to make music for the community.
Tickets are $15 each and can be purchased at Mil-les Restaurant at 75 South Main Street, Yardley, and at Bucks Ship and Print in the Yardley Town Center near Vince’s. Tickets may also be reserved by calling 215-493-0258.
Advance purchase of tickets is strongly recommended as the concert frequently sells out. The Yardley Community Centre is located at 64 South Main Street in Yardley Borough, 19067.
Water will be provided to concert goers and the Yardley Ice House will be selling its frozen treats.
Proceeds from the concert will benefit the maintenance and upkeep of the Yardley Community Centre.
“There’s always something that needs repair when you have a 150-year-old building,” said Eberhart. “We’re a nonprofit. We receive no taxpayer dollars. We’re completely self-sustaining. This concert helps keep us afloat.”
The Yardley Community Centre has provided a meeting place for the residents of Yardley, Lower Makefield and Morrisville since 1851.
The rear portion of the building is the original structure and served as a meeting place for "The Sons of Temperance" and also as a private school. Tuition was 35 cents per week.
In 1872, one of the first Odd Fellows Halls in the country was established in this building. The Centre was enlarged in 1878 to allow church services, fire company suppers, theatre productions and other events to take place.
The "Cobweb Theatre" was created in the early 1930s when the hall was leased by Nat Burnes. The Yardley Community Centre Association purchased the building and incorporated it as a non-profit corporation in 1940.
Today the facility is run by a board of directors which rents the facilities for various uses including a church and a synagogue, acting and art classes, concerts and events presented by the Bucks County Center for the Performing Arts, birthdays, Bat and Bar Mitzvahs, special occasions among other uses.