There has been a musical band in Bath, Maine for over 90 years. Starting as an adjunct of the local Masonic Temple, it was known for decades as the Dunlap Commandery Band. Additionally there was the Bath Marine Band made up of Bath Iron Works employees that ended after World War II. The Dunlap Commandery Band, under the direction of Cecil V. Rowland later became known as the Bath Elks Band. In 1961 that group was reincarnated as the Bath Municipal Band and was under the direction of James E. Footer with Cecil Rowland as assistant director.
These organizations have given concerts in town parks, appeared in parades and traveled to other towns and cities to share a special brand of spirited music performing for many years on the Band’s now-retired mobile bandstand (show-mobile) known as The Spirit of Bath.
Rehearsals were held in various locations like the Bath Recreation Center and the Bath Armory. Jimmy and Cecil saw the need for the Band to have it’s own rehearsal space, so in the early 80’s, they conceived and designed the 40’x 40’ rehearsal hall we still enjoy today located off Cobb Road beside the Huse School. The land was donated by the City, and the construction was done by the Bath Vocational School. This ambitious project became a reality in large part due to the love and dedication to music shared by Jimmy and Cecil. They oversaw the entire project from fund raising to the completion in 1982.
The Band actually comprises 3 music-making groups: the full Concert Band, the Jazz/Swing/Dixie Band and the Ceremonial Band. Together they provide over 30 concerts a year including ship launches at Bath Iron Works, change of command ceremonies at local military posts, Christmas concerts – and of course the summer concerts in Bath, Brunswick and at Pemaquid Point Lighthouse – with special concerts for July 4th in Bath and at the Yarmouth Clam Festival. The Band hosts concerts by visiting groups: the US Army Band, The University of Maine Band and the Nepean Band of Ottawa, Canada.
The average active membership of 30 or so swells with summer as musicians come “home” to Maine for the season. The Band is all volunteer, comprising professional and amateur musicians having such day jobs as lawyers, teachers, secretaries, doctors, high school and college students, business owners, computer consultants, shipbuilders, nurses, bankers, lobstermen, sales clerks, armed services personnel, a car dealer and a piano tuner! These musicians hail from 30 communities*.
The varied repertory always offers march selections by John Phillip Sousa or Maine’s own R. B. Hall and goes on from there to include Broadway show tunes, classical works and light jazz. The Band performs outdoors usually – often playing in the show-mobile or at the Bath Library Park gazebo overlooking the pond and library lawn on a street lined with former ship captains’ homes.
From its current inception in 1961 through July of 2000, the Band was directed by James Footer, now Director Emeritus, with Cecil Rowland as Assistant Director until his death in 1982. After an interim period with David Collier as Director, Kathy Downing was appointed as Director in January, 2001 and continues today leading the Bath Municipal Band as one of Bath’s richest treasures.
* Arrowsic, Auburn, Bailey Island, Bath, Boothbay Harbor, Bowdoin, Bremen, Brunswick, Cumberland, Freeport, Great Island, Harpswell, Lewiston, Lisbon, Lisbon Falls, Litchfield, Monmouth, Newcastle, Nobleboro, Phippsburg, Portland, Pownal, Southport, Topsham, Waldoboro, Walpole, Warren, West Bath, Wiscasset and Woolwich.
THE BATH MUNICIPAL SWING/JAZZ/DIXIE BAND
Formed in 2003, the Bath Jazz Band (now the Bath Municipal Swing Band) draws on members of the Concert Band. This 17-piece group primarily performs old standards from The '40's - Big Band - era with some additional numbers from the '50's and '60's.
Each year, the band plays a holiday repertoire with the selections such as Winter Wonderland, Let It Snow and White Christmas. The Jazz Band and its coordinator, Kathy Downing - as with the Concert Band - are all volunteers, brought together through their enjoyment of their special kind of music and their desire to share it.
The Bath Swing Band has most recently performed a weekly summer concert series at the Boothbay Common and has also performed in Topsham at The Highlands, and at the summer park series in Bath and Brunswick. The Jazz Band also appears at Bath Iron Works launchings and the Yarmouth Clam Festival.
Contributed by: Jimmie Footer, Stanley Schultz, Kathy Downing
Last edited:06/20/10 19:02