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West Houston community band schedules free swing/big band concert

November 13, 2018 GMT

Before joining the Energy City New Horizons Music Symphonic Band in 2009, John Murray hadn’t played an instrument since Franklin D. Roosevelt was president.

Murray, a West Houston resident and longtime member of Memorial Drive United Methodist Church, celebrated his 90th birthday in October. Despite a 60-year sabbatical from playing clarinet and alto sax, Murray renewed his interest in music 10 years ago, and now attends band and choir rehearsals five days a week.

It didn’t take long for Murray to get back into the swing of things. ECNHM Director Terry Tullos said Murray rarely misses a note on his bass clarinet.

“It’s never too late to start playing music again. I think being part of this group has certainly made me feel younger,” Murray said. “I tell people that playing music and eating my wife’s salads are the secrets to my longevity.”

Mark your calendars for the Sunday before Thanksgiving. The Energy City New Horizons Music Symphonic Band will turn back the clock on Sunday, Nov. 18, to play a free concert of classic tunes from the Big Band/Swing era. The band and strings sections will keep the audience tapping their toes and dancing in their seat starting at 3 p.m. in the MDUMC Sanctuary, 12955 Memorial Drive. Free refreshments will be served following the concert.

Music selections will span the decades from the 1930s to the 1960s. The audience will recognize favorites from “West Side Story,” and a medley of theme songs from James Bond films. The program will also feature tributes to legendary jazz/swing artists Harry James, Duke Ellington, and songs made popular by Louis Armstrong, Glenn Miller, Peggy Lee and Frank Sinatra.

The tunes are timeless and audiences of all ages can connect to the music. The concert is fun for the whole family, but it’s is a perfect opportunity for an outing with an older friend or loved one, who may have enjoyed swing music when it first topped the radio charts.

Murray said music from the swing era elicits fond memories of his youth.

“A lot of the music we are playing is like the soundtrack from my days in junior high school, when a few buddies and I put together a swing group. Glenn Miller’s ‘In the Mood,’ was the hottest song on the radio, but the sheet music wasn’t yet available. My friend who was sharp on the trumpet, transcribed it, and we did our best junior high rendition of the song.”

The concert coincides with the 10th anniversary of Energy City New Horizons Music, which is one of more than 200 bands in the New Horizons International Music Association. It’s the only band of its kind in Houston, featuring musicians of all ages and levels of musical ability or experience - from professional musicians (including six former band directors) to those dusting off their instruments for the first time in decades.

While Murray is the most senior member of band, his fellow musicians range in age from teens to retirees and everyone in between. Some members make music a family affair. Brock Rhebergen, a Westchester Academy for International Studies high school student, plays the saxophone alongside his parents, John and Candace Rhebergen. Stewart Olsen plays trumpet, and his wife, Coral Olsen, plays both cello and percussion.

ECNHM promotes lifelong music learning and espouses the motto, “Your best is good enough.” The Symphonic Band typically performs two concerts, one in fall and another in spring. In the past, the band members have donned costumes to match their musical selections.

Under the direction of Terry Tullos, the band was founded as a music ministry of the MDUMC orchestra.

“We wanted to provide an opportunity for people to reconnect with music. People who played in high school or college, but hadn’t played in a long time, needed a place to plug in where they could get reacquainted with music without being judged, while being encouraged to play the best that they can,” said Director Terry Tullos.

“We originally thought musicians would come primarily from West Houston, but we have cast a considerably wider net. We have people who come from Spring, Pearland, Katy and Baytown. As a director, leading this band is fun for me because I know these musicians are having a good time and reconnecting to something they missed from their youth or early adulthood,” Tullos said.

Houstonians who are interested in joining the band are encouraged to attend the Nov. 18 concert. Prospective members are welcome to join ECNHM when the band resumes to rehearse new music in January. Auditions are not required, and private lessons are available through the MDUMC Music and Arts Center.

For more information, visit www.ecnhm.org.