A tuneful tradition continues under Dale Cleland
There will be many Christmas, holiday and fall concerts in December, but none of them have a title like the one planned by the Lake Oswego Millennium Concert Band on Dec. 7.
It is '2,764 Years of Music.'
Band director Dale Cleland explained, 'We added up how many years each band player had been playing and it was 2,764.'
As experience goes, that's a lot of millenniums. But the Lake Oswego Millennium Concert Band has been doing an awful lot of playing ever since it formed in 1999.
Oddly enough, the band originally was supposed to only play was concert as part of this city's millennial celebration.
'I got involved because I knew a lot of musicians,' Cleland said. 'We (Cleland and Cindy Glazer) put an ad in the paper asking for anyone interested to show up.'
Then something happened. Instead of a one-time thing, the band became a tradition.
'We had too much fun to give up,' Cleland said. 'We said, 'Why not keep going?' I'm astounded at how it has taken off.'
Every year the LOMCB plays four formal concerts, in December, February, May and every Fourth of July at Millennium Plaza Park. Then there is the smaller group that plays for the Holiday Tree Lighting, set this year for Nov. 28. There are also the clarinet and brass groups, and performances at retirement homes, private parties, corporation fundraisers, shopping malls, churches, Tryon Creek State Park, etc.
Basically, they keep the Lake Oswego atmosphere filled with music.
'We have 72 musicians, and there is a waiting list of people who want to get in,' Cleland said. 'We rehearse every Sunday night, except for the break we take around Christmas. Most of the people in the band say it's as good or even better than the college bands they performed in.
'Some members say rehearsal is the highlight of their week, and we don't have much turnover. They love it.'
The Millennium Band musicians range in age from 23 to 76, and they come from all walks of life: Housewives, physicians, dentists, lawyers, architects, teachers, and, surprisingly, 'not many music majors.'
As for the music it plays, the band goes right for the gut of America - some classical, some popular, a heavy reliance on marches by John Philip Sousa, show tunes, big bands (such as a medley of Glenn Miller), even some contemporary music.
They perform such flag wavers as 'Stars and Stripes Forever,' 'God Bless America' and a medley of Armed Forces songs that immediately gets audience members standing and clapping.
'We have an audience base of 450 people who come to every concert,' Cleland said. 'In fact, I'm sure we've had some who have come to every concert we've ever played. We keep an e-mail list of friends.
'Let's say this is the best musical experience they have.'
Cleland says the band has two major 'bylaws.'
'First, we want a place to further our skills and our enjoyment in performing music. Second, we want to provide this community high-caliber music.'
While the Millennium Concert Band does not charge admission fees to its concerts, Cleland says, 'We do accept donations. We live on donations. We have a budget of $5,000 to $6,000 a year. We have a board of directors who run our business affairs.'
The man who keeps the whole show running is Cleland, who moved to Lake Oswego in 1966 and proceeded to become the city's Mr. Music. He led bands at the high school (including Lakeridge High School when it opened), junior high and elementary school levels until retiring in 1992.
Cleland was a natural choice to become director of the Millennium Band in 1999, and his enthusiasm for it only grows stronger.
'I'm amazed at the quality and quantity of musicians here who have the interest and keep coming back,' he said. 'It has gone beyond my wildest dreams from when we started.
'Three years ago we took a drastic jump in quality. I don't know why it happened but it happened, and we've maintained a level of musicianship that is really high. Maybe we had an influx of better players. Maybe I started doing a better job.'
Cleland and the band have accumulated some amazing memories, such as playing 'Rhapsody in Blue' before a standing-room only crowd in an auditorium.
'I am honored to work with these people,' Cleland said. 'We consistently pull the largest crowds of any music group in the community.'