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Oakhurst Community Band to honor firefighters

Special recognition will be given to firefighters and their families at the free Oakhurst Community Band Fall Concert, 3 p.m., this Sunday (Nov. 23), at Mountain Christian Center, 40299 Highway 49 (adjacent to True Value Home Center).

A special invitation is extended to all firefighters and first responders and their families. Bob Curran, band publicity chairman, said this is “so we can thank them as a community.”

Some of the band’s instruments and music were destroyed in this summer’s Junction Fire. They were being stored in the home of Assistant Community Band Director Pat Mierkey and his wife, Mary Helen, whose house was lost in the fire. Despite these losses, the band recognizes the sacrifices firefighters and first responders made to save so much of the community.

“I love the November concert,” said band director Randy Hyatt. “The first half has several Americana-type songs. There are folk songs, hymns, a few contemporary selections and more. The second half is all festive holiday music that will get you in the mood for the December season.”

“Santa Claus has scheduled our concert as an opportunity to drop into Oakhurst and make a musical appearance,” Hyatt added.

The community band, which originated in the 1990’s, is made up of musicians of all ages, from teenagers to seniors in their 80’s. Both new and continuing members of the almost 50 member band find pleasure in their musical experiences with the band.

“When I went to my first band concert, about 10 plus years ago, it was impressive,” said Carol Davis. “I had played piano and violin in the past, but there is no place in a band for a violin or piano. So, since I have had a love for the oboe for years, I found an instrument, a teacher, and began to learn how to play. After a short time I joined the band. Learning this instrument was much more fun in a group setting, and I have been having fun ever since. Four other musicians join me in our spare time, and we have created a Woodwind Quintet. Such a good way to spend time in my retirement years.”

“I hadn’t had the opportunity to play in a group for a while,” said Deo Wolff, who joined the band just six weeks ago. While he is a newcomer to the band, he is a longtime musician. He began playing the clarinet as a freshman in high school, and he and nine other musicians formed a dance band that played big band tunes for gigs in Nebraska, Colorado, and Kansas. Thirty years passed before he picked up his clarinet again.

Randy Emerzian played the saxophone professionally for about 15 years after playing the saxophone, clarinet, and flute in school bands and orchestras through his senior year at Bullard High School.

“I began playing professionally to earn money in college in 1977,” he said.

Emerzian and director Hyatt first met when they worked on several shows together at the Northwest Church in Fresno. Now they are working together again here in Oakhurst.

“The Oakhurst band gives me a chance to work on some challenging music, and I am honored to be able to play with a group of fine, well-honed musicians,” Emerzian said. “The band is made up of old pros, retired directors, regular folk, and young student musicians.”

Emerzian and his wife drive from Fresno each week for rehearsals.

“I must say I am more cautious than ever traveling up and down the hill,” he said.

While on their way to the spring concert in April 2014, they were involved in a serious car crash on Highway 41. He and his wife both recovered from the crash, but they did not make it to that concert as they both were returned to Fresno in an ambulance.

Three young men, Chase Hagerman, Matt Rouse, and Tyrus Ramos, are Yosemite High School alumni, former students of Hyatt, and are a part of the percussion section.

“It is a relief to have percussionists with such skill and the ability to read music and perform at an advanced level,” Hyatt said. “Two other YHS students, Brandon Healey and Thomas Lazar, round out the percussion section along with Jim Kirin, the senior member of the section.”

“We plan to honor those who actually saved Oakhurst,” said Hyatt in recalling the heroic efforts of firefighters and first responders who braved perils while saving many homes, not only during the Junction Fire but also the Courtney Fire. Assistant director Pat Mierkey will direct “Call to the Heroes,” a stirring march written by Chris Bernotas, on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11.

Long time Oakhurst musician and music teacher, Bill Wagner, who passed away this past year, will also be honored during the concert with a piece also conducted by Mierkey. The piece, “Appalachian Air,” is based on the hymn, “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need.”

Other pieces included on the concert playlist are Joseph Curiale’s “Double Happiness,” Michael Sweeney’s “Quad City Stomp,” Clare Grundman’s “American Folk Rhapsody No. 3,” Timothy Johnson’s “Fanfare Prelude,” and J.S. Bach’s “Sleepers, Wake” arranged by Mark Williams and directed by Bill Samuelson.

While the concert is free, donations are appreciated, according to the band’s website.

Details: (559) 760-3849, or oakhurstband.com.

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