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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Growing up in Naperville – The 1812 Overture


Folks who attend the Thursday evening Naperville Municipal Band concerts are accustomed at seeing Ann Lord at the microphone, weaving her announcements and facts about the music to be performed into the program.

“The Great Concerto,” a Century Walk mural by artist Bart Gunderson, graces the big stage door on the Community Concert Center in Central Park. Note the image of Ann Good Lord standing at the microphone, featured to help trace the history of the band that’s been around since 1859.

Ann started with the band as a high school student in 1946 playing clarinet. As she continued playing, she sometimes sang with the band. Other times she helped get specialty acts for the concerts. In those early days, the concert was like The Ed Sullivan Show. We had vocalists, solos, roller skaters and baton twirlers. We even had Dieter Taso, a juggler from Ringling Brothers, and Willy Nekkar with his trained Dalmatians!

These acts all helped bring people into Central Park on every Thursday night in the summer!

I grew up just three houses south of Ann and there was always something going on in her yard.

She once held a party for all the dogs and cats in the neighborhood. I recall she got mad at my dog, Cookie, because she ate all the treats before she was supposed to!

When I became director of the band, Ann and I would meet every week to go over program notes, figuring out how to tie the whole program together. It’s been a great friendship working together.

With Independence Day on my mind, I’m reminded that in 1976, Naperville Mayor Chester Rybicki came to me and stated that one of his favorite musical selections was the 1812 Overture. He said he’d never heard us play it!

I said, “Well, to do it up right, you need cannons.”

The next day, the mayor called me and said, “I have four 105 Howitzers (artillery equipment). When do you want them and where?”

Naperville native Ron Keller has been conductor of the NMB since 1966!

I decided we would play it on the Thursday closest to the Fourth of July.

Well, the rest is history. Now we perform it every year. Only once did I think we had played enough so I programmed a different selection that called for two cannon shots. Man! Did I get complaints! I learned my lesson. Play what the people want!

The Thursday before the Fourth always attracts our biggest crowd of the year. This year the concert falls on June 30. As many as 7,000 have attended the concert.

The first year we played it, Chet invited the Mayor of Wheaton to come down and he presented him with a sympathy card as we had the “official shelling of Wheaton”!

Way back in 1868 Wheaton residents stole the county records from Naperville and took them to Wheaton… And this concert was our way of getting even!

Editor’s Update, July 5, 2022 / Due to vacation schedules and other commitments, Ron Keller said that the Naperville Band Concert scheduled for Thurs., July 7, 2022, has been postponed. The summer concert series will resume at 7:30PM Thurs., July 14, when Assistant Conductor René Rosas will the band in “Music of the Seventies.”

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Ron Keller
Ron Keller
Ron Keller is a lifelong Naperville resident, tuba enthusiast and has been conducting the Naperville Municipal Band for over 50 years.