2012/07/17 - Villager: Band of neighbors
2003/08/11 - Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Fest brings dollars, cents of magic
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Last updated: 07/17/2012
2012/07/17 - On the Town - Band of neighbors, Lex-Ham ensemble has been making music for the fun of it for 20 years by Chas Jensen
Brass isn't magnetic, but it can have that effect on people when it's played in the form of a trumpet, tuba or sousaphone by the members of the Lex-Ham Community Band. Whether you're attending one of its concerts or simply walking through a park where the band is performing, the music of this ensemble rarely fails to pull you in.
The all-volunteer band has been a labor of love for its members for the past 20 years. Founded in 1992 by Lexington-Hamlline neighborhood resident and clarinetist Urban landreman and former Concordia University band director the late Richard Norris, the Lex-Ham Band has tripled in size over the years, from 16 to 45 members. It performs between 15 and 20 concerts a year, appearing at area parks, bandshells, nursing homes, neighborhood festivals and St. Paul Saints games, toname just a few venues.
"They've been coming here for years," said Linda Swanson, the activities director at Little Sisters of the Poor on St. Paul's West End. "It's a wonderful thing for them to play here. The residents love them. You can tell they're enjuoying the music when you see them tapping their toes."
That sentiment was echoed by Jim McDonald, the director of volunteers at the Sholom Community Alliance's St. Paul campus on West 7th Street. "Their concerts here in Mains Auditorium get rave reviews from the residents," he said. "Music is always a hit, but the Lex-Ham Band is like the pops showing up. It's probably the most talked-about musical event of the year."
Band members cite the fun of playing show tunes, marches, movie themes and jazz arrangements as their main reason for joining the group. They gather on Sunday evenings in the band room at Concordia University to practice under the direction of conductor and trombonist Jeremy Carvell.
Since the band is a nonprofit organization with no budget or income, the members keep it simple, whem may be one big reason they have been able to stay together all these years. It also helps that their concerts and practices are scheduled on weekends, allowing the musicians to play with other bands during the week.
"People choose their bands based on the nights they practice, so they don't interfere with other bands they may already be playing with," said Helen Patrikus, a Lex-Ham resident who has played alto sax in the Lex-Ham Band since it was formed and also plays the bagpipes with the Macalester Pipe Band.
Patrikus played in her high school band in Fairmont, Minnesota, and in community bands in Texas and Arkansas. She was thrilled when Landreman dropped off a flyer at her St. Paul home only weeks after she moved back to Minnesota. "It worked out great," she said. "I was new in town and needed a place to play."
Director Carvell also shares his time and talents, in his case with a group called Chapel Strings. Five years ago he and fellow band member Kate Cooper organized BandWidth, a musical event that takes place each year in Landmark Center to showcase community bands from across the Twin Cities. Last April BandWidth featured the Lex-Ham Band along with the St. Louis Park Community Band, the Seward Concert Band, Brio Brass, the Fridley City Band and the Century College Band.
Lex-Ham Band members have ranged in age from 14-86 over the years. They do not have fancy uniforms not chartered buses for their gigs. Members are responsible for getting themselves to performances and supplying their own red polo shirts for the shows. Any money they collect through donations or honorariums goes toward purchasing sheet music.
Through an old arrangement between Landreman and Norris, the band has the use of the practice room at Concordia free of charge - another big reason the band has been able to grow and stay together. "Having good rehearsal space is usually the hardest thing for a band," Patrikus said.
With musicians of all ages and abilities, the band does its collective best to make sure every member has a good experience. In years past, the band's management has arrangee master classes with professional musicians to hone their instrumental skills.
According to Landreman, the Lex-Ham band's upcoming show at 7:00 p.m., Sunday, July 29 at the Como Lakeside Pavilion is one of the highlights of the year for the group. Besides the beautiful venue overlooking Como Lake, it gives them the chance to play for a large audience with a discerning ear.
"The Como audience really likes music," Landreman said. "They're pretty smart, and the pressure is on us to perform well. Our biggest critics over the years, however, have been the birds. At outdoor concerts, they've been known to dive-bomb band members while they play."
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2003/08/11 - Fest brings dollars, cents of magic by Joy Powell
It was a day almost hotter than a dragon's breath, but that didn't stop the magic-seekers at the Highland Fest on Sunday. They brought princess hats and airy wings, rainbow-clored fairy dresses and black-as-night magician capes.
Crowd pleasers included Ash and Reuben Fast Horse, native American dancers and presenters of ancient and mystical folklore. And 22 members of the Lex-Ham community band, with Sousa marches, show tunes jazz and Dixieland.
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