The Ringgold Band performs a free show on April 19 at 7 p.m. in the Meadville Area High School auditorium
The historic Ringgold Band is advertised as one of America’s first community bands. Formed in 1852 amid the rolling hills and farms of Berks County the band’s concert programs include familiar classics and challenging new works, as well as symphonic overtures, show tunes, solos and a myriad of marches.
The Ringgold Band was originally organized under the name Independent American Brass Band of Reading. Later that year, band members unanimously agreed to play for the Ringgold Light Artillery — a military company that would become the first to answer President Abraham Lincoln’s call for volunteers during mobilization for the Civil War. A year later, the band changed its name to the Ringgold Artillery Brass Band and became attached to the U.S. Army’s 25th and 99th regiments.
In 1932, renowned “March King” John Philip Sousa conducted the last march of his life. Slated to appear as guest conductor at the Ringgold Band’s 80th Anniversary Concert, Sousa rehearsed the band in one of his best-known marches, “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” Later that day, he Sousa retired to his room at the Abraham Lincoln Hotel in Reading and suffers a fatal heart attack. As a tribute to the late, great March King, the Ringgold Band concludes nearly every concert with a rousing rendition of “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”
Current band director, James S. Seidel, has been a life-long musical advocate in Berks County. A 1969 graduate of Exeter Township High School, he received a bachelor’s degree in music education from Mansfield University, and a Master of Music degree in trumpet performance from West Chester University. Seidel has held the Ringgold Band’s musical director position since 1980, making his the longest tenure in the 161-year history of the band.
Although economic and political times have changed since the band first put down roots in 1852, its music remains timeless. Audiences of all ages continue to enjoy marches, old chestnuts, Broadway medleys, and other contemporary works by talented composers and arrangers, the band says.
The band maintains its dedication to upholding the time-honored traditions of concert band music, as well as providing music to satisfy many audiences.