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The Paris Municipal Band is shown during its performance Friday night in Bywaters Park — the opening event of the band’s 86th summer of Friday night concerts. The band, one of the oldest municipal bands in Texas, will perform every Friday in June, followed by a patriotic performance during the Rotary Club’s patriotic show at Noyes Stadium on Tuesday, July 3, and then one last Friday night concert at Bywaters Park on July 13. (eParisExtra! Photo by Charles Richards)
By CHARLES RICHARDS
Sounds of music filled historic Bywaters Park in downtown Paris on Friday night as the Paris Municipal Band opened its 86th year of summer concerts.
The band, one of the oldest municipal bands in Texas, is once again directed by Thomas Neugent, who during a 24-year career as high school band director at Euless Trinity High School guided the school to 24 consecutive UIL sweepstakes ratings.
Several hundred people brought lawn chairs and blankets for the first of six concerts. The band will perform at Bywaters Park for the next three Friday nights – June 15, June 22, and June 29, before performing at Noyes Stadium as part of the Rotary Club’s annual patriotic Fourth of July celebration on July 3.
The music began at 8:30 p.m. Friday, as the sun disappeared and the skies began to darken. The weather was perfect.
The band opened as always, with the Star-Spangled Banner and whipped through eight songs – several marching songs, a spiritual, and some jazz – before closing as always with Cole Porter’s “I Love Paris.”
In between, the band played:
“You have to understand, I don’t know how many members of the band I will have for a given Friday night. There’s no set number. Sometimes it will be 60, sometimes 70. It’s whoever shows up,” Neugent said.
“We’ve got a lot of high school band members from Prairiland, Chisum, North Lamar and Paris High School, and probably 15 college students, and probably 20 or more adults that are playing around here.
Like many in the band, the 73-year-old Neugent was born and raised in the area (Deport) and came back here to retire.
“We try to get more adults involved, and we had a trombone player show up last night from Sulphur Spring who played years ago. He played in this band years ago,” Neugent said.
“He came last night and sight-read for us, and he did a good job for us tonight. He was worried about his (playing) not being up to shape, and I said, ‘Don’t worry about it. You’ll be like everybody else so don’t worry about it.’ “
Betsy Mills has been a part of it for more than 30 years.
Another long-time member of the band is Paul Cardwell, a trombone player who lives in Bonham. “He has been driving here from Bonham, year after year after year,” Neugent said.
The band had three 90-minute rehearsals before Friday night’s first concert.
The routine is the same every time – fast and furious.
“It’s upper left-hand corner to bottom right-hand of each song. Then we go to the next song. We don’t have time to stop and clean stuff up,” Neugent said.
It’s not a place for beginners. Members of the Paris Municipal Band have to be accomplished musicians already.
“Especially the high school students, they have learned they’ve got to be good sight readers. The songs are not all in the same key, the tempo is different for each song, stuff like that,” Neugent said.
“But, I thought they played awfully good tonight for our first concert,” Neugent said. “We’ve got some very talented members of the band. I’m proud of them. They work hard.”
Last year, the concerts were at the pavilion on the north side of Love Civic Center. Bywaters Park was unavailable because of repair work on the Peristyle, which had several cracked pillars. The floor also was uneven. But no more.
“It’s much better,” Neugent said of the Peristyle. “Year before last, there was a big crack in the middle of it, and sometimes when it rained a lot, there’d be water that filled up in there. They’ve fixed it so much better than it used to be.”
The Peristyle is lighted by a series of lights along the inside top of its three sides.
“We’ve got a couple of burned out bulbs, but I’ll talk to the city and they’ll fix that for next week. I see one there, and there’s another one up on the inside,” he said.
For the third year in a row, Byron Myrick, a trombonist who is also a band director in the Paris Independent School District, went to the microphone to let the audience in on background for the next song.
It’s Myrick’s fourth year at the microphone. He succeeded another trombonist, Pat Barbee, whose wit entertained the crowd for years before his untimely death.
“He had a good sense of humor. Most trombonists do. At one point, he said we have to keep the announcing in the trombone section, so I stepped up to the mike when he passed. We kept it there and have a lot of fun with it,” Myrick said.
Myrick’s duties with the Paris ISD are primarily at Crockett Middle School with the beginner program, but he also has a band at junior high and at the high school as well.
“We all help each other out,” he said.
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